The Sunday Before Thanksgiving (The Feast of Christ the King)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen
There is I believe a word from God contained for us in the 6th chapter of Matthew vs25-34
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 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.
And so bear with me for a moment as I shine the sermonic spotlight on the subject “Why Worry?” (I want you to help me preach this thing this morning and so why don’t you turn around and ask your neighbor “what are you worried about?”)
This week we will celebrate a day like no other. It is a day that we set aside for the specific purpose of giving thanks. While there are other holidays, there is none, which expressly emphasizes the importance of stopping our usual activities and gathering as families, or communities to just show gratitude for the blessings of this life. In other words, as Christians, we come together to just say “thank you Jesus.” Because when we take the time and think of the goodness of Jesus, and all he has done for us, our soul cannot help but cry “halleluiah!”
Yes, it is a day like no other. And even as we have prepared ourselves to celebrate Thanksgiving; even as we will prepare the turkey with all the trimmings; even as we will work hard in preparation for entertaining those special to us on this occasion; even as we will come to this day of Thanksgiving with all good intentions; for some of us there is an anxiety, a nervousness, a worry, if you will, which grips our hearts and minds. What is it about thanksgiving that sometimes makes us glad when the day is over? Yes, even Thanksgiving can sometimes be a source of anxiety and frustration for us. It can incite even a feeling of panic- not knowing what to do under this circumstance or that. Feeling caged, trapped and helpless by just the thought of this day, its responsibilities, its challenges, and its emotional baggage which can take us from the pinnacle of gratefulness to the valley of hatefulness, resentfulness and sorrow.
Perhaps Thanksgiving brings us to an overwhelming place of grief when we think of loved ones no longer with us. And we have not yet found the strength to be thankful. Perhaps we are upset because we feel used and abused as friends and family show themselves bankrupt of the kind of gratitude which we so fully deserve for all that we have done for them. Perhaps we are afraid, because we are alone. Perhaps we even feel alone in the midst of our gathered relatives and friends and even dread the obligatory gatherings with the people whom we call family.
Steven Ivory in a commentary talked in a lighthearted way about a common yet troubling issue- Surviving Family at Thanksgiving- giving advice on what he describes as the trials of spending thanksgiving with family. Mr. Ivory’s commentary in part was as follows:
Thanksgiving symbolizes the appreciation that Americans have for the vital things in life. We celebrate our good fortune with a scrumptious meal and a good time. So why does it feel like you have a stone in your stomach? It is because Thanksgiving can be associated with a lot of other things associated with the F word- Family. Unless you have the propensity to ignore an occasional emotional mugging, or by some chance you believe you came from a functional family, whatever that is, then you probably aren’t aware that at Thanksgiving, not everyone always has a good time with family. It’s not that you have a bad time, but there can be a strange uneasiness in the air. You love one another, truly you do, however when your grandmother on your father’s side says she’ll bring some extra stuffing “just in case you haven’t made enough,” it doesn’t have a thing to do with food, and you know it! When your mother calls you and says, “I thought you all were on ya’ll’s way,” you can take bets in Vegas that there is going to be some mess. Or when your father-in-law takes his sweet time coming out to greet you and then doesn’t have two words to say to you, you know it’s on then! Before dinner, as you sit pondering what is playing at the Cineplex, you wish that this was over and that you were at home, in your pajamas, with the remote in one hand and a piece of your evil aunt’s incredible pie in the other!
Ivory goes on to say: Family Thanksgivings can be about love and joy and laughter, but for many, it can also be a day of control and angst and pressure.
Steven Ivory’s description may or may not be familiar to some of us, nonetheless, I do believe that we all have, in one context or the other, experienced worry and anxiety about ourselves, our families and our relationships.
Jesus, I believe, on this Sunday before Thanksgiving challenges us to remember that thanksgiving and worry should not co-exist. Gratitude and anxiety do not belong together. Where one is present the other must flee. Worry, my dear brothers and sisters, is not only incompatible with gratitude, but in my opinion it is sinful. Jesus commanded us in Matthew’s gospel, “Do not worry about your life.” This was not a suggestion or some strong request, I believe it was a command.
What is worry? Well, worry is a feeling of uneasiness, apprehension or dread. These feelings are usually related to negative thoughts of something that may happen in the future. Worriers spend a disproportionate amount of time speculating on what might occur and then fearing the worst.
