Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, (2 Ti 2:8, ESV)
Even though our thanksgiving service today is structured around the Liturgical Church Year; remember that today, Thanksgiving Day, isn’t really a church holiday. Really it’s a Federal Holiday, established first by Geo Washington, and restarted by Lincoln as a way to remember that our nation only survives because of God’s blessing. The Thanksgiving Service is usually a day we focus on harvest and the gifts, the blessings of home and family, and food and work, that we’ve been given. Usually, we talk about all that and how we should be thankful for them, and how we should share with those who are less fortunate. And this is certainly true because our offering for today all goes into our Christian Care Fund. You may have even come today to get that little tweak, the twinge of guilt that sounds like your mother scolding you for leaving food on your plate, “There are starving children in China who would love to eat that food!” Sometimes I think thanksgiving is all about appeasing our guilt so that when the afternoon turkey sleep comes over us we can sleep better. Well, Thank God, we do have physical blessings. Thank God, we had a plentiful harvest. Thank God we have family and friends to enjoy today, because there are people who don’t have any of these things. In other words, there are starving people who would love to have just what you and I throw away every day.
While we do at times take all these things for granted, today’s service is set up to remind us of something else we sometimes take for granted. And it is, in fact, the greatest gift from God. It is the one thing that if we are missing everything else we have been given doesn’t have any meaning. Today we are doing exactly what St. Paul told Pastor Timothy to do. Remember Jesus.
On this day, that we have set aside to thank God, we remember that we have a God who loves people. He shows is love by providing all the world what is needed for living every day. If we are to truly to thank God, if we are really going to celebrate thanksgiving, then remembrance must be front and center in our celebration. So today, we remember and give thanks to God for the most important gift we have ever received. Today, we remember Jesus and give thanks to God for what he has done for us through him.
Well, even if the federal government hadn’t set aside today for Thanksgiving we Christians are obligated to give thanks to God. We don’t do it because a president says so, but because we are moved by God’s goodness. God gives us gifts and we respond in prayer, praise and thanksgiving. As Christians we live a liturgical life. That’s what’s reflected in our regular worship services here. That’s what’s reflected in the way we remember Jesus throughout the year.
And yet, we are hardly as grateful as we should be. In fact, a lot of the time we are down right selfish. Especially as we look forward to the gifts that come at Christmas time, we think more about what we can get than the one from whom we receive everything. Thanksgiving day actually becomes eclipsed by the new federal holiday Black Friday. “Give us our daily bread” becomes a self absorbed prayer, a selfish prayer, a self-worshipping prayer, rather than an acknowledgment of where all our gifts come from. It’s not “it’s better to give than to receive.” It’s “It’s better to receive than to give thanks.” So at least on this one day, maybe it’s good that the government has set a day to remind us to be thankful. But when we think about it even this day has turned into a day of self-indulgence. So we must confess, as we clearly see, that we are sinful people. Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean…
And yet again, we confess something else. We confess God’s greatest gift, the one we are most thankful for today. It is the gift of God’s one and only Son, Jesus. He came into this world to take our sins upon Himself, to become our sin, and pay with His very life the penalty we by our sins have deserved, giving His body and shedding His blood for the forgiveness of all our sins. Today in a few moments we will share together that same body and blood in the thanksgiving meal that Jesus gives us. The Lord’s Supper also called the Eucharist, which means the Great Thanksgiving, because in it we receive what He won on the cross for us, and we in turn give thanks. We thank our Lord for first loving us, for dying for us, and for rising from the dead for us, that we will, through faith, one day feast with Him forever.
And that puts it all in perspective. Remember Jesus… and give thanks. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understand keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.