We enter the month of November, and we are given to consider that Thanksgiving is near, and Christmas is right around the corner.
Recently I have taken up a new hobby: thrifting. A couple of months ago, I acquired a turntable for my stereo, and I have started collecting old school vinyl records.
As a pastor, I take Thursdays as my day of sabbath rest. On most Thursdays, you may be able to find me at your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any thrift store, sifting through the records that people have donated on a quest for ninety-nine cent gems. On a particularly good day, I may spend upward of $8 for a bundle of records.
My tastes have proven once again that I was possibly born 20-30 years too late. I am always on the lookout for Jazz or Exotica albums and any music from the great Crooners. Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, Dave Brubeck, and Oscar Peterson are always on my “look for” list, but alas, they have evaded me.
I have picked up some Sinatra, Dean Martin, and of course, Mr. Como. I put Perry Como on the turntable the other night and relaxed in my recliner as he sang, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive…”
Being positive is fine advice for us as Americans and as Christians. Accentuate the positive.
You may be thinking, what is there to be positive about? We’re struggling to make sense of so many things like COVID, a crazy election cycle, violent people, a shaken economy, loneliness, and emotional struggles from being isolated in general. It’s easy to get turned in on yourself and your misery, and it’s easier to wallow in self-pity. Still, perhaps we should listen to Mr. Como, “You’ve GOT TO accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…”
St. Paul said it to us this way in Philippians 4:4-8:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
But your brain may be screaming, “How can I rejoice when the world is crashing in on me?” We begin by acknowledging that we are sinful and that in that sinfulness, everything is always all about me. When we acknowledge our loneliness, pity, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, and all the rest, you can ask, where is my focus? Is it on me, or is it outside of me?
This earth is not the place where your promise is to be found. Rejoice because the kingdom of God comes to you!
I know that sometimes anxiety is caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. If this is the case, there may be help for you through therapy and medication. Yet for the rest of us who are just a little too alone with our thoughts, I think St. Paul and Mr. Como give us some good advice.
How is it that in a dank and nasty prison cell, Paul and Silas can sing hymns and rejoice in the goodness of God’s love and mercy? How is it that Job could lose all that was dear to him, including his home, health, and children, and proclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in him?”
I don’t think that they were singing with Perry Como, but perhaps Mr. Como was singing with them. Rejoice always, Paul tells us, not once, but twice, rejoice. Rejoice in prison, rejoice when you are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel, rejoice always. This earth is not the place where your promise is to be found. Rejoice because the kingdom of God comes to you!
The Kingdom of God comes in the word and the sacraments, and the Kingdom of God will take you to live there in glory for eternity on the last day. Rejoice, for Christ has redeemed it all from the cross and through the grave. Rejoice, for moths will eat, and rust will destroy all that is precious to you here on the earth, but we have a promise that we will be with our Savior when these perishable bodies are remade imperishable.
In the Kingdom of God will be a feast, with nothing but the purest joy forever and ever with our loving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, joy upon joy, mercy upon mercy, peace, eternal comfort, pleasant fellowship without end, singing with angels, archangels, profits and all who have gone before us giving thanks to the Lamb, even Jesus Christ our Lord, our Savior, our God. In church, we get a foretaste of this feast that has no end.
This Thanksgiving, you may not be giving God thanks for an abundance of wealth, health, or family, but you can and should give God thanks for his life, which was exchanged for your death. Give him thanks for eternal life that awaits you, and give him thanks for his church here on earth, a family in Christ who wants to love you.
Is there anything more positive that you could ever accentuate? We will accentuate his mercy for sinners, of which I am chief.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” (Ps 105:1).
And don’t forget, if you are getting rid of any old vinyl records, you can always send them my way.