Thanksgiving – 2019 LSB # 981:1, 3, 5, 7
Text – Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, & thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence & awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
If you are at all aware of the changes occurring in our country, and if you remember back just 20 years or more, it’s obvious that things are not the way they used to be. The public discourse was not as filled with hatred or intolerance as we see and hear in all forms of media today. More than ever the two things you don’t talk about at dinner are politics and religion.
The nation of Iran just threatened to destroy our country and our allies if we cross them. We’ve been in an official trade war with China. The Russians are still trying to destroy our confidence in the election of our political leaders. The drug cartels seem to be gaining strength in Mexico, and the overuse of opioids has reached epidemic levels across our country.
Marriage has been redefined by the courts, while the medical and psychiatric professions are working on redefining gender. Recent studies have shown that only 10% of our nation’s people look at life with a Biblical worldview. Many so-called Christian denominations are no longer willing to state that the Bible is the holy and inerrant Word of God.
For people under 20 years of age, all those issues are normal. Most everyone over 50 views today’s circumstances as a rapid decline in civilization. For them the very fabric of life is coming apart at the seams. Marriages, families, children, they all appear to be on a shaky foundation. What will this country be like in another 10 or 20 years?
To people over 50, life as they knew it is on very shaky ground. For people younger than that, life is also on shaky ground, but for different reasons. They see the vast inequalities that sin brings into the world, whether those are social justice or economic issues, but without a Biblical worldview they attribute those inequalities to the wrong source. At least the loudest voices in the culture are blaming capitalism, racism, sexism, and even God’s kingdom, for all the problems. They do so because for them, sin is no longer a real thing, and no matter who is coming up with solutions for problems, if you aren’t dealing with reality, the solutions cannot work.
I was reminded this morning by an email that the Pilgrims initially tried socialism when they arrived in America and it failed miserably in their own words. After some intense debate they switched to a more capitalistic system of farming and it was very successful. Instead of waiting for everyone else to do the work, the families each took their own initiative and thrived.
Greed is the result of sin, not the result of a capitalistic system. Greed also thrives in a socialistic system. Sin is what makes our lives appear shaky and unsustainable, because sin corrupts every single endeavor of mankind. Real people are really suffering from the brokenness caused by sin. It makes our world appear unstable and dangerous, because it is!
But that fact does not leave us without hope. If you’re trying to find hope in what you see and hear from the things of this world – that is the definition of lost. Politics won’t save anyone; neither will capitalism nor socialism, but one of those is based on a foundation that denies the existence of sin. That denial of reality guarantees that the system will fail.
The Creator of reality will never deny that sin has corrupted His creation. In fact He used the reality of sin to accomplish the execution of Jesus as payment for sin. There’s only one Being able to create a system that will not fail, and obviously that system has to rely upon that perfect Being to accomplish it. That is the good news which the book of Hebrews brings to us:
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” (Hebrews 12:28 ESV) The wisdom and power of Yahweh have already created a kingdom for you and me that cannot be shaken. No matter what our eyes might see or our ears might here, no matter what abuse and suffering any human being or even other creatures might endure, there is a rescue that has already been accomplished. Each of us who trusts in Jesus as Savior from sin has a saintly nature that is extremely grateful for that rescue. We often fail to appreciate it because we also have a sinful nature that is not grateful at all.
To deny that such a nature exists, and the evil that it causes, brings all kinds of fairytale promises into play. Programs like Medicare for All, and the Green New Deal, will destroy the livelihoods of millions of people, but you can bet that somehow the politicians voting for them would see to it that they escape all of that turmoil.
You see, the sinful nature of politicians is just as powerful as yours or mine. Now, cynical unbelievers accuse faithful Christians of being delusional in our belief that the death of a Jewish carpenter 2000 years ago somehow makes everything in the world all right. Being honest, we can understand why. Doubts rise in our hearts too – every single day.
Sin has made that much of a mess of the world, and no matter how well-intentioned they are, solutions that deny the reality of sin also diminish, or erase, the power of the Gospel. And without the Gospel there is nothing to be grateful for. If you boil it down, all that the world can truly offer us is this: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
All over our nation people are gathering, not for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but to go shopping. Black Friday is becoming a thing of the past as more and more stores are opening on Thursday. How can people truly thank God for what He has given them, when their main focus is on what they do not have?
In all the rush to find a sale, so they can get more, many wind up with more of something they did not expect, and would not search for. In this case, the devil is like Art Van. He always has anxiety on sale, and people don’t even realize they’re buying it! The 12th chapter of Hebrews gives us the solution: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
That’s a long sentence by standards of good English, but it’s talking about our presence in God’s house here on earth. It speaks of the presence here with us of all believers and of the holy angels and of God Himself. Yes, we can’t see them, but they’re here, because in Christ the boundaries of space and time are dissolved.
The text from Hebrews speaks of the Lord’s Supper being offered to erase our sins. Abel’s blood cried for vengeance, but the blood of Jesus cries that Yahweh is no longer angry with us, “Return to Him! Leave your sins behind. Leave your sinful ways behind, and follow them no more. Accept the new covenant of God, enacted by Jesus, in His death and resurrection.”
The new creation has begun with Christ’s resurrection to glory. And when He returns with trumpet blast to raise the dead the new creation will continue as each believer receives a body free of all the effects of sin. The new heaven and the new earth will also be created for us to see and experience in pure glory and perfection.
There will be no more anxiety on sale because you will be fully aware that you then have everything. The anxiety caused by sin makes our current world seem shaky at best and horrifying at worst. Everything already belongs to all God’s children, but sin has corrupted our ability to experience it, to see it and touch it and feel it, and to know that it’s real apart from faith.
Once we arrive in heaven faith will be no longer be needed, because sin will no longer separate our heart, soul and mind from what is real. There, gratitude will not be something we have to tell ourselves to have. In heaven we’ll know gratitude perfectly. There will be no sinful nature dragging us down or turning us away from the heavenly Father. The struggle we have today, and everyday on earth, is that we live now by faith, not by sight. God is aware of that, so His 3rd commandment gives us guidance and instruction to honor the Sabbath rest that He gives.
The author of the book of Hebrews certainly knew everything we know about sin and the effect it’s had upon, not just the world, but upon our own lives. Still, he wrote, “…be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”
As we fail daily, at that too, we can remember that Jesus marched to the cross on our behalf & He was unshaken in His resolve to grant you and me a place in His kingdom. Until then, we have God’s house here on earth as a place of rest and refuge from the brokenness of this world.
Here, our hearts may find that peace which surpasses all human understanding, and here we may gain a glimpse of the kind of gratitude we will experience in heaven. Until then, Jesus already reigns in His kingdom and He is unshakeable in His love for us. The world certainly is on its way to hell in a handbasket, but the children of God are on their way to heaven. Amen.
To Your temple, Lord, I come, for it is my worship home. This earth has no better place; here I see my Savior’s face. While Your glorious praise is sung, touch my lips, unloose my tongue that my joyful soul may bless Christ the Lord, my righteousness. While I listen to Your Law, fill my soul with humble awe till Your Gospel bring to me life and immortality. From Your house when I return, may my heart within me burn, and at evening let me say, “I have walked with God today.” Amen. LSB 981:1, 3, 5, 7.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet