Thanksgiving (Harvest Observance)
November 24, 2010
Text: Luke 12:13-21
Dear Friends in Christ,
Yesterday, I awoke to news that North Korea had shelled South Korea. I spent the rest of day wondering if World War III had begun. That doesn’t exactly put one in a thankful mood. From our point of view a few strategic heart attacks would make the world a better place. You ask yourself why doesn’t God just take out Kim Jong (mentally) IL, Osama Bin Ladin, Hugo Chavez and a couple dozen others? Life would be infinitely more peaceful if these men were not part of the world. But then God looks at things differently than we do. Saddam Hussain was terrible man, who did terrible things. But there is one good thing that he did. He protected religious minorities from attack. In other words Christians in Iraq were far better off under Saddam than they are today. The anarchy that followed Saddam’s fall, allowed radical Muslims to terrorize and massacre Christians. Ironically, the United States has done little to correct this problem. Political correctness has prevented us from enforcing justice. We must remind ourselves of these things whenever we think ourselves wise enough to challenge God. What if World War III does begin tonight, or tomorrow? Then we must simply say, “Thy will be done” as well as “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh - blessed be the Name of the Lord.”
Our text is a familiar one. It is a parable that Christ told, which illustrates many things. A rich man planned to retire and live a life of luxury, with no concern for others. God takes the man’s life. How can God take the man’s life? Because He is Lord over life and death. He controls the events of this world, to bless and to punish. He makes all things happen for His purposes. And often God blesses and punishes in the same event.
How can God bless and punish in the same event? God brings terrible destruction upon a nation for its sins. The destruction is in the form of a catastrophic war. But in that war, a young man’s faith is formed and reinforced. He becomes a committed Christian and impacts with the world with his faith. One example of this would be a young German boy by the name Uwe Siemon-Netto. Today he writes books on ethics and vocation for Concordia Publishing House. Germany became a nation cursed by God, but this boy was blessed by God in the midst of the curse. Why Germany was cursed by God, we cannot say with precision. We can only guess. But I think it was because this nation which had the pure fountain of the Gospel proclaimed to it by the prophet of Wittenberg, ultimately rejected the Gospel for human reason.
We don’t know what the future will bring. We fear that we are on the brink of a great and terrible curse from God. The repentance of each heart is the only answer to this. Nations cannot repent. But the people of a nation can repent of their own sins as well as the sins of their nation. And in repenting of our national sins we must speak out against them. This is because repentance is turning around and going the other way. We must speak out against the rampant abuse of women that has become the norm in our day. We must speak out against marital infidelity, as well as the easy sexual norms of our day. We must speak against abortion and euthanasia. We must speak against homosexuality. We must work to change hearts. But laws must be changed as well. For the law is a teacher. If one sees that the law condemns a certain action, they see a testimony that this is immoral and sinful.
Yet, we must thank God, even for the trials. For in these trial, God rescues and saves. He draws people to Him. It has been often noted that more people come to church in a time of crisis. And often they stop coming when it is resolved. But some false Christians do come to real faith at such times, and some repent of superficial faith and become more deeply committed.
We might ask ourselves, with the economy in the tank and the world perhaps on the brink of major war, what is there to be thankful for? Our government is in total disarray. Our sons and grandsons might soon be conscripted into the army. If that happens, some of them will die in combat. But we must see that God blesses even through His curses. God does not desire our destruction. He would call us to Him in repentance. And for this too, we must be thankful. For God would draw us ever closer to Him. He would make us see that we are totally dependent upon Him. He would show us how to use all the blessings that He has given to us to help our fellow man. So even in the midst of calamity, we are to praise and thank God. For He works all things for the good of His children. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.