Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Benefits

Thornville Community
Thanksgiving Service

We're going to raise some funds!

Ours scripture this evening uses some interesting wording that I think we should consider...

2 Corinthians 4:15-16

New International Version (NIV)
15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

We all want them. 
We want to go to a job where we know that our needs will be met and our wants covered.  
We want to make enough money to give us the car we want and while having enough to put food on the table and still, just maybe, be able to take that vacation we so desperately need. We want health care. We want a co-pay we can handle and coverage so that if anything happens to go wrong with our bodies we can make sure the doctor gets paid and our ills and woes are taken care of so we can get back on our feet. 

We all want them. But, do we realize what we are really asking for?
Maybe a closer look at the word would do us some "benefit".

Full Definition of BENEFIT

1 archaic :  an act of kindness :  benefaction
2 a :  something that promotes well-being :  advantage
   b :  useful aid :  help
3 a :  financial help in time of sickness, old age, or unemployment
   b :  a payment or service provided for under an annuity, pension plan, or insurance policy
   c :  a service (as health insurance) or right (as to take vacation time) provided by an employer in addition to wages or salary
4:  an entertainment or social event to raise funds for a person or cause 
Hey, right off the top comes a line that could create a whole sermon to itself. A benefit can be "an act of kindness". That's right up God's alley. Paul writes in our scripture tonight that grace is reaching out. Through God's grace, people are being drawn closer to God. This is a moment that brings thanksgiving. God is to be praised. God comes first in our lives.

But, this time of year is not one that comes without trials and hurt and pain. 
Paul would state that we are not to lose heart. But it is so easy to do so. Recently, I have done several funerals for people in this area. This time of year is one where we have been raised to practice the belief that our family should come together and be together during these special moments of Thanksgiving. There are meals to be eaten. Football games to be watched. Shopping to be done. Presents to be opened. Our family is supposed to be with us in these times. But, how do we cope when we no longer have that special someone there to be with us anymore? 

This time of year can be a painful moment and Paul seems to reflect that integral thought. "though outwardly we are wasting away..." Life here is temporary. It doesn't last forever. Some of our blessings don't last forever either. A benefit is also thought of as time of financial help for those in a time of sickness, or old age, or unemployment. Yes, people get sick. One moment we are in our prime, The next we are struggling with the dreaded indecency called cancer. One moment we are working our job, providing for our family. The next, we find ourselves with a pink slip and long line at the unemployment office. If you've been there, you know the heartache and the heart break. How will you make it? How will you provide for those you love? Where will the next meal come from?

The American dream tells us we need a big house, with a wife, two kids, two cars, two dogs, a piece of land, maybe in the country, a few acres of land. So many of the things we get in this world cause us so much grief later on. Kids who don't listen. A mortgage that seems to have no end. Vehicles that break down and need to be fixed. A house that seem to always need something redone or remodeled. The things we consider benefits can seem to be burdens. This life is not without it's trials and temptations. We want more. We need more. We find things we think we can't go without. 

Until we realize...
Benefits are really temporary. Thanksgiving is what lasts forever.
Maybe we've had it all wrong. If we want things that don't break down, things that have lasting significance, moment that have no end, maybe we've been looking in the wrong place. The moment we accept that this world is temporary and that things here don't last forever is the moment when we turn to find a place where things do last forever. We look inward and we realize that there is something eternal. A soul. A spirit. Beyond the fragile frame of existence on this human plane we find that there is something worth seeking. God, in his grace, has been drawing us toward it all along. 

A benefit is also thought of as a service or a right provided by an employer in addition to employment. We so easily think we are entitled to certain things. We deserve certain blessings. Jesus would say, "Store up your blessings in heaven", "Forget about yourself, think of others first", "Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me" Paul would reflect those sentiments in his words. "Therefore, don't lose heart" Yes, this world is temporary. Outwardly, we are wasting away. People will get sick. People might lose their jobs. People might not have enough to eat. But, this world is not where we are staying. This world is not our home. Yet, while we are here, while we exist on this plane of life, we can have peace, and be peace for and to others. Though we are wasting away outwardly, inwardly we are being renewed. By showing kindness to someone, we renew ourselves inwardly. By putting a plate of food in front of someone, we make it possible to believe and have hope. This is how the world will know that we are Jesus' disciples, if we love one another. Loving one another transforms us. It gives us hope to carry on.

On Facebook just today, I see a friend who posts about her dad, who passed away a year ago. "Happy first birthday in heaven, dad" When our focus goes outward instead of inward, dwelling on any earthly pain or hurt, we find peace. We become peace for others to find. We live in the benefit of thanksgiving. We find the ultimate place for our souls to dwell. A place called grace.

I told you at the outset that we were going to raise some funds. It wasn't fundraiser you thought it was going to be. I have no check to lay in your hand. The benefits I speak of cannot be cashed in for that trip to DisneyWorld. There's only one place these benefits make sense. 

This pension plan ends at the throne of the One with ultimate policy.

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