Summary: In the midst of trouble and strife, we are commanded to give thanks to God for the gift of his holy word, even when it seems to make no sense.
Thanksgiving is Our Dialect
This is a difficult time and a blessed time - all at the same time - for our church. It is a difficult time because there is incredible strife in the world around us, and no small amount of strife within the church.
People are struggling around us, watching their jobs disappear, watching their retirement savings dwindle away to nothing; they can’t pay their mortgages, they can’t afford health care. And while we’re currently enjoying low gasoline prices, we can never be sure that the price won’t go sky high again tomorrow.
The upheaval of a global financial crisis is layered onto all of the other uncertainties of the future of our country and our world. People all over the world are still starving. And the Golden Valley is not immune to this strife.
There are people standing at death’s door, and they’re not sure about where they will be when they have passed from this life. They aren’t sure about their salvation. And then, most unfortunately, there are those who don’t even stop to think about the subject.
There are people in and out of the church who are convinced that they are righteous and saved and at no risk at all of spending their eternal future in hell. They can’t stop to think about that, because they are busy piling up strife around their selves and others.
All the things we fear as Christians, war, famine, disease, corruption, and hatred, are looming over us in a cloud that won’t leave us alone. We call out to God for assurance, for comfort: some of us find that comfort and feel God’s loving hand on us. Others don’t feel Him at all, can’t find His hand, and can’t find peace.
Still others can’t waste their time searching for God and for his guidance in their lives - they’re too busy trying to tear each other down, believing somehow that they can actually continue to do that without risking the complete destruction of the church.
It is a truly difficult time. And it is a truly blessed time. It is a time for Thanksgiving.
You may ask, “How do you get to that conclusion? How can these worrisome times and chaotic circumstances lead to the conclusion that it’s time for Thanksgiving? And I say, God’s own word says so! In fact, it is the very existence of God’s holy Word that is the only reason we need for Thanksgiving. If that’s a confusing thought, then hold on and listen carefully.
For all of the times when Jesus talked in parables and spoke in metaphors, which makes so much of what he said sound mysterious, even confusing, there were many passages in which He spoke in perfectly plain and understandable terms.
My favorite one of these kinds of statements is, as I have pointed out before, the passage I most frequently find myself discussing with members of this church: it is Christ’s instructions on dealing with conflict between Christians in the 18th chapter of Matthew. You may already be tired of hearing these words, but until we actually start to face the reality of Christ’s simple instructions and DO WHAT HE SAID TO DO, we will continue to struggle to be a Church.
So hear the words of Jesus Christ himself one more time, this time in the beautiful prose of the Message version of the New Testament:
15-17"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
18-20"Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there."
“What you say to one another is eternal.” “When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” Wow! Those have to be among the profoundest statements Jesus ever made. When the Son of God makes you a promise like that, what is there to say to Him but “Thank You.”
But, sadly, many people read those words and nod their heads and acknowledge the wisdom of Christ’s procedure for dealing with the hurts we inflict on one another, only to turn away from the word saying, “I can’t do that - I won’t do that.” And by standing firm on their refusal to be obedient to the word, they start the snow ball rolling down the hill.