‘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? Look 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? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But 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? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:25-33
Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thankful all of you are here.
Budgets are tight across all America – even in our churches. So, to bring in a little extra cash into the church, my sermon this morning has been sponsored by Meadowood Mall, Summit Mall, the Legends at Sparks Marina, Walmart, and Target. So, on behalf of "More Choices" Meadowood, "Shop in Style" Summit, "100% Style at Up to 60% off" Legends, "Save money. Live better." Walmart, and "Expect more, Pay Less" Target, They wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
But given the economy, each of the sponsors of my sermon this morning asks that you not to be too thankful. You see, tomorrow is Black Friday – to be precise at 12:00 AM tomorrow / midnight tonight – and, if you are too thankful for what you have, you're not likely to be rushing out to buy lots of stuff. And that is bad for corporate America. Alright, I'm kidding. I have written to all these stores asking for sponsorship of my sermon today, but I haven't heard back yet. So, the sponsorships are still pending.
Today's Gospel somehow doesn't sound very in tune with the commercial shopping season, does it?
The messages we've on our TV's and radios since Halloween (or was it Labor Day?) all say, "Buy stuff - buy stuff - buy stuff!" But Jesus this morning says, "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?" This seems completely unrealistic. Preparing this sermon, I had to ask myself, "Have I ever really done this?" I mean, have I ever really not worried? I don't know that a day has gone by in my life where I haven't worried about my kids and my family, and/or my job, and/or, the poor polar bears and global warming, and/or traffic, and/or weather, and/or whether people liked me.
And I worry about money, even though – did you know? I'm a very rich man. I didn't realize it until I did a little math. I know you were promised that if you came to church on Thanksgiving, there would be no math, but stick with me. Let me tell you about my results. Worldwide 1.7 billion people are in poverty - this is just 11% absolute poverty; it doesn't even include relative poverty. The United Nations' definition of absolute poverty is living on less than $1.25/day. I figured that for most of us here at Trinity we earn in about half a day, what takes an entire year for the poorest people on earth to make.
It does no good to say, "Well Rick, you got an education and worked hard for many years." I put my heart and soul into what I do, but you can't tell me I work harder than poor people. If we paid people based on how hard people work, mothers in famine stricken parts of Africa should be billionaires. So... I'm a very rich man... and over and over in my mind I keep hearing the words of Jesus in Luke 12:48: "To whom much is given, much is required."
We have gotten out of practice of being grateful. About 400 years ago on another continent there was a Lutheran pastor named Martin Rinkhart. He lived in Eilenberg in Saxony and it was during the siege of the Thirty Years War. We've just been through a devastating fire that destroyed 35 homes – Eilenberg was a walled city that was surrounded and 800 homes were burned, and the people within suffered from the plague, from starvation, and it got to the point where the pastors within that town, within that village were burying 12 people a day. Pretty soon the pastors themselves started to die and Martin Rinckart was the only pastor left. He was conducting 50 funerals a day, can you imagine? Fifty funerals a day. He buried over 5,000 people that year, including his own wife.
When the war ended in 1648 he sat down, and listen to the words that he penned:
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;Who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our wayWith countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
You probably recognize the words – they're hymn #397. This was a man who knew horrors beyond all we can think and imagine, getting on his knees and leading people in praise and thanks to our God. [Deb Kielsmeier, "Thanksgiving," Nov. 25, 2004, Christ Presbyterian Church Web Site, christpresbyterian.com.]
Once you realize how blessed you are, and how grateful you are, you can't help but begin to see the ways each of us squanders and wastes and hoards. It creates a tension in your heart, doesn't it? Now, I'm not recommending calling off Thanksgiving or all shopping, but instead, I'm saying we should go deeper into it.
I pray that today's Thanksgiving will open our eyes and ears to the Creator of all things. That it will open our imaginations to a God who passionately loves all life. That on this day, we open our souls in thanksgiving for all our fellow human beings and creatures and the earth itself. That we open our hearts to affirm that all that we have comes from God who gives everything away and would teach us that same path of stewardship and living. May we open our very beings to a God who says to you and to me, to rich and poor... to every race, to every country...every nation, to those of us who will go home to roasting turkeys... and to those who will not, "Could you worry a little less? Be a little less anxious about your life?" "The outcome is not in doubt; there is enough in my abundant creation for all."
We pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven..." Just imagine this Thanksgiving Day if we weren't anxious; if we didn't stockpile and hoard; if we didn't buy into the myth of scarcity! But instead, if we truly believed in God's abundance and providence. If we opened our hearts and our hands. What would the world be like? If we truly believed we had enough and maybe didn't need whatever the hottest selling must-have gizmo is going to be at the stores tomorrow. Everyone would have enough. Everyone would be fed and clothed and have access to clean water, the way God intended! Most wars are over wanting what others have. Maybe even war itself would end, peace would come, and we would finally take the time to sit down as one world and learn to truly love our fellow human beings.
And that... that might just be the Kingdom. Amen.