Summary: With all the busyness of the Thanksgiving holidays, who has the time or the energy to "give thanks?" But Jesus speaks into our busyness: "Don’t worry about your life...Seek first the Kingdom of God." This is a sermon for Thanksgiving, Year B.
Rush Co. Community Thanksgiving Joel 2:21-27
Pastor Maurice Schaus 1 Timothy 2:1-7
November 19, 2000, Matthew 6:25-33
As we gather this week, many of us are busy with preparations for the Thanksgiving holidays. The guests are coming, so the house needs to be cleaned from top to bottom. The food preparation is a job in and of itself: Turkey, stuffing potatoes, vegetables, and it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the homemade pumpkin pie. Don’t forget to put fresh batteries in the remote control and bring out the colors for your favorite team.
There is ample temptation to make ourselves so busy with the preparations for the holiday, that we fail to celebrate the holiday. Thanksgiving: we are to pause, and give thanks to God for the things in our lives that we’ve thankful for. Are we thankful for the piles of dirty dishes that will result from the hours slaving away in the kitchen? Are we really thankful for the opportunity to stick half our arm into a cold and wet turkey? Or how about the argument that will inevitably come up with Uncle Ned about who has the better football team.
Sometimes it can be difficult to give thanks on Thanksgiving. If we take a look at the world around us, it can also be difficult to give thanks this Thanksgiving. Within our families, our children are falling victim to the dangers of alcohol, methamphetamines, and other drugs. Within our nation, we see scandal, dishonesty, and violence ruling the headlines and the city streets. Within our communities, our farmers must work harder to make the same living that they earned two or more decades ago. Within our churches, an aging population struggles to teach the faith to the younger generation, who all too often seems ambivalent or antagonistic to the faith. As many people struggle with financial hardship and despair, it can be difficult to give thanks this Thanksgiving.
But the word of the Lord breaks into the chaos of our life: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Therefore do not worry, saying, ’What will we eat?’ or ’What will we drink?’ or ’What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25, 27, 31-33 NRSV)
Sometimes it can be so difficult for us not to worry. The cares and troubles of this life can seem so overwhelming, that our efforts and labors seem to accomplish little or nothing at all. Some days it seems that all we can do is worried. We wonder, "Where is God when I am suffering so? Doesn’t God care about my pain?” And it is in moments like these were Jesus words speak to us most clearly: “Do not worry about your situation. God will provide.”
Logically, we can step back and tell ourselves that things are not as bad as they seem. The stress and the emotion of a difficult situation can often get the better of us, and we lose sight of the big picture. There are indeed many blessings in our lives, but we are either too busy or too distracted to see them. One great theologian asked the question, “What would happen if God took away all of those things that we neglected to give thanks for? This world would be filled with people with one leg, no arms, and no eyes. There would be no birds, no sky, and no flowers. The world as we know it would cease to exist.”
Our task as Christians is not to expect that God will hand everything to us on a platter. Instead, we are to seek out those priceless gifts that we have already received, and to give thanks to our Creator. St. Paul tells us to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NRSV)
Several churches in North Dakota were being served by a clever old preacher. The people were always amazed, for no matter what the circumstances, the preacher could always find something to give thanks for. As he made his rounds one cold December morning, he was late in getting to worship because of excessive snow drifts. As he began the service with prayer, the parishioners were eager to see what the old preacher could come up with to be thankful for on this dismal and frigid morning. "Gracious Lord," his prayer began, "we thank you that all days are not like today.”