“Truth, Peace, and Thankfulness”
November 22, 2015
By John Partridge
Joel 2:21-27 1 Timothy 2:1-7 John 18:33-37 Matthew 6:25-33
Today is Christ the King Sunday, in which we remember that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but is in fact, God himself, the King of the Universe. And, at the same time, here in the United States, few of us would miss the fact that we will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. But as different as these two ideas might seem, they are connected in some very important ways.
We begin in Joel 2:21-27, where God speaks to Israel after a great famine and promises that he has not forgotten them and that abundance will return to them again.
21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things!
22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
God says, “Do not be afraid.” Things are already getting better. I will send you the things that you need. I will repay you for what you have lost. And then God gets to the part that each one of us really ought to remember, especially as we set aside a day for thanksgiving. After God has returned abundance, after God has returned food and wealth, God says,
“Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other.
After they have endured famine and the destruction of much of their crops, herds and land, God returns these things to them so that the people will know that God is God.
As we celebrate our day of Thanksgiving, we should remember the same message:
The purpose of our abundance is so that we will remember that God is in control.
And so, it is important for all of us to give thanks for everything that God has given to us.
Next, as we give thanks, we need to do so for more than just one day. Instead of saying “Thank You,” and then going right back to living as if we were ungrateful, we should live lives of gratitude. We know we should, but what would our daily lives look like if we did? In 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul give us a few ideas.
2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
First, and foremost, before everything else, we should be people of prayer. We should pray, and give thanks, for all people. We should pray, and give thanks, for our politicians, police officers, firefighters, and everyone who hold positions of authority. That isn’t always an easy thing to do, and we really cannot argue our way out of it. Before any one of us can argue that we don’t really like President Reagan, or President Bush, or Clinton, or Obama, we need to remember that when Paul wrote this, he was talking about Caesars, Kings, and Emperors who were often brutal dictators. Paul understood very well that all of these leaders were not kind and gentle souls who governed well. They often were not leaders who looked out for the best interests of their subjects but leaders who abused their subjects while they themselves lived in luxury. But even so, Paul says that we must pray, and give thanks, for them, so that we might live peaceful and quiet lives of godliness and holiness. This is the kind of life that pleases God.
We are called to pray, give thanks, live lives of godliness and holiness, so that people can be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
And this pursuit of truth is what connects these two ideas of thanksgiving and kingship. In John 18:33-37, Jesus stands trial, accused of attempting to overthrow the government and make himself the king and ruler of Israel. This is clearly a charge of sedition and treason, and Pilate questions Jesus to see if such a wild charge is true.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Jesus says that he is not a king in this place, but is king in another place. The reason that he was born was not to rule and reign, but to tell the truth. Simplified to its barest essence, that is the mission of Jesus, to tell the world the truth. And the last sentence is, again, what ties the kingship of Jesus to our Thanksgiving. Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Jesus is the king of truth.
Everyone who loves the truth will listen to what he has to say. But that also means that, as his followers, we must be people of the truth. We must be eager to learn the truth, to speak the truth, and to stand up for truth, always and everywhere.
Finally in Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus reminds us what life is all about.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, most of us are celebrating an abundance of food, an abundance of things, and an abundance of God’s blessings.
As such, let us remember, that in abundance and scarcity, we should be content with what God has given to us. Do not worry about what you need because God loves you and knows that you need these things. Instead of worrying, spend your time honoring God.
And so, the highlights for today are these:
Pray and give thanks, especially for those people, politicians and otherwise, who are in positions of authority over us, whether we like them or not.
Give thanks for what God has given to you and remember that the reason that you have it is for you to remember that God is in control.
Remember that Jesus is the King of the Universe, and the King of truth.
We must learn truth and always speak the truth.
Live lives that reflect that truth.
And, in all things, seek to honor God.
An even shorter summary is this:
In all things, give thanks.
Because Jesus is the King of everything.