Thanksgiving Eve November 23RD, 2010

“Partake of the Lord’s Humanitarian Aid”
This is the time of year that two very opposite behaviors begin to surface and prevail: charity and greed. Churches all over the country, including our two churches here in Monroe and Toledo, have begun to receive a slew of “humanitarian aid” calls from people in our communities who are asking for some kind of assistance. Permit me a moment of honesty. Much of the time, what is being asked for, we cannot provide for them as a congregation, and I cannot personally provide for them as a fellow citizen and human being – lot payments, rent payments, mortgage payments, late utility payments, furniture – the list of the needs goes on and on – and most of the time, we don’t have an extra $500 just lying around to just give to just anybody, a stranger that we’ve never met. We want to help our neighbor, we want to be charitable, and in many cases we can be, as long as it is within the realm of possibility. This is the time of year that charitable behavior is encouraged. At the very same time, we have also entered into the time of year where greed is encouraged. Black Friday is tomorrow, and I think the color they have assigned to the day after Thanksgiving is appropriate. It never fails that every year you see people running each other over for discounted toys, gadgets, kitchen appliances, Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, candy, electronics...cursing at each other, hitting each other, pulling hair, yelling, screaming, all because they just have to get that one special item at the incredibly discounted price...because they’ll just DIE if they don’t get that blender at Target for $3.00. Greed and charity – those are two polar opposite behaviors that surface this time of year, and both are human behaviors, and persistent ones, that manage and use the daily bread God give us. It’s just that they use the daily bread in two completely different ways. In Leviticus 19, we are given a lesson from the Lord himself about his humanitarian aid that helps us to have a proper mindset and attitude as we now enter into the “holiday season,” a season of heightened encouragement for both charity and greed. Yes, we are invited to partake of his generosity, to partake of the Lord’s bounty, for he is the ultimate humanitarian. As we do, give thanks for the over-abundance of daily bread that he has showered on us by his love, all the while giving thought, to the over-arching charity of God which covers not just us, but is intended also to reach others...through us! We can never have too much stuff, at least that’s what we think. Maybe that’s why days like Black Friday are so popular. Stuff, deals, sales, things, gadgets, thingamabobs, we can never get enough of them...there’s so much out there for the taking and we want our piece of the pie, the big piece that we declare ourselves to be entitled to. Now understand, that if you happen to go out shopping tomorrow at 2am or whenever the first store opens now, I’m not condemning you for participating in Black Friday. It’s not a sin to look for good deals, or to get up at 2am to make use of them. That’s not the point. It’s the principle. The whole premise behind Black Friday is for businesses to profit as much as they can from that sinful inclination I. Giving thanks for his over-abundant daily bread Leviticus 19:9-10

embedded deep within our hearts, that natural sinful urge to want, and want and want and want some more with no end in sight. Greed is a plague! It’s a disease that dwells deep within us and affects every part of us, including our relationship with our Savior. It affects how we look at earthly blessings, as our eyes get bigger and bigger with every new trinket that our world offers to us. It affects how we think about money and possessions, not thinking of them as tools to be used for God’s glory, but falling in love with them as if they’ll last to eternity. It affects how we deal with our fellow man, as we become less and less concerned about their personal welfare, and even go to great lengths to deprive them of earthly blessings for our own personal gain. It’s a plague! And right about this time each year, we are inundated with commercials, signs, offers, sales, etc., 50% off this, 75% off that, a free (this) if you spend (this)...all those things that just feed that cancerous monster, that urge that resides right here, in our hearts and is never, ever satisfied. Thankfully, God knows our hearts. He knows our hearts just as perfectly as he knew the hearts of the Israelites who had the same urge to want and want and want some more. So he told them in Lev. 19:9-10: 9 “ ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather

