Sermons from November 2021
Eastern European Missions (EEM) update with Lanny Tucker.
Despite the difficulties our nation has faced over the last few years, many people recognize the benefits of citizenship in the United States. Citizenship in America grants access to a range of opportunities and protections unavailable in many other nations, opportunities and protections that lead people to regularly thank God for our country and the blessings it offers. Similarly, citizenship in the New Testament city of Philippi offered people advantages because, as a Roman colony, it also gave them citizenship in the Roman empire. Even though Philippians prided themselves on their citizenship, Paul told the Christians in Phillip to rejoice because their “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20-21). Paul’s convictions about the benefits of citizenship in heaven developed out of his understanding of Jesus’ message about “the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:42-44). Understanding the kingdom Jesus announced, Paul believed, ought to result in an abiding thankfulness. We celebrate Thanksgiving this week, a holiday that encourages us to reflect on the blessings in our lives. Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God offers benefits that form an essential foundation for our thankfulness. We will therefore consider Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God to remind us of some of the reasons motivating our gratitude.
Thanksgiving and Christmas ought to be a time of thankfulness for the people and blessings in our lives that we express through things like gift-giving. However, the holidays’ focus on gift-giving seems to inevitably lead to laments about the materialism and commercialization of Christmas. This year those concerns have been joined by the additional worries created by ongoing supply chain restrictions and economic troubles, conspiring to make gift-giving a frustration rather than a joy. The Bible presents a different picture of gift-giving – it depicts God generously giving gifts to humanity through which He brings blessings into their lives. God’s gift-giving does not find itself hindered by the concerns of our holiday season. Instead, God’s gifts dismantle those frustrations and bring goodness and healing into the world. We are using Sunday mornings this month to reflect on some of the reasons that inspire the thankfulness that should define our lives. The Bible’s portrait of God’s gift-giving identity offers another motivation – we are thankful for God’s gift-giving character.
We will celebrate Thanksgiving later this month, a time when many people in our nation pause to reflect on the blessings in their lives. We understand, however, that our thankfulness should not be limited to a national holiday; we recognize that we should “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Given the central place God wants thankfulness to have within our lives, we will take advantage of the upcoming holiday to remind ourselves of some of the reasons for our gratitude. We begin in this lesson by considering God’s choice to work through humans, why His choice should make us thankful, and what it means for our relationships with one another.