Worry superimposes the future on the present and is a pre-occupation with the painful consequences of what might happen. Worry can be oppressive and crippling. When we worry, we can suffer a series of losses. We lose sleep, we lose our health and we may lose our minds.
Jesus makes it plain. Worry is a failure to understand God’s promises to us resulting in unnecessary torment or anxiety. We are restless, we are agitated, and ultimately worry is a destroyer of not only the soul but the physical body as well. Clearly at least half of the ailments that I see in my practice as a physician are a direct consequence of or exacerbated by worry and anxiety.
How, then, do we begin to get past our worrying? I think that at least 3 things are helpful here:
Turn, trust and Talk.
We must turn our attention to God because God is in charge. God has established God’s throne in heaven and God’s kingdom rules over all. We must turn our attention to God because God is God Almighty. God is everywhere, meaning God is omnipresent. God knows everything, meaning God is omniscient. God is all powerful, meaning God is omnipotent. When we worry, we feel that things are out of control and there is nothing we can do to stop it. It is then that we must turn our hearts and attention to the God who is in charge.
The second thing that we must consider is that we must trust beyond ourselves. Even in this age where we teach our children to trust almost no one except their parents, we must be bold enough to get over our issues and trust beyond ourselves. The problem here is that we’ve not only got problems trusting other people, but we have difficulty trusting God. We don’t really believe, I dare say, that God is running the world efficiently. We’ve stopped trusting God to care for our needs even though God promised that God would. We have shifted our eyes from heaven to earth. We’re trusting in ourselves instead of trusting in God. We’ve taken the responsibility for the future on our own shoulders. It is with unmistakable clarity that Jesus speaks to us today and lets us know that getting rid of worry is a matter of choice. When we choose to trust God rather than ourselves, our worries will subside.
The third and final point that I think is perhaps the most important to consider is the need to talk to someone who cares. For indeed, there is someone who cares for you. Paul reminds us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds. Why must we be concerned about guarding our minds? Because Paul knew that worry and anxiety might cause one to lose their mind. This is why we must pay attention to our mental health. We must seek counseling, both psychological and spiritual when necessary. Talk to a professional to help you to deal with your issues.
But perhaps most importantly, we need to talk to the God who loves us. We ought to be praying instead of worrying, talking to the creator of the universe, the one who cares for us. We ought to be praying to the one who conquered death and has the power to change even our lives. We ought to be praying to the Alpha and the omega, the One who is the beginning and the end. Every now and then we need to have a little talk with Jesus.
And as we approach Thanksgiving Day, we would do well to remember that we must not only pray, but we must pray with and attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Sometimes we get so caught up with our own problems that we forget to consider where God has brought us from.
We forget the generous way God has worked in the past and we fail to see that God has dealt with us according to his grace. And I heard the song-writer say:” All of my needs, He has met, and he’ll never let me fail. All of my help comes from the Lord.”
When we pray as an alternative to worry, we are removing the burden from our shoulder and placing it on the broad shoulders of almighty God. And once we can trust God with our cares,
We can thank God for being the kind of God who loves us and who has the power to answer prayer. I would challenge each and every one of us today to bring your vulnerabilities to the One who has the power to do something about them. When you wake up at night worrying about your sister or your job or school or your little boy- Pray. Train your mind to stop and redirect all the energy from worrying, which is destructive, to prayer, which is constructive. When you’re overwhelmed by the frightening prospects of the future- Pray. While you’re waiting at a traffic light and you’re worrying about the bills- Pray. Ask God to provide then move on because God hears and answers prayer.
Beloved in Christ, on this Thanksgiving Day, why worry? For we can cast our cares on a God who cares for us. We can put our helpless feelings of uncertainty into God’s almighty hands.
We can trust the future to the One who cared enough for us to send His son to die for us.
And so, why worry on this Thanksgiving Day, my brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us give thanks to God today! And let us declare:
I trust in God,
Wherever I may be.
Upon the land or on the rolling sea.
For Come what may, from day to day,
My Heavenly Father watches over me.
He makes the rose,
An object of his care.
He guides the eagle through the pathless air.
And surely he, remember me,
My Heavenly Father watches over me.
I trust in God,
I know he cares for me.
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea.
Though billows roll,
He keeps my soul.
My Heavenly Father watches over me.