How you ever noticed how much time we spend preparing for things? We spend the first 18-22 years of our life preparing for the adult working world. We spend five days of practice preparing for one football or soccer or volleyball game. We spend weeks buying presents and the kids are through them in twenty minutes. We spend months preparing for a big vacation that’s over in a week. Taking a test requires hours of preparation whether it’s a driver’s test or SAT or CPA. It takes hours and days to prep a house to paint. In our worship we encourage a week of preparation before taking communion. In the church calendar we have two long seasons of preparation before our two must significant events. Before Easter there are six weeks of Lent and before Christmas day there are four weeks of Advent. This is a sure sign of how important these two days are. We should not come to the manger or to the cross and empty tomb without taking some time for serious reflection and self-examination and preparation. It is worth noting that it is our custom to always begin the advent and lent season with communion. This reminds us to prepare, to examine ourselves, to take stock of our spiritual lives, to give attention to our souls.
J.R.R. Tolkein, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, invented a word for “what makes a story, especially fairy stories, truly great. He called it eucatastrophe. A good catastrophe! He said it means, “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.” He likened the sudden relief that eucatastrophe brings to the snapping back into place of a limb that had been long put out of joint. Joyous relief” (https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/eucatastrophe). The Jews reading this story through their painful history, read this text with great delight, savoring every morsel of this eucatastrophe. This is poetic justice, a fancy term for he got his comeuppance, his just desserts. What Haman planned to do to others was done to him. He was impaled on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai and everything that was his is given over to Mordecai.
There are two kinds of people with it comes to paying taxes. Those who just take the standard deduction and those who itemize their deductions. There are two kinds of Christians when it comes to confessing their sins, those who just pray a blanket prayer, “Father, forgive all my sins” and those who itemize their sins, confessing them by name, being specific. There are two kinds of Christians when it comes to giving thanks. Those who just pray a blanket prayer of thanksgiving, “Dear God, thank you for everything, we are so blessed” and those who itemize their thanksgiving. The more Biblical way of giving thanks is to itemize, to be intentional, to be thoughtful, to take time to actually think about all we have been blessed with and all we are thankful for. A grateful heart wants to itemize. We started our worship this morning with a hymn based on Psalm 150 that is an itemized list of ways and reasons for giving praise and thanks. Like the lover, “how do I love thee, let me count the ways,” so it ought to be with the lover of God.
This is the time of year churches traditionally talk about stewardship. I have been in pastoral ministry over thirty years and I am aware stewardship type sermons, sermons that address money and finances can sometimes be received poorly and one of the reasons for that may be a lack of love. I come to this task this morning helped, encouraged and motivated by three loves. First, a love for Jesus. I love Jesus and I want to love Him more. I want to know Him and obey Him and to speak what was on His heart to you in a faithful manner. Jesus spent a huge amount of time talking about money and possessions. So my love for Jesus and my desire to be faithful to Him motivates me to not shrink from this important work this morning. Second, a love for you. I love you and I delight in being your pastor. If I love you, then I should desire the best for you. It is known from Scripture and from experience that people who give and give freely and generously are the happiest people on earth. So love for you compels me to call you to pursue your joy and gladness in generous giving. Third, a love for the blood-bought Church of Jesus Christ. I want to see the kingdom of God spread through our community and to the ends of the earth, to see a great harvest of righteousness. I would love to see an avalanche of generosity that is need-meeting, kingdom-advancing, gospel-spreading, harvest-producing.
This is a life and death chapter, two lives hang in the balance. Who will get life and who will get death? Both of them plead for their lives, one before the king, one before the queen. One will be executed, one saved.
Today is our annual Harvest Dinner. It’s a wonderful reminder of harvest feasts when friends and family and neighbors would gather to celebrate another year of God’s goodness and bounty. It’s a reminder of one of the infallible principles of life, you reap what you sow. Last week we considered the Butterfly Effect, the small influences that added together shape our lives today. This morning we consider the sowing and reaping that have influenced our lives and the lives of those we are influencing. Sowing and reaping applies to our intentional investing in the lives of others, whether children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, colleagues. I want to challenge us about how God wants to use us as influencers in the lives of our family and those around us. Time magazine likes to do lists of influences, every year they devote an issue to the 100 most influential people in the world. They have also made a list of 15 most influential internet websites in our lives and in our kid’s lives. It’s scary to see how many God-denying and godless influencers there are in our lives and in our kids world. Parents are God’s number one hand-chosen instrument He wants to use to shape the eternal souls of our kids for Jesus Christ. The good news is God never calls us to a task that He doesn’t equip us for and give us what we need to do it. And one of the tools is understanding the life principle of sowing and reaping. From our texts we can glean several spiritual truths and applications.
There is something about the way we keep time that puts an extra emphasis or focus on years ending in zero. Whether we are taking about birthdays or anniversaries we notice the big ones, the big six oh. The century mark is an even bigger deal with two ohs and of course many of us remember all the hype around Y2K with its three Os. So here we are as a protestant church experiencing our big five O O. Five hundred years, half a millennia. The fact that it’s actually still a thing means something, something of significance happened back there that still has an influence and matters today. Let’s see if this historical event has a Biblical context.