This is the Message I delivered at our Thanksgiving Eve worship service.
As you heard the scriptures read what did you think about? How did they speak to you this evening? How did you hear God talking to you in his Message?
As I read the lessons from The Message I was struck by the words. They just seemed to jump out at me, almost like they were saying, “Hey, this is important. Pay attention to what's being said here.” It may be because of the present condition of the world around at this time that they seemed particularly profound to me. At any rate I think there is a Message here for all of us in this season of thanksgiving.
The OT reading from the prophet Joel says in so many words that we, the children of God, should celebrate. Be glad in our God...full of praises to our God, the God who has set us back on our heels in wonder. Don't you get the feeling of awe sometimes as you walk about or travel about in this wonderful place God has placed us? Doesn't it just make you want to “celebrate” as Joel puts it?
The psalmist continues this when he says, “...it seemed like a dream, too good to be true...we laughed, we sang, we couldn't believe our good fortune...God do it again.” Have you ever thought to yourself, “This must be a dream. This is too good to be actually happening to me?” That's what the psalmist is feeling.
So, I know, sometimes our lives aren't really so good and we just don't feel like celebrating or singing or laughing. What do we do then, crawl in a hole, stick our heads in the sand like an ostrich? That doesn't fix anything but sometimes we are just too overwhelmed by what the world is doing to us.
Good friends, I believe it's then we need to remember Paul's words to Timothy, “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.” Have you ever got up in the middle of the night and then went back to bed and couldn't fall back to sleep? What do you do? Get up for a snack or maybe something hot to drink? How does that work for you? Have you ever tried praying for everyone you can think of? Have you ever thought of praying for the people on your block or your neighbors when you couldn't get back to sleep? It may be that God is telling you to pray not because he needs your prayers but because you need prayer, you need to take your mind off yourself and consider others. Who knows, it's got to be better than tossing and turning and trying to count sheep or goats or ceiling tile.
Have you noticed how every time the television goes to commercial it's an advertisement about something every person should have in their kitchen, their bathroom, their living room, entertainment room or their workshop? We just have to have it. If we don't how could we possibly live? The world continually tells us we have to own this or that. We just can't be complete with it, whatever it may be.
Matthew gives us Jesus' answer in chapter 6 that we heard read this evening. I don't believe he's telling us its wrong to possess “things.” I think he's telling us we need to decide where our priorities are. If we are the Christians we profess to be then we must realize we need to make a commitment to follow Jesus. When we do that then the focus is no longer on us it's on others. After all it's not about us but it's about what God is doing in and around us, that's what's important.
Making the commitment to serve Jesus and trust him to provide for us is certainly scary for us but as God grows our faith we are able to do so much more than we ever imagined we could do.
God is telling us that excessive worry and anxiety will get us nowhere. It only serves to separate us from God. In the verses that precede this passage we are told that we can't serve two masters. That's what Jesus continues to elaborate here. He wants us to think about where our priorities are, where are our values. The world would have us think that God comes after our jobs, after our homes, after our retirement accounts, you can fill in the blank with many other things we worry about.
Friends, where is our allegiance, where do we place our loyalty? Jesus told us we only have two commandments to concern ourselves with and the first is to love God with our hearts, our souls, and our minds. That should be our number one priority. And then we are told to love our neighbors as we ourselves want to be loved. It's still not about us. It's all about God and others and serving them.
So this thanksgiving season as you sit down to tables overflowing with delicious meals prepared with loving hands remember why we're all here, what our work is as children of God. We are called to serve and we all need to decide what that means.
Friends, God loves you and so do I. Thanks be to God for his many blessings. Amen.