the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a sin to have many earthly treasures. In fact, that is a tremendous blessing from the Lord. And it’s not a sin to go out shopping on Black Friday to take advantage of the great deals that may be offered. But it is a slap in God’s face to say with our actions, “Lord, I’m not satisfied with my lot in life! I want more!” That’s why the Lord gave to the Israelites this command in Leviticus, because he knew their hearts, and given the opportunity, they would seek in sinfulness to deprive their fellow man, the poor the lowly, of the limited amount of humanitarian aid that the Lord had intended for them to receive. He knew that, given the chance, they would take advantage of the poor for their own personal gain – showing contempt for God by exhibiting an overall dissatisfaction with his abundant provisions. I think the lesson for us is clear. Has the Lord not also extended to us an over-abundance of daily bread? When was the last time your table was bare? When was the last time your cupboards were really bare? When was the last time you opened your refrigerator and saw nothing? When was the last time that you wondered where you were going to sleep? When was the last time when you couldn’t get drinking water? Can you think of a time when any of those things were true? Recently? Our Lord is the greatest humanitarian, and you can look at your own life and circumstances as evidence of that! Throughout our lives he continues to open up his loving hand to satisfy the needs of every living thing, as the Psalmist says. He continues to show his kindness to us in ways that are beyond our understanding. Find contentment with his rich outpouring of treasure which causes our cups to overflow. While the rest of the world says, “I can’t have enough stuff. I want more,” may our confession be, “If I have food and clothing, I will be content with that...for godliness with contentment is great gain.” Where does that contentment come from? It comes from knowing and believing that all our needs have been met. That’s what it means to be content. It’s essentially saying, “I know that everything that I truly need has been met by my God, whose charity towards me is unmatched!” II. Giving thought to his over-arching charity

The “holiday season” ushers in a time of mindless indulgence, but also brings with it an encouragement for personal reflection, and for Christians especially, a time to reflect on God’s charity towards us. What need do we really have that hasn’t been met by the great Humanitarian? What aid has he really denied us? Think about it for a minute. Give thought to that as you gather around your tables this weekend, tables that undoubtedly will be adorned with rich fare! What has God deprived you of? Nothing! His charity is immeasurable. What tremendous aid he has afforded us – and yes, today, our general focus is on that 4th Petition, the daily bread that God has so richly provided every single day, but does that charity and aid not find its greatest culmination in the gift of the cross? Does it not find its greatest fulfillment in the outpoured blood of the innocent Lamb? Ultimately, charity is when someone willingly and selflessly gives to another what they could not procure for themselves, without any expectation of payback. Is not the sacrifice of Jesus over to death, his suffering of hell for mankind, which approved us to receive eternal joy in heaven, the greatest act of charity, since that is something we could never provide for ourselves? Is there any work of humanitarian aid that surpasses the cross? And then, to heap love upon love, the Lord says to us through St. Paul to the Romans: “He who did

not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” When you’re gathered around your Thanksgiving tables this weekend, I know that many of

us will either think or openly remark, “Wow! Look at all this great food!” Yes, look at it! Partake of it! Eat it! Enjoy it, because it is grace heaped upon grace, love heaped upon love, all a gift to you, subsequent gifts along with his primary gift of the crucified and risen Savior, all given to you from your heavenly Humanitarian. Remember how richly you have been blessed in every way imaginable, because not all are. Look to the needs of your fellow man. The opportunities are endless. No, God doesn’t ask you to provide shelter for every homeless person in Monroe County. No, he doesn’t ask that you cook a meal for every underprivileged man, woman and child in your community, but he does call all of us to remember those who are “poor” and lowly. He does call us to see to the needs of our neighbors, not begrudging them for our own personal gain, but acting in a Christ-like charitable manner, allowing the over-arching charity of our heavenly Father, which came so freely and abundantly to us, to be extended to other needful souls through us. Greed and charity – the two prevailing behaviors that we see this time of year. Today, our prayer is not, “Give me everything I want,” but “Give me this day my daily bread.” We pray that our Lord would give to us a spirit of satisfaction with our earthly lot, that he would open our eyes to the vast riches that he pours out on us, riches which begin at the cross and extend to our tables at home. And finally, we ask the Lord who has given so much to us would extend his loving arm through us to needy souls, so that they too may partake of his aid...not just for today, but ultimately for eternity. With those prayers on our hearts, we are rightly prepared to “give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” Amen.

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