Monday, November 28, 2016

Sermon for Thanksgiving Day: "Thanks be to God"

+ Day of Thanksgiving – November 24th, 2016 +
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.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! Psa. 118:29
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psa. 100:4
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
the upright shall dwell in your presence. Psa. 140:13
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you! Psa. 145:10
“Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted. Is. 12:4
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! Psa. 118:29
God’s people have been giving thanks long before Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation or Congress declared a national day of thanksgiving. Scripture is full of thanksgiving: Adam gave thanks and praised for God’s gift of Eve; Noah gave thanks and praised God for rescue from the flood; Abraham thanked and praised God for Isaac, his heir and the child who would bear the promise.

We hear a similar theme in today’s readings.

Moses instructed Israel to give thanks by remembering all that the Lord had done for them in the Exodus, the wilderness, in their journey to the Promised Land. While writing in prison, Paul rejoices that he is content in all circumstances through Christ. And the Samaritan leper returns to Jesus, falls on his feet, and gives thanks.

When we were young our parents and grandparents taught us to say thank you when we received a gift. And this is more than social niceties or good manners. Saying thank you acknowledges the giver of the gift.

To give thanks is what faith does. God gives you life and salvation in Baptism; faith receives and rejoices. God gives you healing, pardon, and peace in the Lord’s Supper; faith gives thanks and praise. God gives us his steadfast love and mercy; we give to others. If you think about it that way, every day is thanksgiving, though perhaps without the turkey, gravy, and potatoes.
God has made us a “eucharistic people.” Eucharist is one of many names for the Lord’s Supper – the greatest thanksgiving meal around. Eucharist means to give thanks. It is truly good, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Saying thank you simply goes with faith. Like the one faithful leper who returned to give thanks at the feet of Jesus.
But if giving thanks is so good, and a part of who we are, why do we have a day to remember to give thanks?
I’m going to do a dangerous thing here, and assume a few things. Perhaps you’re like me and when you hear Moses’ words to Israel you are both encouraged to remember God’s goodness and yet despair the fact that you have not.
“Take care lest you when you have eaten and are full and have built houses and live in them and when your silver and gold is multiplied then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Like Israel, we’re very good at grumbling and thanking ourselves, but we forget the Lord.
Or perhaps you’re like me and when you hear Jesus’ words to the Samaritan you rejoice that this foreigner is healed and returns and gives thanks at Jesus’ feet, and yet you despair over all the times you have failed to do so.
“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Perhaps you’re like me and you’re grateful that Paul had the Philippians to help him in his trouble; you rejoice with him; and yet we wonder, “Who will help me in my prison of anxiety, doubt, and fear?” What if I don’t “rejoice in the Lord always”? Like the Philippians, we are anxious and troubled over many things.
You see, there’s a danger looking to ourselves and our giving thanks – whether it’s on Thanksgiving Day, or any other day. Thankfully, it’s not our giving thanks that saves us. It’s not our remembering the Lord that brings about our rescue. It’s not our rejoicing or our anything that causes the Lord to give us his peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s not our thanking the Lord for his healing that heals us.

Who was it that delivered Moses and Israel from slavery? Who was it that healed all 10 lepers? Who was it that strengthened Paul in his weakness and in prison? It was not Moses, the Samaritan leper, or Paul. It was Jesus.
Moses, St. Paul, the Samaritan, all point us to the place of true thanksgiving…Jesus Crucified for you; to an altar adorned with the Holy Eucharist; to the Lord and Giver of all good things.
Jesus, who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt in the pillar of fire and smoke, has led you out of bondage to sin and death by the glory of his cross.
Jesus, who healed all 10 lepers without any prerequisite thanks, heals you from the leprosy of your sin and declares that you are holy, clean, and made well.
Jesus, who was with Paul in prison strengthening him in his weakness, is with you in whatever dark prison cell you find yourself trapped in. The peace of Jesus crucified and risen surpasses all our understanding – even when it’s full of fear, doubt, anxiety, and despair. God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
The Samaritan leper had it right; thanksgiving takes place at the feet of Jesus Crucified for you. In Christ Crucified, God forgets all your sins and remembers his promise to you forever. In Christ Crucified, God bears all your pain, hurt, disease, worry, doubt, fear, anxiety, and in return gives you healing by his wounds. In Christ Crucified, God has made him unclean to cleanse you and clothe you in his righteousness forever.

Thanksgiving begins and ends in the cross. Our restless hearts are content only in Christ, and only in Christ does thanksgiving flow to God. That one leper out of the ten who believed, who was faithful, returned to the feet of Jesus to give thanks and praise to God. Faith drove him, as it drives us, to the feet of Jesus. And it’s from Jesus that we hear: “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.”

This is how we join Paul in giving thanks in all circumstances. We do so through Jesus Christ, who though He had no place to lay His head, trusted His Father and lived the perfect life of thanksgiving for you.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; and his steadfast love endures forever.

A blessed Thanksgiving Day to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment