Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Everyday thanksgiving to God. . .

Sermon for Thanksgiving preached on Wednesday, November 27, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    There are several holidays that are unique to us in the United States.  Most obviously there’s the 4th of July.  Thanksgiving, as we know it, is also truly American.  Its history can be traced all the way back to the pilgrims and the celebration of the first harvest in the New World.  But Thanksgiving isn’t just American.  People all over the world celebrate a “Thanksgiving Day.”  They may not celebrate it like we do with turkey and stuffing and football; but most countries and cultures set aside a specific time to be thankful.  This is an interesting fact because it shows that we understand the importance and goodness of being thankful.  But being thankful isn’t something that comes naturally. 
    We don’t naturally have a thankful disposition.  As sinners, we don’t think about others and their generosity toward us.  Instead, we think first on ourselves: our needs and wants and desires.  We’re selfish people.  We think about the stuff that will satisfy us and how we can get that stuff from others.  
Thankfulness is something that we must be taught.  Children need to be reminded to say “thank you”.  Adults need to be reminded to be thankful, as evidence by Thanksgiving Day itself.  We constantly need to be reminded.  We constantly need to be instructed in gratitude.  We constantly have to practice thinking about others and recognizing their generosity.  And we most especially need to be reminded to be thankful towards the Lord.
    Over and over again, God’s Word calls us to be thankful.  Psalms 107 and 136 sing “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”  Paul in His letter to the Philippians (4:6) writes: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Again and again we’re called to be thankful because too often we take God and His gifts for granted. We fail to recognize the good things He daily gives. 
In Luther’s explanation to the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” he writes: “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”  This petition isn’t just about asking God for our needs, but it’s also asking for faith to recognize God’s graciousness in meeting those needs and to receive His gifts with thanksgiving.
    God’s gifts are numerous.  Just as the prayer for today says, His mercies are new every morning and He graciously provides for all our needs.  The food on our table is a gift from God.  The clothing on our backs is a gift from God.  The roofs over our heads are a gift from God.  But there’s more.  Our families are a gift.  Our friends are a gift.  Our employment is a gift.  The weather is a gift.  Our government is a gift.  Our reputation is a gift.  Everything we have is a gift from the Lord.  But we don’t always see these things as gifts.
    Our food, our clothing, our homes, our friends and family, our jobs, the things of life, we don’t always recognize these as gifts.  Instead, we think of them as things we’re owed and things we’ve earned.  I’ve earned my job and my paycheck.  I’ve earned my reputation. I’ve earned everything with my hard work and dedication.  When we view these things as being earned and owed to us, there’s no need to be thankful; we have no one to thank but ourselves.  And yet, without God’s gracious care and mercy, we’d have none of it, because we wouldn’t have life.  It’s only by God’s grace and mercy that we’re alive.  It’s only because of Christ that you have life.
    As Jesus made His way to Jerusalem for the last time, He was met by 10 lepers.  These men cried out to the Lord for mercy, they cried out for life.  They were the walking dead, cut off from everything.  Because of their leprosy, the Law required them to be separated from the community.  They were separated from the life of God and His people. 
    Jesus heard their cries and He answered them.  He said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Lk 17:14).  This going to the priests was for the purpose of being declared clean, and they were.  As they went they were cleansed.  The death that infected their skin was gone.  The death that separated them from God and His people was removed.  They were given life.  And seeing this, one of the men immediately returned to Christ.  He fell on his face and praised God.  He came back to thank the Lord.
    But you see, only one came back.  For some reason, the other nine didn’t return to praise and thank God.  And in these men we see our own failure to give thanks. 
    We don’t always thank to the Lord.  Sure, on Thanksgiving, we make sure to say “thank you.”  We say “grace” before our turkey feast…but why don’t we remember to do this every day?  And why are there empty pews here this evening and on Sundays?  Why aren’t God’s people here to return thanks and praise to Him?  Is it because we’re not truly thankful?  Is it because we think we’re owed His gifts of forgiveness and?  Is it because we think it’s no big deal what the Lord has given us? 
    We can think it easy for the Lord to bestow His gifts upon us, after all He’s the Creator of all things.  He spoke everything into existence; so it should be easy for Him to provide our daily needs.  And in a way, this is correct.  God can easily provide for our daily needs.  But what about your everlasting life?  What about the forgiveness of your sins?  What about the overcoming of your death?  Are those easy things?  Most certainly not. 
    We think it’s easy for Him to absolve us of our sins, to overcome death and give us everlasting life, but it’s not.  These gifts came at a heavy price.  The cost of these gifts was the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.  The cost of your healing, the cost of your forgiveness, the cost of your very life is Jesus’ life.  The cross of Christ was no way an easy thing.  And yet, because of God’s unending love for you, an ungrateful sinner, He willing gave up His Son to the cross so that He could give you life and salvation.  And for this, you need to be thankful.
    The man who returned to give thanks understood what a great gift He received.  With faith he understood life was given in Christ, and with faith we know the same.  With faith we rightly understand that everything is a gift from God.  We rightly understand that we only have life in Christ.  And so, with faith we give thanks to God for life.  To be sure, we fail to always have a thankful heart.  We often take God and His gifts and His life for granted; and we need to repent of this.  We need to fall on our knees and ask God’s forgiveness; and the Lord will answer this plea, just as He answered the plea of those 10 men.
Every day, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day we need to thank the Lord.  Like the Psalms sing, let us give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever.  It’s because of this love that you have your daily needs.  It’s because of this love that you have forgiveness.  It’s because of this love that you have life.  So let us give thanks to the Lord for all these things, today, tomorrow, and every day.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 


John Joseph Flanagan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Joseph Flanagan said...

Having an "attitude of gratitude" and a deep reverence towards Our Heavenly Father should be a consistent characteristic of the believer. We should strive to avoid being complainers, and whiners, and self centered people whose main goal in life is to please the self. We must remember that the uncertainties of life will always cause anxiety, yet it is the Lord who gives us reassurance that His word will prevail, and He will lead us on this journey. How can a Christian not be thankful for having their sins forgiven, having an eternal home after we have passed, and being able to come to the Lord in prayer at any time of day or night.Soli Deo Gloria.