Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
November 27, 2019
Happy Thanksgiving! To whom are we giving thanks on this national day of thanksgiving? To the Lord God of course, the creator of the heavens and the earth. And for what are we giving thanks? Not only for the turkey dinner that many of us will be enjoying tomorrow, or for safe travel, or for good health. We give thanks for much, much more. The first article of the Apostles’ Creed and explanation from our Small Catechism put it well.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has 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. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
Indeed, it is our duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey him! That is a lot that our God has provided for us. Not only has he created us and given us the earth and this nation, our body and soul, and all that we need and enjoy in this life, but he continues to preserve them! How blessed we are to have two eyes that see, ears that hear, clothes to keep us warm, food in abundance, a place to sleep. I acknowledge that my wife and children are a gift from God. I do not deserve them and God did not need to give them to me. Yet, see how good God is!
God has blessed us with medical advances few could imagine in generations past. Open-heart surgery, knee replacements, cancer-treatment, pills that correct defects in the body that killed many in the past. How many miracles do we experience every year and how often do they pass us by without us giving due thanks and appreciation to God?
You might not like all who are in authority in Iowa and in the United States government, yet, no one is stopping us from giving thanks to the Triune God tonight. We’re not starving. Even in a bad year for agriculture, we still have food on our table. We have protection and a certain level of justice from our government. So, yes, for our government we should give thanks to God. And we should pray for our leaders! They need God’s guidance and protection! And it is to our benefit when God does guide them to do his will.
This past summer my family and I went to Washington D.C. for our vacation. We got to meet our Senator Chuck Grassley. When I told him that I was a pastor he immediately mentioned our text for today, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, and he asked for the prayers of our congregation. I told him we prayed for our leaders every week. It is encouraging that some of our leaders do fear God and desire our prayers. Yet, even if our leaders are hypocrites, or even public unbelievers, they need our prayers. We should pray that God protect them, guide them to do his will, and we should thank God when he uses them for good. God is able to do good even through wicked rulers, as he has proven in Holy Scripture time and again.
Although, Thanksgiving is a national holiday, we Christians understand its true meaning. We give thanks to the Triune God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, for all that he has given to us apart from our own merits. And we pray that God would continue to provide for us according to his divine, fatherly goodness.
Yet, giving thanks entails more than saying a prayer and singing a few hymns, although these certainly please our Father in heaven. All too often, we give thanks to God for giving us our body, and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, yet we go on to use them for evil. We use the eyes God gives us to covet and to lust; the ears he gives us to listen to slander and lies. We use our mind and senses that God gives us not to learn his word and grow in knowledge of the truth, but in foolish endeavors and laziness. We use the money he provides us with for selfish purposes; we behave as if our land and property are ours purely on account of our own efforts and for the purpose of our own pleasure. We waste time, neglect our family, curse our government or try to use it for unjust purposes. In short, while giving thanks to God with our mouths for all he has given to us, we then use what God has given us for ungodly purposes.
The Psalmist proclaims in Psalm 103, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” We give thanks to the Lord not only with our mouths, but with our eyes, ears, arms, legs, clothing, shoes, house, wife, children, mind, with our civic activity, and everything that we have and do. We give thanks to the Lord when we use the ears he has given us to listen to his Holy Word in order to grow in faith; and when we listen to the plight of our neighbor and give him our compassion. We thank the Lord when we do honest work with our arms, legs, and bodies so that we can provide for those in need. We give thanks to the Lord when we defend others and speak well of them; when we work to clothe and feed those in need. We give thanks to the Lord when we bring our wife and children to church, say prayers with them at home, and confess Christ to them. We give thanks to the Lord when we not only pray for our leaders, acknowledging that God works through them to do good, but also when we speak out for what is right, defending the helpless, and declaring what is just and true according to God’s word.
We give thanks to God for all that he has given us by using what he has given us to the glory of his name. By using what God has given us, to do good to others, we give glory to God on earth. This is pleasing to God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
The greatest way we give thanks to God, is by receiving his greatest gift through faith. Through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, we receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. God, who has fed our bodies, and clothed our bodies, and given our bodies a place to sleep, shelter, protection, medical care, and so forth, has also provided for our bodies to live forever. He sent Jesus Christ to die to take away our sins. In Christ’s resurrection we see our own resurrection and eternal life. In receiving the Sacrament of Christ’s true body and blood, we recognize that God intends for our bodies to live forever. We see that all that God has richly given us here on earth is a very small thing compared to the glories that he will reveal to us.
The greatest way you can give thanks to God is to recognize him as your Savior. We don’t give thanks to him with our bodies as we ought. We don’t use all that he has given us in this life to his glory. Our thanksgiving is not good enough. Yet, through faith in Christ Jesus our bodies receive a healing that no medicine can give. We are clothed with a garment that does not wear out like all the clothes we wear on this earth. Through faith in Jesus we eat a food that does not perish, but gives eternal life. And when we finally do inherit eternal life, then we will commence to gives thanks and praise to God with our words and actions for the rest of eternity. And so, when we trust in Christ, we are confessing that we intend not only to give thanks to our God today, but we intend to give thanks to God every day, without end, with all our body and soul, with our eyes, ears, and all our senses, with all that we have and own. In Christ Jesus we intend to bless the Lord with all that is within us for all eternity. And in Christ Jesus, we will. Amen.