Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Sermon: "Receiving, Remembering, Rejoicing"

+ Day of Thanksgiving – November 27th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Philippians 4:6-20; Luke 17:11-19
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Anyone who’s spent time around children –teachers, moms or dads –they’ll all tell you that when you set out to teach children the roles quickly reverse. The student becomes the teacher; teacher a student.
Sometimes I like to live “dangerously”, so this week during Preschool chapel I asked the children what they were thankful for.
Markers, Cupcakes, Flowers, Moms and Dads, Ninja Turtles, Teachers, Jesus, Shoes, Turkey, and on and on they went.
Adorable to be sure. But that’s not the point.
Without knowing it, they were quoting Luther’s Small Catechism:
I believe that God had made me and all creatures; that he has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
It wasn’t just in what they were saying, but how they were saying it. Turns out we can learn a lot from children about thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is about: receiving, remembering, rejoicing.
Through the children of Israel, God teaches us the same thing.
And it all begins with receiving.
The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 
Everything Israel had was a gift from YHWH: the Promised Land, the manna and quail, their shelters, clothes, and sandals– all gift. Israel’s identity as God’s people, a holy nation –was also gift. The Passover, Exodus from slavery, the promise to send a savior from sin and death – all of it gift. Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever.
The Lord did all of this for Israel, not because they deserved it – quite the opposite actually. Israel was a stiff-necked, ungrateful, rebellious child. No, God did not love Israel because they were good or because they said “thank you”. God loved Israel because that’s who he is. He is love. And he shows love. God rescues. God redeems. God sent prophet after prophet. God sent a Savior.
He did all of this out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in them.
We’re no different.   
If our earthly parents provide for such basic things as a home, clothing, and food, then your Heavenly Father gives you more. He is more faithful and devoted to your well-being. He loves you not because you are good - like Israel, we’re stiff-necked, ungrateful, rebellious children of Adam. God does not love us because we say thank you.
God loves you because that’s who he is. He is love. He shows his love in this manner. While you were still a sinner, while you hated and rebelled, kicked and threw an unholy tantrum, Christ died for you. God sent his Son. The way God loves you is seen on the cross.
To be a child means to receive what our parents give. We live in their house, eat at their table, wear the clothes they buy, and enjoy the gifts they give. It’s not a one-time thing. Though our parents might’ve joked about never feeding us again, they always did. So it is with our heavenly Father. He makes you his child in baptism. You’re adopted through Jesus’ death. You live in his house, the church. You eat Jesus’ body and blood at his table, and you enjoy his gifts of body and soul.
He does all of this out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.
Everything we have is a gift. And so we thank because of all he has given us. God’s delight is to provide for you in His house, and in yours. Your roof, bed, table, toilet paper, microfiber brushes, bacon, turkey, stuffing: they’re all gifts from his hands to you.
God gives; you receive. And in receiving you remember.
Thanksgiving is also about remembering.
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 
 Moses’ words are short, but important. Remember the Lord. Do not forget. I bet the children of Israel did the same thing we do when we come to church: “Here goes Moses again. Come on, Moses, we already heard that sermon. Yea, Moses, move on to the really important stuff.” But Moses doesn’t move past this message. The church doesn’t either. This is what Scripture wants us to say over and over again: “remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you.”
Like Israel we grow complacent. We forget God’s Word and promises and look to ourselves. That’s how sin works: self-centered, curved inward. We live in the wilderness. We face sin and death within; and without. Hunger, sickness, and weeping accompany our journey. Empty chairs at the table mark the place of loved ones who’ve died. We watch a little football or an early Christmas movie just to escape the news: Ferguson burning. ISIS beheading. The whole world collapsing around us.
These are signs of a fallen world. And though we’re often tested in the wilderness, you are not forsaken. We may forget the Lord, but he never forgets you. We may forsake his Word, but he never forsakes his promises to you. And neither should we forsake one another. Remember your family members in need: invite them to dinner, go out for coffee; call or write. Remember your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; think about who you haven’t seen in the pews next to you lately; give them a call; write a card; ask them how they’re doing. How can we remember God’s promises and neglect those in need?
Thanksgiving is about remembering: remembering God’s promises and remembering all who are in. And in remembering we rejoice.
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
One of the best ways to rejoice is to receive and remember what the Lord gives you. So, one of the best ways to give thanks to God is to be faithful in receiving his gifts, for God is a cheerful giver.
That’s why he gave Israel a promised land. But as good as that land was it was only a glimpse of a better country, only a foretaste of a greater feast. The Lord’s promised land wasn’t to be found in the deadly dust of the wilderness, or in the fertile soil of the Jordan River valley, but in the flesh and blood of the God-Man, Jesus.  
Jesus is the perfect son of Israel for all of us stiff-necked, ungrateful, rebellious children.
Jesus was careful to keep the whole commandment that God gave us to do; but he obeyed every command perfectly, all for you.
Jesus was tested in the wilderness for you.
Jesus was faithful to his heavenly Father for you.
Jesus remembered every letter, word, and promise of God for you.
Jesus was stripped of clothing and crucified for you.
Jesus was humbled, even to the point of death on the cross for you.
Jesus walked into a land of death to make his cross a life-giving tree for you.
Jesus bore the fruit of our iniquity to give to you the fruit of his victory in the Lord's Supper.

Jesus rose from the grave to bring you into a land where you will eat and drink without scarcity. And you will lack nothing. An eternity of receiving, remembering, and rejoicing in Christ.
For you do not live by bread alone, but by every promise poured over you in Baptism, by every Word of absolution spoken to you, by every Lord’s Supper you receive; and by every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord, on Thanksgiving day, and always.
That’s the Christian life: receiving, remembering, rejoicing. It begins with receiving, ends with rejoicing, and starts all over again. Kind of like most thanksgiving dinners Christ’s grace just keeps on coming. So enjoy all the Lord has given you. Share your stories. Laugh. Cry. Sort the dark meat and light meat. Praise the Lord and pass the gravy boat.
A Blessed Thanksgiving to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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