Sunday Sermon :: Midweek Thanksgiving Eve Edition
He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Grace and peace to you, people of God, on this Thanksgiving Eve in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, if that special time of year, filled with visiting relatives, too much food, and a double dose of anxiety hasn’t hit you before today, I’m surprised! I’m sure by now, many of us have the turkey thawing, the game times figured out, and the smell of delicious pie has drifted into your nose from the kitchen. Or maybe you’re already looking at Friday, thinking through the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday deals you’ve seen in the paper, on TV, or online. Perhaps you’re planning out your route right now, trying to figure out which stores to stop at and how to best get between them. Or maybe you didn’t think about any of that until I brought up, and now you’re silently cursing me for reminding you of all that this weekend brings with it. But I want to take a few minutes, call you back from the future and back into the present, and offer you a few words of encouragement.
And what could I tell you that could possibly be an encouragement? If you’re thinking that I can’t possibly know what all of you are doing this week and weekend, that I don’t know the stress you’re under and that I can’t possibly understand all that needs to get done…well, you’re right. But I can tell you this: do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. So, let’s take a break from thinking about that turkey, that shopping, and that craziness. Let’s, instead, think about what we already have and what we are about to celebrate.
I think that we all grew up learning about the one little, two little, three little pilgrims and the one little, two little, three little Indians (although I knows that’s not politically correct anymore). But what don’t always hear about is that the few years before that first Thanksgiving day is that nearly half of the immigrants who came over on the Mayflower died that first winter. They weren’t ready for the climate and had no provisions to get them through that season. The Natives Americans took pity on them, helped them learn to grow crops in the New Land, and, when it came time for the harvest, they celebrated. But why did they celebrate? Because they were alive! They were alive! Against all odds, they had survived. They knew that they were lucky to have breath in them at all, much less to have food to get them through the winter. This wasn’t a celebration of well-fed people, hoping that the turkey was thawed enough to eat. This was a celebration of people who had placed their lives in the hands of people they didn’t know and praying that God would provide a harvest. And God did. They had enough to eat. And the fact that we remember this day in school is evidence enough to know that this grand experiment in a new land worked. We are here, celebrating again.
But why are we celebrating now? Really, why are we celebrating? This celebration commonly kicks off the busiest time of the year. From here until the middle of January, there will be holiday dinners, gifts to buy, Christmas programs to attend, trees to decorate, and cards to send. Not to mention the clean up involved in all of that, too! What is supposed to be the hap, happiest season of all can quickly become a panic attack inducing list of duties that leave a smudge over an otherwise lovely winter. But why? Why does this happen?
I think this happens for one reason, and one reason only. It comes from thinking that it’s all necessary. It comes from thinking that we need to plan out and fill every night for the next six weeks in order for this season to be a success. It comes from thinking that if we do things just right, then everything will run smoothly, with no conflict and anxiety, and life will be perfect. But here’s the deal. That line of thinking doesn’t include grace. That line of thinking doesn’t include thankfulness for what we already have.
Thinking about this a bit more, it seems totally appropriate to start this time with one word: thanksgiving. Not stuff getting. Not plan making. Not dinner baking. But thanksgiving. If we take this holiday seriously, in the manner of the immigrant pilgrims, then the rest of this season may really be pretty special. Because it starts with “thanks”, not with “stuff”. It comes from deep in our hearts, knowing that we have all we really need.
And what is it that we need? We need a lot, but it is all summed up in one word: God. We have God, and all of God’s promises, and that is enough. We are known by God and God cares for creation, as we’ve seen in the gospel, and God will take care of us. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Always. Because we have a God who knows our needs. We have a God who provides for us. Even when life is at its toughest, we have what we need. Even when days feel like months or when life seems too short. Even when the sun is blotted out by clouds. Even when health fails and money is tight. In the midst of depression and pain and sorrow, God is there. God has always been there, walking with us, loving us, calling our names, holding his hand, and guiding us.
We may not always understand it. We may not always believe it. We may not always see it. But I promise you, with as much sincerity as I can offer, that God is there. And if we just take some time, take a few breaths, and truly offer thanks, we can see a glimpse of just how much we really have.
Let’s do that right now. Take three deep breaths and, as you breathe in I want you to think about these words, “For what I have…” and as you exhale, think, “…thank you God.” Because we have it all. God has provided when we can’t, even to the point of offering God’s only Son on the cross when we couldn’t pay for our own sins.
So don’t worry and don’t rely on yourself to get it all done. Get swept away in God’s blessings, not in season’s greetings. Taste and see that the Lord is good, even better than the turkey, pie, potatoes, green beans, rolls, and lefse (okay, maybe not everybody has lefse, but I always do!). Take a few moments, give God some space to fill you up, and then let God fill you. Let God fill you with what you need and don’t believe for a second that you can do that by yourself. Because only God can do the filling. No amount of achievements or money or talent or social media followers or stuff can fill you.
Only God can fill us up and, thanks be to God, our beautiful Savior chooses to do so. Jesus chose the cross for us. He chose to feel our pain. God chose to create all that you can ever see and God chose to create you. And in that. In that. We can find the real reason to give thanks. We give thanks because even when life is at its hardest, God can use it to bring us closer to God. We give thanks because we are surrounded by all we ever really need. We are held in love by our maker and, right now, we are surrounded by people who are choosing to remember that God is the reason for this upcoming feast.
So don’t let the plans take over your holiday. Don’t let the football games or the shopping or the crazy relatives from out of town take over your holiday. You have all that you need to make tomorrow more than a holiday. You can make it a holy day. Because life is more than food, the body is more than clothes, and Thanksgiving is more than turkey, shopping, and football. Let our prayer today, tomorrow, and always be of thankfulness and letting our holidays be holy days.
And may the peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.