Printable PDF: 11-26-2020 Thanksgiving Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ THANKSGIVING
November 26, 2020 ~ Acts 27:35
35After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.
GIVING THANKS TO GOD
“Are you sure YOU want to be giving thanks to God?” If I were on the ship with the Apostle Paul, I think I might be asking that question. I wouldn’t ask that question out loud. Heavens no! No Christian would ask that question out loud. And yet on the ship, with all that adversity, the question would definitely cross my mind, “Are you sure YOU want to be giving thanks to God?”
- In spite of adversity
The Apostle Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial for preaching the gospel. The Apostle Paul along with Luke left Jerusalem and boarded a small ship in Caesarea. They made their way north and west along the coast to the city of Sidon and then Myra. In Myra Paul and Luke were transferred to a large ship with 276 passengers. The intention was to sail past Cnidus and through the many small islands of Greece, but a strong north wind drove their ship south to the island of Crete. In the city of Lasea a decision needed to be made. Should the ship winter in Lasea or travel to a better harbor about 50 miles up the coast? Paul, even though he was a prisoner, was a part of the conversation. Having completed 3 missionary journeys, Paul was an experienced traveler and had already been a part of three shipwrecks. Paul suggested they stay put, but the pilot and the owner of the ship thought they should push on and so they did. Soon after they set sail, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster took them into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
The crew passed thick ropes under the ship to prevent their planks from popping apart. On the second and third days the crews threw cargo and equipment overboard to lighten their load and keep the deck from being overtaken by water. Luke writes in Acts 27:20, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” What a 14-day journey they had been on!
We’ve been on quite a journey, too, this year! And who knows when it will end? Are you sure YOU want to be giving thanks to God? The Apostle Paul once wrote to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Another person summarized those words this way: “We are to give thanks for both candy bars and dill pickles.” How easy it is to thank God for “candy bars,” for those things which taste sweet and bring joy to our lives. But how hard it can be at times to thank God for “dill pickles,” those things which taste sour and which make us pucker in distaste for life. For the Christian, though, both come from the hand of a gracious God, and for both of them thanks are in order.
Storms have a way of destroying our ship of self-importance. The pilot and owner were confident they could make it to a safe harbor. The seasoned sailors thought they knew all the tricks to keep a ship afloat. But in the end they weren’t as smart or as strong as they thought. They gave up all hope of being saved. In the same way our coronavirus storm of 2020 is doing a good job of destroying our ship of self-importance, too. Against popular belief, science will not solve our medical issues. Against popular belief, the right political leaders do not have the right answers to our local and national problems. Like the 276 passengers on that Alexandrian ship, we can’t be saved from the coronavirus or anything through our own smarts and strength. On our own, we couldn’t even put a meal on the Thanksgiving table today. Today, we give thanks for these “dill pickles” because through adversity we learn again and again how dependent we are to God for all that we have and all that we need.
- Because of his promised blessings
God does his best work when we give up on the idea that we can save ourselves through our own smarts and through our own strength. God is our provider, and he will give us our “dill pickles” when they best serve us, and God will give us our “candy bars” at the proper time because of his promised blessings.
On the ship God said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you” (Acts 27:24). God provided that “candy bar” to Paul and the other 275 passengers.
God provides for us, too. In his grace and goodness, God doles out the king size and fun size candy bars. The king size candy bars are our eternal blessings. God gifts us with salvation and eternal life. God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God forgives our sins and doesn’t even hold a grudge against us. The Bible quotes God as saying, “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34b). God wants us to live with the calm and confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and no one can snatch us from his hand. These eternal blessings are king size “candy bars”!
And God provides us fun size “candy bars”, too. The fun size candy bars are our temporal blessings. God promises as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. God heals all our diseases. Whether God does that healing through the good, old practice of divine miracles or the slower practice of modern medicine is up to him. God is in charge. The Bible says all things are under his feet. Whether God rules over us through a theocracy as he once did with the Israelites with a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar fire at night or whether God rules over us through a democracy of choosing between weak and mortal people as God does now, God will faithfully rule all things for the benefit of believers. God is also the one who puts the food on our tables, so don’t test him. Don’t think you bought the food or cook the food with your own strength and smarts. God in his wisdom can take away those blessings, too. Everything that is good comes from God, and everything that isn’t good, God will make good for those who believe in him.
“Are you sure YOU want to join the alliance of people giving thanks to God?” Absolutely you do! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Amen.