Thanksgiving Day, 2015
The Epistle. James 1:16-27
The Gospel. Matthew 6:25-34
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
If you noticed this morning, one of the underlying and in some cases not so subtle message of our lessons was the concept of Privilege.
For example, our Collect was made up of wording such as: Most merciful Father who has blessed us. We give thee thanks for thy bounty.
We give thanks for thy loving-kindness.
That our land may still yield her increase to our comfort…
In the Epistle from St. James, he reminds us that every good and perfect gift we receive is from God….the Father of Lights.
We are a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.
We have been given a perfect Law of Liberty.
And our Gospel… Jesus saying things like: the rhetorical “are you not of more value than they?” Your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of them.
And…”All these things will be added unto you.”
In all of these cases, the running theme is: We are privileged and God is very good to us and we should be thankful.
It is because of sin that we fail…. often in this area…..in noticing, recognizing and appreciating how privileged we are.
But these passages are not in our Bibles to add guilt to our consciences but to draw us to God by causing us to recognize just how blessed we are to be created by Him, sustained each day by Him, and redeemed by Him. We are privileged.
Dictionary.com says this about the word privilege.
The definitions include words like: “a right, immunity or benefit enjoyed only by a person (or people) beyond the advantages of most.”
These, when looked at in the context of Christianity and our relationship to God in Christ, tell us that we do indeed have rights. We do indeed have benefits and privileges that those outside of Christ do not.
Christ’s mission was to be a propitiation and an atonement for sin. Which He fulfilled. In doing so, His elect are called unto Him by grace, received and now enjoying the benefits of that relationship and that work done by him.
We now have union with Christ through baptism, faith, regeneration.
We are adopted into the Family of God.
We enjoy a certain liberty.
We enjoy access to the Sacraments.
We have fellowship with other Christian saints in a special way.
Not to mention the resurrection of the body on the last day.
So what is the hindrance to us fully realizing these benefits on a daily basis? The hindrance is our sin.
In question 87 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the question is: “What is repentance unto life?”
Answer: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”
Quite a mouthful and maybe we might be thankful we don't have to memorize that Catechism.
But the answer does give us something to think about and is correct in pointing out that repentance and amendment of life includes or is made up of a true sense of our sin and an apprehension of the mercy of God.
How well do we apprehend the
mercy of God?
We might also ask, how well do we apprehend the goodness of God.
In learning to apprehend God through these promises will truly make us more and more thankful for all of these benefits….and accepting the fact that He has made us a privileged people.
Our passages serve us in this fashion this morning. I read the highlights.
God has in his mercy and love spoken to us through the Apostle James. James tells us that we should not let ourselves be deceived.
One writer says: “This passage teaches us, that we ought to be so affected by God’s innumerable blessings, which we daily receive from his hand, as to think of nothing but of his glory; and that we should abhor whatever comes to our mind, or is suggested by others, which is not compatible with his praise.”
There is no variation in God. No shadow of turning….so He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes so He is not capricious.
Of His own will He brought us forth. We had no hand in our own creation. And He did so in order that we have the privilege of sharing this marvelous act of God with others…..so that those who do not know Him yet truly might do so in time.
He gives us a list of things we should look for from Him as He develops us in sanctification.
Not despairing if we are not complete and perfect, but joyfully seeing His work in us.
Even our behavior is a privilege. Being slow to anger…quick to hear.
And then duty to one another. Visiting orphans, lonely, shut-ins. Helping widows, the weak, the helpless.
And Jesus in the Gospel gives us direction as to why we need not be anxious. …why we have been blessed with such privilege.
We need not be anxious about our lives….what we eat, or wear or what we drink. Life….real lift in Christ, is more than food or drink or clothing.
We are of more value than the rest of creation….the other creatures….because of the blessed privilege of being created in His image.
These creatures don't have the ability to feed and clothe themselves through reason.
God feeds and clothes them by nature and by a created instinct placed within them.
We are of more value than they are.
He moves to the length of our life. How many of you can add one hour to the span of your life by worrying about it, or by any other means?
He says that we need not be anxious even about tomorrow….for each day has enough trouble of its own.
And we haven’t even gone into all of the ways we are privileged in where we live….how well we are fed, clothed…medicine is the best in the world.
But all of these fade in comparison when we put them up against what Jesus tells us are the important things…seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
God takes care of us continually. Jesus reminds us of this…of the providential care of God.
He reminds us that He will surely not let us be in need of anything that is necessary for the maintenance of our life.
And yet He always points us to the greater need and the greater privilege that we enjoy and that is: the provision of His Only Begotten Son’s sacrifice for us….that He has made for our souls and their eternal destination.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 291). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.