Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Eve 2013
November 27, 2013
Text: Phil. 4:6-20

            (D)o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6; ESV).  It has always been striking to me that St. Paul writes these words from prison.  Don’t be anxious, he says, from prison.  Commend it all to God.  Prayer and supplication.  Let Him deal with it.  Make your requests.  And give thanks.  Give thanks in the midst of things that cause anxiety and distress, things like imprisonment.  Give thanks even for the things that cause anxiety and distress.  Because through them the Lord is working all things together for your good, as He promises always to do for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).  He bestows the cross upon you that He wants you to bear, that which is profitable for your salvation.  The things that make for anxiety and distress, believe it or not, are God’s gift.  Some well-meaning Christians say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  That’s actually not in the Bible.  The point of cross-bearing is that you can’t handle it.  The cross drives you to the only One who can handle it, to God, to Christ.  Recognizing that that is the case… that you can’t handle it, but Jesus can and does… that is what we call faith.  Do not be anxious.  Trust God.  Commend it to God.  Give thanks to God because even this is a gift of His love for you.  And here is the promise: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).  You will have this peace not because the things that cause anxiety and distress have gone away, not because you’re strong and you can handle it (you’re not and you can’t), but because you know that Jesus has handled it.  It doesn’t make sense, this peace.  Not to our fleshly minds.  It is beyond our understanding, because the things that cause us anxiety still there.  But you endure it.  You trust in spite of it.  You are thankful because you look at things from God’s perspective, as He has revealed them in His holy Word.  And what He has revealed is that He works all things, even evil things for your good.  And in the end, when Jesus comes again, all that is wrong will be made right.  So you give thanks. 
            St. Paul certainly lived from this perspective.  Another striking example comes to mind.  Paul, again a prisoner, was on a ship bound for Rome and trial before Caesar.  There was a great storm at sea.  Cargo and tackle were tossed overboard. The wind continued to drive the ship where it would.  Finally, St. Luke, Paul’s travelling companion, records in Acts Chapter 27: “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned” (v. 20).  Anxious?  To say the least!  Hopeless!  But here stand Paul’s words: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  And Paul did exactly that.  In the midst of the crisis he addressed the men of the ship: “I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.  For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar.  And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you’” (Acts 27:22-24).  And thus believing in God’s sure promise, he was not anxious.  All who stayed in the ship would be saved.  He commended it all to God.  And he gave thanks.  Quite literally.  He “took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat” (v. 35).  He did this, not because he could handle it (he couldn’t… who could?), or because his problems had magically disappeared.  He did this, he gave thanks when all hope of being saved had been abandoned, he commended it all to God, because God had promised.  He had a peace that surpasses all understanding guarding his heart and mind in Christ Jesus.  It was the peace of that very promise.  The ship did wreck, but all in the ship were saved.  Because God does not lie.  And that is cause for thanks, indeed.
            And isn’t this a description of our life in Christ?  There is much cause to be anxious in this fallen world and in our sin-infested lives.  There is fear.  There is uncertainty.  Politicians fail us.  The nightly news grieves us.  There’s the economy to worry about, and healthcare, and immigration.  There are the family issues that rear their ugly heads especially on holidays.  It can be quite the tempest, this life.  And sometimes, when it seems that neither sun nor stars appear for many days, when there is no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, it is tempting to give up all hope of our being saved.  Except that God has promised.  We are saved in Christ, our crucified and risen Lord.  Sins forgiven.  Creation redeemed.  We trust not in princes or in politicians, but in the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He hears us.  He hears our petitions, our prayers and supplications.  He promised.  He scoops us up out of the water and puts us in the ship, safe and secure in the ark of the holy Christian Church, and He promises that whoever remains on the ship, in the Church, believers in Christ, will be saved.  Oh, it won’t look pretty.  There is the storm outside, and it is violent, and it beats against the ship.  Certainly, for all practical purposes, it appears the ship is doomed.  But just hang on.  Trust the God to whom you belong.  And do what Paul did.  Take bread, give thanks, and eat.  There’s a meal on board this ship that will give you strength and relieve your anxiety.  It is the Lord’s Supper.  It is His Body, His Blood, given and shed for you.  It is the Bread of Peace that surpasses all understanding.  It will guard your heart and your mind, for it is Christ Jesus. 
            And you will reach the shore, eternal life with Christ.  He promised.  And He doesn’t lie.  Therefore you give thanks.  Do not be anxious.  Commend it all to God in prayer and supplication.  Give thanks.  For the fruits of the earth and the bountiful harvest.  For friends and family near and far.  For your job and your house and all the stuff the Lord has provided for your comfort and enjoyment.  Or for the lack of these things, because whatever your situation, with St. Paul, you can be content (Phil. 4:11), and you can give thanks.  Because you have Christ.  And having Christ, you have everything.  You can do all things through Him who strengthens you (v. 13).  You can even bear the holy cross which the Lord, who bore the cross for your salvation, has bestowed upon you for your good.  You are not sufficient to bear it of yourself.  But He is.  He bears you.  You can’t handle it, but He can.  Trust Him.  And again the promise: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will, in fact, guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.  For God does not lie.  Praise and thanks be to Him.  Blessed Thanksgiving.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              


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