Summary: A Thanksgiving sermon in the midst of economic hardship.

Psalm 118:1-6, 15-17

“Giving Thanks in Uncertain Times”

by: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN

It’s just about time for the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and my favorite—pumpkin pie.

Most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday, but this year our outlook may be a bit different than in year’s past.

This year our world is different.

Just this week the jobless rate has surged to a 16-year high, and experts predict that the job market will get worse.

The unemployment rate rose to 6.5% last month.

Citigroup (a Fortune 500 company) slashed 20% of its workforce this past week.

It’s the biggest cut by a corporation in 15 years.

And millions of jobs are at stake—as many as 3 million jobs as the struggling auto industry deals with the weakest sales pace in 25 years.

Automakers GM, Ford, and Chrysler employ hundreds of thousands of well-paid workers and support far more retirees and their families with health care and other benefits.

In addition, dozens of suppliers and thousands of dealerships depend on the BIG THREE.

David Cole, Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research was quoted this week as saying: “The likelihood of one or two of the Detroit Three Manufacturers ending operations is very real.”

I was in a store where they had a cable news network on the t-v a few days ago, and they were doing a story on how the suicide rate has gone up in Detroit as a result of the stress, pressure, and hopelessness that folks up there are feeling due to these predictions and conditions.

I was having a conversation with a woman at Panera Bread Company this past Wednesday morning.

She was telling me that her husband passed away, she lost her home to foreclosure, and was fired from her job—all in one month.

She said she felt like “Job.”

There are thousands of foreclosures happening right now to persons who can’t make their monthly payments because they have lost their jobs.

According to expert, Kathleen Engel, “None of the federal or bank programs will provide any relief [for these folks] at all…They can’t afford their mortgages on any terms.”

Some estimates say another 2 million families could lose their homes to foreclosure in the next two years.

Yes, this year our world is a bit different.

I think the entire world is a bit depressed, and maybe more than just a bit!

For one thing, from talking with my colleagues at other churches, church attendance across the board is down.

And I think it’s because people are depressed and stressed.

Stress saps your strength.

It zaps your motivation.

It makes it harder to get out of bed in the morning.

But when we stay in bed; when we detach ourselves, isolate ourselves from other people and from God—our depression only gets worse.

The only cure for this kind of depression and stress is a continued faithfulness and hope in God’s love for us!

Jesus is the only answer to this world’s problems.

Because at the core, this kind of worry, despair, stress, and depression are spiritual problems.

Yes, things have changed this year but God has not!

And this is one thing…the greatest thing we have to be thankful for!!!

The Psalmist declares: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever!”

If we can give thanks to God during both the good times and the bad, then we will most certainly overcome any and all difficulties this life can dish out!

For God’s love for you; God’s love for me endures forever!!!

The financial mess will not be with us forever—certainly not into eternity.

But God will be with us—through it all!!!

The Psalmist continues: “Let Israel say: ‘His love endures forever.’

Let the house of Aaron say: ‘His love endures forever.’

Let those who fear the Lord say: ‘His love endures forever.’

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?”

As Christians, you and I are part of something which is much larger than ourselves.

It is Christ’s Body—the Church!!!

This gives our lives hope and meaning.

Locally, we are anchored by the local church which calls itself Grace United Methodist.

We have friends here—folks who are nearly as close as family.

We also have a vision and a high calling to make followers of Jesus Christ in order to change the world.

This is the privilege and responsibility of each and every one of us.

And when we become ‘caught up’ in this high calling the things of this world become ‘strangely dim’ in comparison!

We no longer have to worry about keeping up with the Jones’ because we are now praying for the Jones’, routing for the Jones’, and experiencing the liberating freedom that comes through giving one’s entire life to God!

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