Sermon: Come to the Table – “Thanksgiving and Generosity”

November 25, 2018
Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday

Matthew 25:31-46
Pastor SeokCheol Shin

Come to the Table – “Thanksgiving and Generosity”

The Season of Thanksgiving and Generosity
Last week we enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with our families and friends.  It is a time of joy and a time of saying “thanks” to God for his abundant blessings upon our lives.

Let us look around and look at our life. God has richly blessed us. Although times might be difficult for you, still there is so much for which to give thanks. You have a relationship with our gracious and loving God. You have this family of faith who love you and care about you. You have enough food, nice clothing, and a warm shelter. Your gifts of time, talents and possessions are ways of saying “thanks” for the blessed life you have in God our heavenly Father.

To respond to God’s abundant blessings, we designate this Sunday as a “Commitment Sunday,” and on this special Sunday we want to bring our offerings and pledge cards for the year of 2019. (Just last week, we learned that Christian stewardship is not just a fundraising, but more about our loyalty to God through our time, talents and treasures.)  When we celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday, we know there are still people who have suffered from disease, people who go to bed hungry every night; people who have no medical care; people who have to go to a T-station to sleep overnight. They live without much of the hope we have for our normal lives.  We collect offerings and money, not just to pay the bills of our church utilities, but to support Christ’s ministry for the sake of people in need.

I hope we celebrate this “Commitment Sunday” as a reminder that we are blessed in order to give and share. When we give, we don’t want to give out of obligation, but out of genuine love, for we know “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Jesus the Shepherd King
Liturgically, today is the final Sunday of the Church’s year. Next Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, and we will start the year afresh as we prepare for the coming of Jesus into the world. This Sunday we consider Christ as a King, and as a King we think of him as a Shepherd to his people.

The Shepherd is the most favorite image of our Jesus when we think of what he looks like. Don’t we see Jesus as everything good? He loves us; he heals the sick; he seeks the lost; he forgives and saves us from death to eternal life. When we are in trouble, we think of our Shepherd leading us to green pastures and still waters, and we feel so good. Our Shepherd Jesus is a man of compassion, mercy and everlasting love.

Yet such is not the only image we have from the Scripture today. The Christ in Matthew’s Gospel is shown as a King who is to judge his people; if we love and serve him, then he rewards us; but if we do not love and serve him, he punishes us. Christ is our King, and we must respond to him, or face the consequences. This is what Jesus says to us in his parable this morning.

We need to know where to find Jesus, so that we can reach out and serve him. The answer is written in today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel: “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.”

Reflecting on what Jesus just says in this parable, don’t we see so many Jesus walking and passing by us? He is hungry standing in the Food Pantry lines. Or as a homeless man, he is living on the streets and waiting for the gate of the Salvation Army to be opened so that he can get a coat. Or he is in the nursing home, or more likely, he is homebound because he can’t afford to go to a hospital. Or he is in prison, feeling hopeless about his life.

Don’t blame me. I didn’t say it, but Jesus said it; “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (v. 40). Taking Jesus’ message literally, he is more likely to be found in the downtown of our communities, looking for arms from us. And he is not just there to comfort those in suffering, but he is also suffering along with them. That’s where Jesus is.

As our Shepherd, Jesus calls each one of his flock and feeds and nourishes our spirits. That’s why we want to come into God’s house to give thanks to him. Yet we need to remember that as our Lord, he sends his flock (disciples) out to the world and commands us to feed his lost sheep. That’s why we need to bring our generosity to the world. In this regard, Church is the place where we worship Jesus our Shepherd and where he sends us to carry out his caring and serving ministry to all people living around us.

What does all this have to do with our Commitment Sunday? Biblically, thanksgiving and generosity are two sides of the same coin. Jesus just says in his parable what we did to people (generosity) is what we did to God (thanksgiving)! We start our worship with thanksgiving and end it with generosity. When the Israelites of the Old Testament came to their sanctuary to worship their God Yahweh, they brought their offerings and tithe of their produce. It was a way of saying “thanks” to God for his blessings upon their lives. After their worship in the sanctuary, they went out to share their offerings with neighbors in need. Generosity was a way for them to say “thanks” to God.

Likewise, we gather together to worship the Lord as we bring our own tithe, offerings and donations as a sign of our thanks to God. But that’s not all. Just a few minutes later, we are going to put them all together, bless them all, and bring them back with us, so that they will go back into the world, the world where Jesus lives and suffers along with his people. If thanksgiving is the foundation of worship, generosity is a completion of worship.

On Commitment Sunday
I really care about your worship attendance, about your fellowship with one another, and about your commitments here in our church. Yet, what makes me most impressed to you is your own willingness to reach out to Jesus who is out on the streets and to respond to the needs of our neighbors in our communities. I am glad that our Church is full of the sheep, full of the shepherds, full of servants who like to gather together and reach out together to serve Jesus Christ sitting out in the world.

On this Commitment Sunday or Christ the King Sunday, I give thanks for you all who know how to serve God. I give thanks to Jesus our Shepherd who feeds us, leads us, and blesses our lives every day. And I give thanks to Jesus our Lord who is himself joining the people in suffering and calls us to serve him in everything we do and every place we go. Amen.

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