SHOULD WE BE?
Proverbs 4: 10-19
MATTHEW 25: 34

November 22, 2017–Thanksgiving Eve at First UMC National Park

And, the Psalmist said … “PRAISE THE LORD!! Praise God in his Sanctuary … Let every living thing praise the Lord!”

I truly treasure Psalm 150 because God’s Word teaches us that even clashing cymbals can be used to praise the Lord. Our praise doesn’t have to be perfectly in tune … our praise is not limited to the walls of these buildings called churches … in fact, God is calling every living thing to praise the Lord … AMEN?

The holiday we call THANKSGIVING is my favorite holiday … in fact, I think it has always been the one calendar holiday that I anxiously look forward to and can pull up special times from my memories both as a child and as an adult with a family.

Is Thanksgiving special to you? Is it a day when you open wide your door and just call out PRAISE THE LORD!!! Birds … squirrels … can you praise the Lord with me? The joy of God connection … the day that we set aside as thanksgiving … of course in Canada their one day of Thanksgiving is a Monday in October. I don’t think they have BLACK TUESDAY SALES to match all the great shopping opportunities we have … by the way, are you going to give up some of the one day of the year that is set aside to actually THANK GOD for our blessings … to go shopping or to plan a shopping trip? Is that the reason you like this Thursday in November?

Solomon in Proverbs begins the book by saying the words he is writing “are to teach wisdom and discipline … to provide instruction, which is righteous.” He writes that “wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Instruction … do you know that Jesus taught us how to live? I only included one verse from Matthew 25 in my Gospel reading tonight but there in verses 31 through 46 are clear instructions for people of faith to follow IF … IF people of faith want to inherit the kingdom of God because Jesus also gives a clear indication as to how one can end up in what Jesus calls “eternal punishment.”

Did I remember to shout PRAISE THE LORD? Praise God in his Sanctuary? Did I mention tomorrow is Thanksgiving … I wonder how thankful God’s people should be this Thanksgiving season?

Now, I am thankful for Jesus Christ … my friends can I get an AMEN if you are thankful for Jesus Christ? <>. I am really thankful that I am going to need to go on a diet and exercise program after tomorrow’s meal is over … are any of you with me?

PRAISE THE LORD … a 19 pound turkey … mashed potatoes … veggies … two cranberry sauces … soda …. Coffee … squash … cookies … lemon bars … pies … ice cream … THANKS BE TO …

Oh wait … there are homeless teenagers who will be out on the street and in abandoned buildings within 5 miles of this church tomorrow but I will be eating in total comfort.

Did you listen to God’s Word this evening from Proverbs .. Solomon the son of David wrote them … “Take in my speech … I will teach you the path of wisdom. I lead you straight courses … hold onto instruction; don’t slack off; protect it; for it is your life. Don’t go the way of the wicked … don’t walk down the path of evil people.”

Interesting if we start to think about the paths we travel on …. I did a brief survey earlier today. The four churches represented here tonight have room in our churches for almost 500 people … at one time almost 500 people worshiped in our churches … these days we get just around 200 folks to worship God. Are you thankful … that the churches of National Park, Westville, West Deptford and Colonial Manor are more empty than full on the day we are to worship God … to PRAISE HIS NAME … I say we are in need of action and revival rather than sitting back in comfort along with empty spaces.

In our great nation my friends … there are many who are insisting that we take away from the poor and reward the wealthy … friends, there are church attending people who somehow missed the message of Jesus Christ that is from that Gospel message in Matthew 25 that proclaims “I was hungry … I was thirsty … I was naked …” and by not providing for the least in society those who make that choice are denying Jesus. I am saddened today not thankful that in a nation with so much we are leaving our poorest behind in the collective dust. Church going people are choosing to follow the path of the evil and the wicked who want to deprive those in need.

But, I am thankful that our churches give to the poor … How many of you have travelled to RED BIRD KENTUCKY to work in a United Methodist Mission that cares for the people in America’s poorest county … United Methodists at work. Yes, I am thankful for the work of God’s people … for those who put together FLOOD BUCKETS and head to the ravaged corners of the world with UMCOR to rebuild lives …. Yes, thankfulness … PRAISE THE LORD. No matter your age … you can go to RED BIRD on a God mission.

And, of course all of our Sunday Schools are filled with children each week so we can be thank … oh wait, our Sunday Schools are empty … parents are making non-God related things their children’s priorities and we are raising a generation of children who will not know Jesus … will not know the songs of faith … will walk the evil path for the sake of sports glory scholarships greed selfishness but no connection to community. I am hurting today for the lack of children in our churches.

Did I mention tomorrow is Thanksgiving … there will be stores open and then BLACK FRIDAY starts … as a people of faith let me ask you if you really need one day to express your thanks to God? And, tomorrow how much time will be devoted to Scripture reading and prayer in your home and mine? Will more time be devoted to football games and parade watching? Will you open God’s Holy Word at your table and read a chapter before going for the first item on a table of plenty.

God in God’s love for all of humanity has set down guidelines for living … God sent Jesus to teach us about living as people of faith … LORD and MASTER, right? I am so thankful that Jesus has taught me what I need to do in this life for God as a Christian as a Christ follower so yes … I am thankful.

But, did you know that both the Old and New Testaments of God’s Word teach us to welcome strangers to our land … welcome them into our homes … treat the alien as he or she might be an angel of God in disguise? Yet, a few miles from here Javier is a prisoner in a United Methodist Church because government police agents are watching the church doors for him … if he steps outside he will be arrested … because his country of birth was not this one. Today it was announced that those people who came to our nation a decade ago in a time of disaster in Haiti … men and women who have lived here for a decade … their children have been born here … they have opened successful businesses and are thriving members of their communities … today … this Thanksgiving week these people are being told that our police will soon be arresting them and sending them back to a place where they have no home, no job and where their children have never lived … and no I am not thankful that this basic tenet of our faith from God … the directives of the Old and the New Testament openly torn apart and yet some people who attend church but do not follow the words of Jesus cheer these actions on.

We are to care for the sick … not put restrictions on whose health gets a greater priority. We are to visit the prisoner. And, yes … we are to welcome the stranger.

But on this Thanksgiving Eve … I am thankful for each of you because you are full of God’s possibilities. You and me and every other person who has been in a church, opened a Bible, sang a hymn of praise … we have been exposed to Almighty God and know how to find the directions for living. Solomon said, “The way of the righteous is like morning light that gets brother and brighter till it is a full day.”

WE have it … the skills and the directions for living life … PRAISE THE LORD … we can volunteer for FAMILY PROMISE at the end of February not as one church but as the people of God from four churches willing to just chat with homeless families and feed them … and then next August we can go together to RED BIRD to rebuild the homes and lives of America’s poor. We can open our churches … our communities to follow the commands of Jesus not the politics of evil by welcoming strangers to our land into our midst and yes be thankful for doing God’s work.

Paul writes about putting on the full armor of God and how each of us has special gifts and talents. I am thankful this Thanksgiving because whether you are young or old you are a child of God who can speak or act in ways that can again fill our churches, bring children and families back to places of worship and can change the world for Jesus Christ. It takes faith … it’s not about a day of THANKSGIVING but about a life of comfort in boldly shouting PRAISE THE LORD!!!! AMEN

Watch a video of the sermon.

© 2017 St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, New Jersey