Putting Faith Into Practice

          Last week I talked about putting faith into practice through the act of forgiveness.  If you recall, there was a Catholic Priest that suggested forgiveness is not something to be connected with feelings, but rather something that we must decide to do whether we like it or not.  That action releases judgment from our hands and places it at the cross.  Once the action has been completed, we open ourselves to God’s healing that will occur moving forward.

Today I continue our theme of putting faith into practice through the spirit of thanksgiving.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D68lxY-8wPA&feature=youtu.be   “This Man Handed out 520,000 Sandwiches on the Streets of Minneapolis Last Year”.

Our Harvest Fest service is a celebration of thanksgiving for the blessings that God has provided.  Plants and canned goods decorate our worship space.  Donations for food and a defibrillator will be given to the Lutheran Home of Mercy.  The staff and residents there did nothing to earn or deserve these gifts.  It is through generous spirits that we give to those with less, just as we witnessed in the video.  Likewise, we give to Lutheran Home of Mercy without expectation of receiving anything back.

In Matthew’s parable the Pharisees sent their disciples to trap Jesus in his teachings.  The Israelites didn’t like paying taxes and the Romans required it.  Sound familiar?  There didn’t look to be a good answer that Jesus could give without making enemies on one side or the other.  But, the Pharisee’s couldn’t grasp the bigger picture of God’s blessings.  The Lord’s response, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

As another pastor suggested, “I can more easily give to the ‘emperor’ what is due because it is only a percentage of what I consider mine.  But when I am commissioned with giving to God what is God’s, I balk.  Everything is God’s.  And I wonder, am I really ready to give God everything?”

We came into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing.  It is easier to understand thankfulness when we recognize that nothing is specifically ours.  Therefore everything we have in-between birth and death are given by a faithful God who promised to provide for our needs.  But somewhere along the line, we were taught that everything we have is earned and deserved.  It can be hard to be thankful if we believe we have earned and deserve everything we have (or should have), right?

That attitude can sometimes be found within the church and it is called the ‘Country Club’ mentality.  It is a perception of entitlement for members; that by being a member, one deserves special treatment that non-members do not deserve.  Member’s opinions are more important than non-members.  Donating money and time to the church are seen as ways to accumulate perks such as discounts for weddings and funerals, special recognitions, or any other situation where members are expected to receive better ‘treatment’ than non-members.  How do we give thanks and praise to God if we see our membership as deserving of perks/blessings?

But that is not what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, The Church.  Membership is not just to a congregation.  Membership is to the Body of Christ.  Jesus calls us to give God thanks and praise with joyful hearts for everything God has provided.  His love and mercy overflows the heart with generosity.  Thankful and loving hearts can’t help but give without judgment of worthiness.  Thankful and loving hearts give.  Period. 

Let’s put our faith into practice through hearts of thankfulness and a confession of complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior, where nobody born on earth is considered more deserving of God’s grace than any other.  Amen.