“Thanks Be to Our God” November 17, 2019
“Thanks Be to Our God”
Isaiah 65:17-25/ Isaiah 12
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
When I was 15 or so, my folks sold the ranch style house that I grew up in and bought what my dad used to refer to as “a gentleman farm.” It was a great place: old farm house that was in good shape, outbuildings, a big old barn, and it even had what was left of a milk house. The previous owners weren’t terribly ambitious, which might explain why they had to “sell the farm,” but for us it was perfect. For my dad, it was his dream come true. He picked up a handful of horses and even boarded horses for other folks around the area. Funny thing is, though – I never saw him ride. Someone asked him about that once: “Bernie, what are you doing with all these horses if you don’t want to ride them?” All he would say was, “I like listening to them eat.” My folks lived there and loved that place for 40 some years until health issues forced them to move into a duplex – a whole lot less maintenance. Years later when I went back for my dad’s memorial service, I asked my mom if she’d like to take a drive out to the old place. She hesitated a bit, but finally said, “Sure.” But once we got there, I realized that maybe this had been a mistake. The new owners lived overseas, mostly, and although it wasn’t terrible bad, you could see at a glance that this place-this place that they had loved for so long-was getting run down. It bothered me to see a piece of siding on the west side of the house just hanging there – ready to fall. It broke my heart to see my mom rubbing her eyes as she told me, “Let’s go. Let’s go; I don’t ever want to come back.”
Our gospel story today finds us in Jerusalem, the center of the nation of Israel. Israel was not, however, the proud nation that they used to be, yet they still clung to the hope of deliverance, the hope of reliving those days of glory. (Lk 21:5) 5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?” Jesus obliges them with a long list of …well, rather unpleasant things. “Imposters will come in my name with tales of doom and gloom. Don’t listen to them. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. Don’t sweat it. There will be earthquakes and fires and famine and epidemics. So what? That’s nothing new. Hang in there. People will persecute you for my name’s sake. You’ll be betrayed by your own family, but don’t worry. I will give you the wisdom, I will give you the tools to rise above this big mess.”
This is an unusual story in a way. At first glance, you might think that it’s just a fluke; just one of those weird things that Jesus said that gets us thinking. But it’s not. This is important. The fact that this same story is told in all 3 of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke bears witness to that.
Nor is this a prophesy of awful things to come. It’s just the truth; the truth, coupled with a promise. (vs 17) and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives. Eugene Peterson words it differently: Staying with it – that’s what’s required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry: you’ll be saved.
Like I said, it’s an unusual story in a way. It’s a message about truth, it’s a message about trust; it’s a message about salvation. The message that Jesus tells to the folks in Jerusalem, and to us as well, is way more than “hang in there, I’ve got this covered.” God is bigger than that; God expects more from us than that.
The 12th chapter of Isaiah has been called the Hymn of Trust. It is a song, a psalm if you will, in every sense of the word. (vs 1) You will say on that day: “I thank you Lord. Though you were angry with me, your anger turned away and you comforted me. God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid. Yah, the Lord is my strength and my shield; he has become my salvation. You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.” (vs 4) And you will say on that day: “Thank the Lord; call on God’s name; proclaim his deeds among the people; declare that God’s name is exalted.” I can’t say if it’s the spirit of the season or if it’s because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but this the Hymn of Trust spoke to me. It spoke the words “Thanks be to our God.” Monuments will crumble, the homes and temples that we love will fall to ruin, but thanks be to our God, the Lord endures forever. The tragedies and betrayals this world dish out to us – and it will – might set us back, but they won’t crush us. Thanks be to our God, the Lord is faithful forever. You know, we give thanks FOR things all the time – as well we should. But what God wants, what God expects, is that we give thanks IN everything. You don’t need to give thanks FOR that bad day, or FOR that terrible relationship, or FOR that cancer. Whatever it is – we are not to give thanks FOR the difficult stuff this world throws at us, but rather we are to give thanks IN those difficult times. That is how we endure with our faith intact. Giving thanks IN everything is how we are when really trust in a God who will always be bigger than the problems of this world. We trust that through faith, he will pull us through. Thanks be to our God. Giving thanks IN everything is the sign of a heart that is set upon truth; that is set upon goodness; that is set upon justice. Thanks be to our God. And giving thanks IN everything is, as the prophet said, to know the joy of drawing water from the spring of salvation.
We are about to enter the season of joy and thanksgiving. So for the season that is to come – in our communities, in the Methodist church, and in our nation let’s put our trust where it needs to be – with the one who is worthy of our praise. And no matter what the world throws at us, we will rise above it faithful and forever blessed as we say to anyone who will hear, “Thanks be to our God.”
Amen & Shalom