Tag Archives: thanks

Thanksgiving vs vanities Psalm 100 Aug 4, 2019

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who give thanks said … AMEN!

God certainly is in the Old Testament but it seems that for the most part He left the Old Testament for us to understand who we are, get snapshots of ourselves. Sometimes those snapshots are good, positive, uplifting. Today’s Psalm is very uplifting and positive. The Psalms have been categorized into different “types”, there are 37 psalms that are considered to be “praise and thanksgiving”. Martin Luther writes: “the 100th psalm is a prophecy of Christ. It calls on the entire world to be joyful to praise and to give thanks, that is, to worship God and come to His throne and His courts, and to call on Him with all confidence. His grace is an eternal kingdom, which truly remains forever and ever.”[1] Luther is right, what is more deserving of praise in knowing that He is coming, that He is coming again and from Him we have the promise of eternal life in Jesus in the resurrection.

Psalm 100 is not attributed to a writer, it could be the writer of our Old Testament passage, King Solomon. Doubtful. Solomon in his other writings does not seem to be the yippy-skippy type. The readings certainly contrast each other. There are passages from the Old Testament that speak of great nobility, but there are plenty of places that lack nobility. Our Bible is the only “holy book” that is not reluctant to describe the dark side of the people in the Bible. While Solomon was brilliant, things did not end up well for him.

The Queen of Sheba, of Solomon’s time, was incredibly wealthy and accomplished in her own right. ESV 1 Kings 10:2 She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. 3 And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her… 5 the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her.” Solomon’s splendor had to have been staggering in order to wow someone like the Queen of Sheba. Under Solomon Israel was at its pinnacle. The temple he built was brilliant, encased in so much gold. It’s said there was so much gold in Israel that no one even bothered with silver, it was considered too common.

Solomon talks about “vanity” in Ecclesiastes. Vanity to us often denotes “wow look at me, aren’t I all that and a bag of chips! But it also means that no matter what we do, all we do, the world is usually going to pass us by, just ain’t no thing! I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of cleaning out the garage, basement, attic/ all of the above, of an elderly relative. Everything they did in life, collected, all that they had hoped and planned. To those of us who were doing the hauling most of it had little meaning. We owned our home in Massachusetts for twenty years, our children were raised there. From 1985-2005, what I accumulated there, eventually had to be packed and moved; it could be seen as vanity to keep much of that stuff, and also that I kept it in vain, to what end? My wife often asked me that. While we indulge our vanities and so much is in vain our Psalm reading tells us about giving praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.

Recent studies have shown that even into old age our brains are very plastic, that we really have a choice in letting our brains settle and harden into a rigid plasticity of the same old, same old. Too many people become bitter and complacent: I’m too old to learn, I’m too old to change, yada, yada. This is just not true, but in our “hey let’s find an excuse so we don’t have to push ourselves” world, it works for most people. So when we enter this hum-drum, gray existence where nothing ever changes, which is how Ecclesiastes reads, our brain gets wired that way. Nothing new, nothing to be thankful for, just grouchy, grumbly misery, which is rather stunning for us who are the most blessed of those living in the world today and in history! Yet what do we mostly see and often among Christians. There was a cartoon character when my children were children, Gulliver’s Travels” every episode was always: “Gulliver, we’ll never make it, we’re all doomed.” In spite of having everything we could begin to imagine, that might as well be the creed of Americans today.

There is thanksgiving in all that we do. We may have the vanity in our life, the things that we left behind, but I have no doubt that each of you has had times and places where we did make a difference. Where we did serve with strength, honor, conviction of what we knew would serve Christ and His Church. We honor Christ in what we are thankful for by keeping those times, those people in our heart. But we also need to move on from those things, there is no such thing as settling on your laurels in the church of Christ. I know how much of a nice, warm, cocoon we have in our memories, and those memories aren’t in vain, they were delightful times that God has given us. In those times we often forget about the struggle to achieve what God gave us to realize, that we need to persevere, the uncertainty, tragedy. We might let it interfere with the plans Jesus has for us now. We get caught up in the way things were, we tend to ignore the great things going on around us now and don’t do those things that the Holy Spirit is moving us to. In that sense our past becomes vanity and keeps us from moving into the future God has for us. The parable Jesus tells compares our vanity to our lack of thanksgiving. The farmer is patting himself on the back, how deserving he is of all his crop. Food was much more valuable then, people often went without, this guy knows he’s in for a big payday. We see tremendous vanity and complete lack of thanksgiving. He knows Psalm 100; “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!” He’s in his counting house like Ebenezer Scrooge, or Scrooge McDuck, rubbing his hands “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry.” We’ve had those times cashing in. We didn’t enter God’s grace with thanksgiving and praise, too often we’re worried what tax bracket it’s going to put us in.

Ron Wessel has given me a great education in agriculture and I’ve heard this from him and other farmers: with crops and livestock you have to put in the work, but God gives the blessing and the return on our labor. While the farmer in the parable is patting himself on the shoulder, God steps in and I don’t think to punish this guy but he had reached the end God had planned, God lets him know; okay superstar! You think it’s all about you? You could work harder and longer and it wouldn’t make a difference, it would be in vain. Talk about vanity, in vain, you’re at the end tough guy, you’re not going to get to do any of those things you had planned. You could have given thanks, go to the temple to share some of what you have, take time in prayer. But instead of making it about me and all that I did for you, you made it about yourself and that never ends up well for you.

In Jesus we don’t get into the petty fussing and nonsense we see with the two brothers in the Gospel reading. We don’t let the monetary issues, the things that we might have received, but didn’t. We remember who it is that has given us the hope and promise of the eternal. That Jesus has put us back in relationship with God. God is completely holy, pure, just, who loves us greatly, but in His justice, He will not abide sin and evil. God the Father gave us His Son to reconcile us, to be the price for our sinful acts to make us perfect and save us from God’s justice. Jesus takes us and delivers us to His eternal hope and promise, the eternal life of the resurrection in Him. For that and so much that He’s given us we should be constantly entering His gates and going to His courts in Thanksgiving! Dr Luther writes: “…we’re showered with blessings every day and we’re always using what God gives us…we accept his gifts as if they simply appeared out of nowhere or as if we had earned them through our own efforts, diligence or wisdom. We think that God somehow owes us these things, and therefore we don’t need to thank him…”[2]

We can continue to live in vanity, take the joy out of a joyful life God has given us and intended for us, we should be doing all we can to enter His gates and go to His courts in Thanksgiving.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] Reading the Psalms with Luther p 235

[2] Edited by James Glavin 365 devotional readings from Martin Luther  Through faith Alone  April 27