An elderly gentleman in Phoenix calls his son in New York and
says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your
mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."
"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father
"We're sick and tired of each other, and I'm sick of talking
about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her." And
he hangs up.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
"Like heck they're getting a divorce," she shouts. "I'll take care
of this." She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her
father, "You are NOT getting divorced! Don't do a single thing
until I get there. I'm calling my brother back and we'll both be
there tomorrow. Until then don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" And
she hangs up.
The elderly gentleman hangs up his phone and turns to his wife.
"They're coming for Thanksgiving and our anniversary, and paying
their own way!"
Now how am I going to work that story into a sermon? Well, it's
a strange enough Sunday that I actually think I can do it. Today
is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church calendar
year. Next week we start all over with the first Sunday of Advent.
So, just as the father in the story spoke of ending the marriage,
(but actually it was an anniversary and the start of another year)
so this is the end of the church year and the beginning of
another; the church is the bride of Christ. Secondly, this is
Thanksgiving Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving that many
churches celebrate as Thanksgiving Sunday. In the Lutheran Church
Calendar Year, there really isn't any Sunday listed as
Thanksgiving Sunday, but that's what today is. It's sort of a
Harvest Sunday, too, as you notice the wonderful harvest
decorations. And of course, the story connects to today because
the father has found a way to get the adult children home for
Thanksgiving. And thirdly, of course, it relates to Annual Budget
Meeting Sunday in that the father has found an ingenious way to
get the adult children home for Thanksgiving and their
anniversary, and to have them pay for their own way to get there.
Many time parents foot that bill in order for the adult children
to get home for some celebration.
I chose some other readings to go with this sermon. I did use
verses 5, 6 from the Jeremiah lesson for today, but I used
Philippians 4:4-8 and 2Corinthians 9:6-15. I will repeat verses 5
and 6 from Jeremiah, and then read the other two Scriptures.
The concept of "King" is really not one that we can really
relate to since we in the United States have never had a King,
though we have treated some White House families as royalty, and
there are some who demand to be treated like royalty, and some
presidents who have acted like Kings rather than the head of a
democratic society. The kings referred to in Scripture are not the
same as modern day kings, or kings of Britain or Europe in the
past. The Kings in Scripture had much more power and influence and
were divinely connected, ordained by God. That is, they were seen
as having a divine connection, even though some used that
connection for evil or personal gain. They were head over a people
who were very diverse in coming together, but it was the faith of
the people that united them and held them together as a people and
so the King was seen as having a divine aspect.
Kings were to judge the people fairly; to provide for those who
were in need; to care for those who were widowed or orphaned. A
king was to be the chief caretaker of the people. He was also head
of the military power, so he was also the defender of the people,
and in battles won, their savior. It is easy to see how Jesus came
to be thought of as a King after his resurrection.
It is the attributes of a king that we should focus on, not the
Each of us in our ministry should be a caretaker for one
another, for all the living creatures that God gave us to care
for, and to care about our environment and our resources. We are
not to oppress others of a different race or creed or gender, but
rather to help them live a full life of opportunity, a life of
integrity, where they too can use their God-given talents and
abilities in the exercise of freedom.
And we should be thankful. A grateful heart is one that is a
healthy heart. A grateful heart is one that is open to the
fullness of God's love and blessings. Do you pay your bills with a
grateful heart? Regardless that oil is high, that electricity is
high and going higher, we can still pay the bills with a grateful
heart. Be grateful that you can pay the bill, and that gratitude
should spill over into compassion for those who cannot, so that we
also do what we can to help them. Those who do not have enough to
pay will have an opportunity for a grateful heart as they receive
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, one of their great sins
was grumbling and complaining. Their ungratefulness was a way of
saying to God, "You aren't doing a very good job of taking care of
us. We deserve more. We deserve better." When we think we are the
most deserving is when we are the least grateful.
A believer in Jesus Christ should be one of the most grateful
people on the planet. Every provision of life comes from God;
every joy, every grace, and every benefit of God's goodness flows
out to us from his giving heart. Remember, it isn't GOD who
withholds from people; it's PEOPLE who withhold from people.
People not willing to share; people taking more than their share
and still not sharing; people getting richer, while the poor get
poorer. When Jesus said, "You will always have the poor with you,"
that was true because of the poor stewardship of those who are not
poor. Where is the gratefulness to God to throw away tens of
thousands of dollars on parties, literally night after night,
while so many of the people in the world are actually starving?
Where is the stewardship in that? Where is the responsibility? To
those whom more is given, more is expected, Jesus says. Are we
meeting God's expectation?
Very few of us think of ourselves as rich. But I know that in
this congregation, as in many others, there are some who see
others as being rich. The folks they see as rich do not see
themselves as rich. But here is a startling statistic: If you earn
$60,000 a year you are in the top 15% of the richest people in the
world. There are 6 billion people poorer than you. Three billion
people live on less than $2.00 a day, while 1.3 billion get by on
less than $1.00 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less
than a dollar a day are women.
One of the marks of a mature Christian is having a thankful
heart. The discipline of thankfulness draws us closer to God,
strengthens our walk, renews our perspective, increases our
energy, and brings us joy.
It is out of this realization of how blessed we are that we
respond to God in our giving. We in this congregation are
especially blessed, even those who have financial difficulties,
those who have trouble meeting bills, those who have illnesses,
those fighting chronic pain, those fighting debilitating or
terminal diseases, we all have been blessed. We have family,
friends, a church family, food, shelter, clothing (over 90% of the
people in the world don't have one or more of those last three
items). We should have grateful hearts. A girl who was born
without arms and legs but was loved and cherished by family and
friends became a radiantly happy person. One day a college student
asked her, "Don't you ever wish that you hadn't been born? How can
you believe in God when you see other people who have arms and
legs and can do things and get around?" The girl, not offended by
the questions, answered with a smile, "I wouldn't have missed the
chance to be alive for anything in the world. I know that what I
do seems very little when compared to other people. But when
compared to not having lived at all-to never have seen or tasted
or smelled or heard or known the delight of reading and thinking-I
am overwhelmingly grateful to God for the opportunity to live the
life that has been mine."
That's a grateful heart. Give back to God with a grateful
heart. Open up to God's blessings by nurturing an attitude of
gratitude. "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap
sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not
reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all
things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in
every good work."
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice! Let
your gentleness be evident to all….Finally brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever
is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is
excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things….And the God of
peace will be with you."