Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon on Deuteronomy 26:1-11 & Luke 12:13-21, for Thanksgiving Eve, "In our hand!"

Sermon Outline:
·         Responsive OT reading: festival of Pentecost, bring basket of grain and spoke the recitation. Firstfruits. Confession of God’s fulfilled promises—in the promised land. All blessings from the hand of the Lord. Training them to lift up their hands to God, so they see where the blessing comes from, and to return a portion to Him as a reminder that it all belongs to Him.
·         Learning giving as a child: first money placed in your hand—offering. Then from your allowance; chores. Really the money was never ours in the first place, but our parents put it in our hands to teach us giving, and we in turn used our hands to give back to God. In a similar way, does not God put all our blessings in our hands? Whether purely receiving as a young child who did nothing for it, or through the work and labor of our hands, as in a child doing their chores, God is ultimately the giver and supplier of everything we have and possess. Both cases: learning to handle what does not finally belong to us. We realize our ownership or possession of anything--even our body and life ultimately depends on God!
·         The rich fool in the Gospel lesson learned his lesson the hard way, when he mistakenly concluded that everything he had belonged to him. When it came to deciding how to handle this great wealth that was entrusted to him, “me, myself, and I” were the only people participating in his self-centered conversation. Blindly thinking no one else (and particularly not God) had any claim to his wealth, he determined to sit on his pile of wealth and keep it all for himself. His sharp jolt back to reality came when God called him into judgment and required his soul of him. What then of his great possessions? Jesus went on to teach, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
·         Danger of having blessings in our hand without recognizing where they come from. Preoccupation. Ingratitude. Greed. Jealousy. Thanklessness. Entitlement.
·         Repentance and forgiveness. God changes Thanklessness to Thankfulness. Compassion. Gratitude. Generosity. Reorientation through the Holy Spirit.
·         “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews. This stuck with me: in the story, nobody ever looked up, but only down at the ground all the time. The quote: “Have you noticed how nobody ever looks up? Nobody looks at chimneys, or trees against the sky, or the tops of buildings. Everybody just looks down at the pavement or their shoes. The whole world could pass them by and most people wouldn't notice.”
·         In that same thought, we so often walk around discouraged and downcast, both literally and figuratively, eyes to the ground, glum about our circumstances. And the whole world could pass us by and we wouldn’t notice. Or God pours blessings down on us, and we never look up to realize it, or our problems become so large in our focus that we’re blinded to His hand reaching down, and filling ours.
·         While giving thanks might begin with some coaxing and reminding, it can only flow freely and spontaneously as we begin to see the Hand of God, the Giver. As He richly and daily supplies all that we need to support this body and life, and that He does it only out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. For all this it is our duty to thank and to praise, to serve and obey Him. Still greater spiritual blessings: Jesus redeemed us, lost and condemned under the power of sin and death. His innocent suffering and death purchased our redemption. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to these gifts, creates within us the knowledge of our Good and Gracious Giver, and deepens our appreciation for these gifts more and more until our thankfulness and praise flows spontaneously and sincerely from the heart. Recognizing all that God has poured down into our hands, we conclude with our own recitation, modeled after Deuteronomy 26, of how God has blessed us in Christ Jesus.
·        Pastor: So let’s look up today, refocus our eyes from our hands and our feet, up to the gracious hand of God, our Giver, and remember how He has blessed us.
·        Congregation: Our fathers came out of many nations, and we are Gentiles, who were once separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. We were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked. Out of [our] distress [we] called on the Lord; the Lord answered [us] and set [us] free. But now in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to [us] who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. And according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. He who called [us] is faithful, and He will surely do it. And so we present [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship, and continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (adapted from Eph 2:1-2; 11-18; Psalm 118:5; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 Thess. 5:24; Rom. 12:1; Heb. 13:15)
·        Pastor responds: And you shall [give thanks] before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and [all those who live] among you. (adapted from Deuteronomy 26:10-11)

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