A Thanksgiving Message

John Calvin wrote that an idol is anything that comes between us and God.  A key three places in this passage the word “worry” shows up. The Greek word means be preoccupied with or be absorbed by. To be preoccupied with food or our appearance is to view life much too narrowly…. God knows the needs of his people, so worrying about them is to suspect him of forgetting or neglecting his people and their needs.  Those who seek security in possessions aren’t followers of Jesus and don’t trust God’s munificence. 

Be grateful for what God have given you. Trust God and don’t let worries about what the future holds distract you.

 

In the dramatic but brief book of Joel, a prophet about which we know nothing, the story is told of a great national thanksgiving celebration.  But it begins in dire circumstances.  The prophet gives a highly realistic account of a plague of locusts the devastation from with was so great that there were no grapes with which to make “sweet wine” for celebrating a feast. This invasion of locust, Joel declares, is a punishment from God. So thick are the locusts that the sun is obscured – is this a sign of the end times, some 500 years before Christ?  The insects, like a conquering army on the move, are commanded by God. The “pastures” are as though burnt by fire. Since all the crops have been destroyed no cereal offerings can be made in the Temple.  He says that “joy withers away among the people”. Can any survive the onslaught? 

Then the prophet raises hope. He says that there is still a chance.  The Lord says ‘turn back to me with your whole heart, fast, weep, beat your breast, rend your hearts, not your garments; turn back to the gracious and compassionate Lord and, maybe, he will turn back and repent.’   That’s when we hear these words:

Joel 2:21-27

21Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! 22Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before.24The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. 26You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. 27You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

 

So blow the shofar, the ram’s horn, the Prophet says.  Call for a day of abstinence; proclaim a solemn assembly for confession and repentance, call the people, gather the elders, bring the children, have the bridal couple postpone their nuptials.  Let the ministers of the Lord intercede for the people saying ‘Spare thy people, O Lord, expose them not to reproach.

And here is the good news.  “Then the Lord’s love burned with zeal for his land and moved with compassion for his people.  God takes “pity on his people”. He returns fertility to the land, restores Judah to place of honor among nations, and destroys the locusts. “Early rain” softened earth parched by the summer heat; it made plowing possible; the “later rain”, in April and May provide sustenance for summer crops. Trees again bear fruit. God makes reparations for destruction done by the locusts. He grants his spirit to all Judeans, to “sons, daughters, old men, young men, slaves and slave girls.  Then everyone who invokes the name of the Lord shall be saved!”

 

Let All Things Now Living  53

 

Psalm 126

1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.  2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”  3The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. 4Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. 5May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

6Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

The first words of Psalm 126 could be translated When the Lord brought back those who returned to Zion. When the people first returned from exile in Babylon, they hardly believed their good fortune. It was like living a dream. Even other nations recognized God’s mighty works on Israel’s behalf, and the people of Israel “rejoiced” But after the initial euphoria, rebuilding a life in a land that had been completely decimated pushes impossible. So they pled. Please, God, “restore our fortunes”, as the land around a normally dry river in the desert blooms when the water flows. May we, who are sorrowful as we sow, gather the harvest in joyfulness – as God once more acts on our behalf.

 

Bringing In The Sheaves

 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Paul instructs Timothy: 2First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

Paul portrays the Christian life as being like the discipline of servants in a large household.  Now, at a time when Christians were suspect for not joining in worship of Roman gods, an act expected of all, the author urges them to pray for “everyone” including civil authorities so that Christians may live “a quiet and peaceable life”, as good citizens yet godly ones. This, he says, is in accord with God’s plan, for he wishes “everyone” to be saved, through knowledge of Christian “truth”. God wills this because God is the “one God” of all the people; Christ is the “one mediator” who in having shared human life now represents all of us before God, and the call is for all persons, everywhere, with pure intention, without anger or argument, to pray. 

 

All Creatures Of Our God and King  356

 

Matthew 6:24-34

24“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25“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? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?31Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks of the impossibility of serving two masters. John Calvin wrote that an idol is anything that comes between us and God.  A key three places in this passage the word “worry” shows up. The Greek word means be preoccupied with or be absorbed by. To be preoccupied with food or our appearance is to view life much too narrowly. Birds are an example of a proper attitude towards food; they work hard to find it, but they don’t hoard it, anticipating calamity. Such worrying is futile. Sure, we desire a long life, but excessive concern for it won’t lengthen it. Roadside lilies are only brightly colored for a few weeks, for much of the year they’re a dull brown. Yet even “Solomon”, known for his accumulation of wealth and the grandeur of his kingdom could not compare to their natural beauty. The “grass” ends up being “thrown into the oven” as fuel for cooking. But if God cares for such plants, how much more will he provide for you, clothe those who are faithful to him. So don’t be preoccupied with your physical needs because such preoccupation misdirects our lives.  God knows the needs of his people, so worrying about them is to suspect him of forgetting or neglecting his people and their needs.  Those who seek security in possessions aren’t followers of Jesus and don’t trust God’s munificence. 

Be grateful for what God have given you. Trust God and don’t let worries about what the future holds distract you. Rather seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. 

 

Take Time To Be Holy  540

 

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