A Thanksgiving Budget King

An elderly gentleman in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says.

"We're sick and tired of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her." And he hangs up.

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting a divorce," she shouts. "I'll take care of this." She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced! Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" And she hangs up.

The elderly gentleman hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "They're coming for Thanksgiving and our anniversary, and paying their own way!"

Now how am I going to work that story into a sermon? Well, it's a strange enough Sunday that I actually think I can do it. Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church calendar year. Next week we start all over with the first Sunday of Advent. So, just as the father in the story spoke of ending the marriage, (but actually it was an anniversary and the start of another year) so this is the end of the church year and the beginning of another; the church is the bride of Christ. Secondly, this is Thanksgiving Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving that many churches celebrate as Thanksgiving Sunday. In the Lutheran Church Calendar Year, there really isn't any Sunday listed as Thanksgiving Sunday, but that's what today is. It's sort of a Harvest Sunday, too, as you notice the wonderful harvest decorations. And of course, the story connects to today because the father has found a way to get the adult children home for Thanksgiving. And thirdly, of course, it relates to Annual Budget Meeting Sunday in that the father has found an ingenious way to get the adult children home for Thanksgiving and their anniversary, and to have them pay for their own way to get there. Many time parents foot that bill in order for the adult children to get home for some celebration.

I chose some other readings to go with this sermon. I did use verses 5, 6 from the Jeremiah lesson for today, but I used Philippians 4:4-8 and 2Corinthians 9:6-15. I will repeat verses 5 and 6 from Jeremiah, and then read the other two Scriptures.

The concept of "King" is really not one that we can really relate to since we in the United States have never had a King, though we have treated some White House families as royalty, and there are some who demand to be treated like royalty, and some presidents who have acted like Kings rather than the head of a democratic society. The kings referred to in Scripture are not the same as modern day kings, or kings of Britain or Europe in the past. The Kings in Scripture had much more power and influence and were divinely connected, ordained by God. That is, they were seen as having a divine connection, even though some used that connection for evil or personal gain. They were head over a people who were very diverse in coming together, but it was the faith of the people that united them and held them together as a people and so the King was seen as having a divine aspect.

Kings were to judge the people fairly; to provide for those who were in need; to care for those who were widowed or orphaned. A king was to be the chief caretaker of the people. He was also head of the military power, so he was also the defender of the people, and in battles won, their savior. It is easy to see how Jesus came to be thought of as a King after his resurrection.

It is the attributes of a king that we should focus on, not the title.

Each of us in our ministry should be a caretaker for one another, for all the living creatures that God gave us to care for, and to care about our environment and our resources. We are not to oppress others of a different race or creed or gender, but rather to help them live a full life of opportunity, a life of integrity, where they too can use their God-given talents and abilities in the exercise of freedom.

And we should be thankful. A grateful heart is one that is a healthy heart. A grateful heart is one that is open to the fullness of God's love and blessings. Do you pay your bills with a grateful heart? Regardless that oil is high, that electricity is high and going higher, we can still pay the bills with a grateful heart. Be grateful that you can pay the bill, and that gratitude should spill over into compassion for those who cannot, so that we also do what we can to help them. Those who do not have enough to pay will have an opportunity for a grateful heart as they receive assistance.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, one of their great sins was grumbling and complaining. Their ungratefulness was a way of saying to God, "You aren't doing a very good job of taking care of us. We deserve more. We deserve better." When we think we are the most deserving is when we are the least grateful.

A believer in Jesus Christ should be one of the most grateful people on the planet. Every provision of life comes from God; every joy, every grace, and every benefit of God's goodness flows out to us from his giving heart. Remember, it isn't GOD who withholds from people; it's PEOPLE who withhold from people. People not willing to share; people taking more than their share and still not sharing; people getting richer, while the poor get poorer. When Jesus said, "You will always have the poor with you," that was true because of the poor stewardship of those who are not poor. Where is the gratefulness to God to throw away tens of thousands of dollars on parties, literally night after night, while so many of the people in the world are actually starving? Where is the stewardship in that? Where is the responsibility? To those whom more is given, more is expected, Jesus says. Are we meeting God's expectation?

Very few of us think of ourselves as rich. But I know that in this congregation, as in many others, there are some who see others as being rich. The folks they see as rich do not see themselves as rich. But here is a startling statistic: If you earn $60,000 a year you are in the top 15% of the richest people in the world. There are 6 billion people poorer than you. Three billion people live on less than $2.00 a day, while 1.3 billion get by on less than $1.00 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less than a dollar a day are women.

One of the marks of a mature Christian is having a thankful heart. The discipline of thankfulness draws us closer to God, strengthens our walk, renews our perspective, increases our energy, and brings us joy.

It is out of this realization of how blessed we are that we respond to God in our giving. We in this congregation are especially blessed, even those who have financial difficulties, those who have trouble meeting bills, those who have illnesses, those fighting chronic pain, those fighting debilitating or terminal diseases, we all have been blessed. We have family, friends, a church family, food, shelter, clothing (over 90% of the people in the world don't have one or more of those last three items). We should have grateful hearts. A girl who was born without arms and legs but was loved and cherished by family and friends became a radiantly happy person. One day a college student asked her, "Don't you ever wish that you hadn't been born? How can you believe in God when you see other people who have arms and legs and can do things and get around?" The girl, not offended by the questions, answered with a smile, "I wouldn't have missed the chance to be alive for anything in the world. I know that what I do seems very little when compared to other people. But when compared to not having lived at all-to never have seen or tasted or smelled or heard or known the delight of reading and thinking-I am overwhelmingly grateful to God for the opportunity to live the life that has been mine."

That's a grateful heart. Give back to God with a grateful heart. Open up to God's blessings by nurturing an attitude of gratitude. "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all….Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things….And the God of peace will be with you."


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