Sermon – 11-17-19 – Christ the King & Thanksgiving
Scriptures: Malachi 4:1-2a; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
Sermon Title: Doom and Gloom, Here Comes the Joy”
When ransomware strikes it’s already too late! Protect yourself before it attacks! Get protection now! I was turning on my computer to write this sermon when those words appeared on my screen covering everything that I normally see. Ransomware is apparently one of the dreaded “things” that can invade the inner workings of our computers and cause our day to become one of doom and gloom.
“Protect yourself before it attacks!” it said. “Get protection now.” Let’s slide this wisdom over our lives. We catch ourselves complaining about loud noises, detours, cold weather or hot weather, or snow, or fast-growing grass or sloppiness of other people. We find ourselves gossiping. We find ourselves using God’s name in a nasty way or other offensive language. We pass by someone who might need help. We turn our thoughts from people suffering in prison, in drug-infested neighborhoods, in detention centers, in hospitals because we don’t have time, we don’t know how to help, the job seems way over our heads.
“Protect yourself” our head screams. “Don’t get involved” our defense mechanism cries. “You could be sued!” we hear from somewhere in our brains. “I don’t even know how to start,” peeps a little voice in our souls whose volume increases the longer I try to ignore it. This “protect yourself” is not the “protect yourself” that we will think about today. Our “protect yourself” today is against the day of judgment that is announced in the Bible. We need to look at ourselves – our personality, our actions, our money – to notice if God may be displeased with any of it.
This ignoring other people and the help they may need, or even hurting other people with our own actions, is the doom and gloom that invades our lives. Somewhere in the distance we are taught and we read in the Holy Book that Jesus is coming again. That King Jesus is coming again. Is he coming on a large white stallion with cape blowing in the wind behind him? Well, this rider is not here yet! So when I suddenly have a flat tire or even a slow leak, and I become angry and unpleasant and distraught and say all kinds of bad words, I probably am not seeing that rider out of the corner of my eye. I am rightfully angry. How else are we supposed to be when trials and tribulations come our way? When someone we love is stricken with a dead-end health problem, when the one we love, and on whom we depend, suddenly has found a new fake light and he or she disappears into the wild, fiery sunset, should we not be overwhelmed with grief? Should the world not look dark and depressing and fearful?
We can be like that if we don’t know better or if we enjoy being that way. If no one has told us or shown us the other way to handle life. But we have heard; we have read. “See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you. who revere my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” Yes, from Malachi 4.
Hallelujah! A new way of living is a choice. We can look for God’s appearance in each day. We don’t need to worry if we will be ready when Jesus, the King, comes suddenly one day because each day he comes to us. Each day he comes to me. Things happen! I have had my share of heartbreak. I have not yet had my share of poverty or fear of being killed or illness.
However, each day the King appears, shows up. Sometimes the King calms me, sometimes the King energizes me. Sometimes the King saves me from disaster. Sometimes the King reminds me that his judgment for me on that particular day is a zero or even a minus. So I get to change. I get another chance. Each new day brings new possibilities. How will I react? How will I feel as the sun sets and I want to know peaceful rest? More and more, the King places people in my path who are extraordinary while looking ordinary. I am pleasantly surprised and want to be more like the new person. However, sometimes this person needs me. “Oh!,” I say. “God help me.”
Last week in my sermon, I promised to continue with the happiness idea. Well, here it is. Here comes the joy! “Shout with joy, all you lands; lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.” But how and why can we do this? If we are “glass half-empty people,” how do we switch to the top of the glass where we drink the goodness and the joy of the water and still the glass is not empty? Well, we can notice other people who may have harder lives than our own, yet they are looking actually happy, they roll with the punches. Another way is to think about our own faces. Maybe we could practice a big smile; maybe the smile could actually stay there. Think of our eyes. Do you know that, when we are very happy, our eyes sparkle? It may be a slow process, or it may be the right time when Jesus has prepared our hearts and minds and we are ready to “Clap our hands like the rivers; to be joyful like the hills.”
One person in a family can influence the whole family. Do you know families of gloom and doom? If only one person in that family catches a glimpse of this joy, that person can think before speaking and phrase what he or she says in a lighter way; a non-critical way; a “God will help us solve this problem” way and uses a light-hearted tone of voice, this family could actually change to a family that pleases the King each day and forever.
We do not need to live lives of fear – wondering if hell is real. We don’t need to spend our empty minutes or even turn our lives into agony being fearful, sometimes to the point of dysfunction. We can open our hearts and let the joy of the Lord flow in. It is a wonderful kind of freedom! Being happy! We can look for the good in each day and ask God to help us deal with the not-good. God will even help us to find the good in the bad.
In our United States of America Declaration of Independence we read, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It is like we shall chase happiness. Happiness is a funny animal. It is always elusive if we chase it to catch it. We need to take little steps to allow happiness to find us. Watch our tongues; meet new people who are models of joy and happiness; constantly expressing thanks to God for little and big occurrences; watch our tone of voice; look for ways to be helpful to bring smiles to people’s faces, to brighten someone’s day; not criticizing but instead asking God to guide a change in attitude for ourselves and the person who is annoying us.
Above all else give thanks to God all the time, even when things are overwhelming. And sing, sing, sing, especially our hymns from today. There is a new life waiting for us. Let us not delay! Let us greet the approaching King with joyous sounds from our hearts and souls! God will not only judge our work ethic and our behavior but our attitude while we work and play! Let the happiness begin!