Wednesday, November 21, 2012

thanksgiving week part two: my sermon last night

1 Chronicles 16:34
Oh Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

We memorized this verse this year, I and my kids, in a little ring of verses. The whole ring starts with 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'  and goes through for 74 verses. We get to this one as we're flipping along and I say 'OH' and wait for everyone to fill in the rest. 
to the LORD for he is GOOD
and that's where I always stop and say to myself, 'well, that's the crux of the matter, isn't it'.
We have to say out loud, God is Good, because deep in our immortal souls, we don't really believe it. As my kids are whining through the ring, 
why do we have to memorize these verses right now?
can I have an apple?
when are we going to do something fun?
when are we going to have lunch and candy?
as I whine my way through my own day
why can't my kids do what I say the first time?
I don't feel like doing seven loads of laundry.
I don't know why so and so had to ask me to do such and such.
Oh man, I wish I didn't have to put six kids in the car and go to the bank.
we're no better than Eve on that day so long ago, that cool green beautiful day, in that cool garden where all was rest and light and God was there. There, in that place of joy and comfort and beauty, as Satan's breath curled its way around the corners of her mind, Eve doubted that God was good. Eve looked around at everything she had been given, everything she had, she looked at Adam, she looked at her garden and she said to herself, God must not be good, God has held something back from me, God hasn't given me everything that I need, he doesn't want me to have this thing over here, this fruit. He is not Good. I'm not going to trust him.

But that is a lie. 
Eve traded the beauty and goodness of God's provision for a lie.
And we, every day, sometimes every moment of some days, trade the Goodness of God for the lie that he is not enough, that we do not have enough, that what he has given us is not enough, that the beauty that surrounds us is not good, that the lovely people that surround us are not lovely, that the unlovely people can be trusted to God, that the work that comes to our hands is outside the providence of God, that the things that we do need, God will not provide for, that by anxious toil and fretting we might gain something better than God and his love for us. We, not seeing a beautiful cool garden all around us, but sin and destruction and eventually death, very easily trade in the truth of God's goodness, for the lie that we are good, that our own way and our own provision is better.

But even this is accounted for and prepared for by God, who is, whatever we happen to believe or feel about him, good. 
He says, not just in 1st Chronicles 16:34, but all over the psalms and in many and varied ways throughout the entirety of Scripture, 
he says, 'OH Give Thanks to the Lord'
Say thank you to the Lord.
When you rise up, and when you lay down.
When you get in your car and when you find a parking space.
When you cook your dinner and when you eat it.
When you make preparation for Christmas and when you forget and loose your list. 
When things go well, and when things go badly.
When someone hurts you and offends you and when they love and care for you.
When you are sick and well.
Give thanks to the Lord
For he is good.
And then we have some proof. How do we know that he is good. In what way is he primarily good?
For his steadfast love endures forever.
Nothing that we know and see and touch and taste and look at lasts forever. I have six children and so some of the things I love last even less time than a day, certainly not a life time. My inheritance, from my grandmother, comprises some lovely carved giraffes from East Africa. In my mind, they should last forever. But every day, as my children and pets careen through the living room, shouting and banging into everything, and they teeter on the top shelf, I await anxiously the day of their destruction. 
God's steadfast love isn't like that. It can't be shattered.
It can't be injured by your cold and indifferent attitude.
It can't be made to be sometimes steadfast but other times wavering by you forgetting to pray or choosing not to attend to the scriptures. It IS steadfast, and it does endure forever. It will go on after you have died. It will go on whether or not your dinner comes out the way you intended. It will go on if you loose your job or take a pay cut or have your house flooded or get sick.
In the face of all these bad things that both happen to us and that sometimes we choose, God is good, his steadfast love endures forever.
And this steadfast love came to a perfect culmination, a perfect conclusion, a true, most haunting, most beautiful answer to Eve in the garden, to us in our sin, to us in our complaining and lack, in the face of Jesus, on the cross, who looked at his father, in the place of death and suffering and pain, and did not say, You are not enough. I choose my own way. No, not in a beautiful garden where everything is lovely and peaceful, but on a hard and splintery and agonizing cross, Jesus looked at his father and said, You are good, your steadfast love endures forever, I will do your will.
If ever we have a moment to say Thank you, to bless God, to praise him, it is at this moment on the cross where he gathered up everything and accounted for it, provided for it. His steadfast love endures, it comes through trial, it can take it. 
So, Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.


Lois Smith said...

I come to visit now, quietly sitting here the night after Thanksgiving. Each year I stop in, after busy holidays to spend some moments with you and rest, to grow, to smile, to be reminded of something from long ago. I am the elder now...the young women do the work happily in the kitchen, one new babe in arms, another yet to be born...mommy is getting bigger now and I noticed she had to sit down often. Thank you Anne for your story and your sermon...thank you for confirming again what I know to be true but find hard to live daily, that God is good and that His love endures forever. Thank you for sharing Thanksgiving with me again this year.

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant. Wise and inspiring and beautiful and true.