Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve, November 23, 2011

Psalm 100 (Thanksgiving Eve)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

November 23, 2011

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Our text is “A Psalm for Thanksgiving,” Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Our hymnal is a wonderful treasure-trove of good things.  Not only does it have everything we need for our worship services, it also has so much for use in the home.  There are devotional liturgies, prayers, a list of Bible readings, the Small Catechism, and of course, hymns!  There are hymns for the morning and the evening.  There are hymns of the praise and adoration.  There are baptismal hymns and hymns for the Lord’s Supper.  There are hymns for the seasons of the Church Year.  And there are hymns for harvest and thanksgiving, some of which we are signing tonight.

The people of God in the Bible also had a hymnal.  It is the Book of Psalms.  Just like we have different hymn sections, so does the Book of Psalms.  There are liturgical psalms for public worship.  There are psalms of repentance and sorrow over sin.  There are psalms that lament life’s troubles and ask God for help and protection.  And there are psalms of thanksgiving.  Our text tonight is one of those.  It is labeled by the author as a mizmor latodah, “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.”

But for what do we give thanks?  That’s a pretty open-ended question.  There is so much for which we ought to give thanks.  If you are on Facebook, perhaps you have seen people throughout this month of November saying what they are thankful for each day.  In some homes it is a tradition to go around the table and say what you are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day.  God’s Word also shows us different types of things people are thankful for.  Our readings tonight give us a good sample of that.

If you go back and look at the Introit, which is from Psalm 104, the psalmist is thankful for being God’s creation whom God takes care of by giving His creation “their food in due season.”  We are thankful that God opens His hand and fills us with good things.  Therefore, we sing to the Lord songs of praise with thankfulness.

Deuteronomy 8 is the Old Testament reading for Thanksgiving.  Here God reminded the people of Israel how He took care of them during the forty years of wilderness wandering.  God fed the people with manna, bread from heaven.  And now the Lord God was bringing the Hebrews into “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, . . .  a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, and land of olive trees and honey.”  The result of God bringing His people into this good land, this rich land, is that the people “shall eat and be full” and they will “bless the Lord” their God for the good land He has given them.  The people of Israel were to be thankful to God for the land of Canaan and it’s riches of food and supplies.

Are we not thankful for our country?  I know it’s not perfect.  But, like the land of Canaan, it is a good land.  We do reap a bounty of good things that other nations do not have.  Our country is fertile, well supplied with water, industry, and provision for life.  We enjoy many freedoms including free speech, freedom to worship the one true God, freedom to vote and be involved in how we are governed.  You and I eat and are full.  Let us bless the Lord our God for the good land He has given us.

In the Gospel lesson tonight we have another type of thanksgiving, being thankful for God’s answers to our prayers.  The ten lepers offered their prayer to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  And Jesus healed them of their leprosy.  And we know how only one came back to give thanks and praise to God and he was a Samaritan.

We do not want to be like the other nine.  We want to give thanks to God when He answers our prayers.  As we read in the Epistle lesson from Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  This thankfulness should be given even when our prayers are not answered the way we want them to.  We are thankful that for the sake of Jesus God hears our prayers and He answers them always in the way that is best for us.  What I might ask for may be dangerous to my body or my soul.  God knows what we need even before we ask it.  Therefore, we are thankful that God loves and cares for us so much that He answers our prayers according to HIS good and gracious will, giving to us exactly what we need and when we need it.

There are different types of thanksgivings in the Bible.  We have seen thanks given for food.  We have see thanks given for the country in which people live.  Lastly, we have seen thanks given because God hears and answers prayer in ways that are always best for us.  So what are we missing?  How about giving thanks for the blessings of the soul?  This is where we finally get to talk about Psalm 100.

Remember I mentioned that Psalm 100 is specifically labeled as “A Psalm for Giving Thanks”?  A few minutes ago I told you the Hebrew for that phrase, mizmor latodah.  A mizmor is a psalm.  Todah is the Hebrew word for giving thanks.  But it is a loaded word, packed with meaning.  Todah is giving thankful praise for divine benefits received, especially marvelous protection and deliverance.  It’s a word that is all inclusive.  Divine benefits or blessings certainly include food, clothes, home, nation, and response to our prayers.  But this word really begs us to look at God’s protection and deliverance for which we are to then give thanks.

If you lived in the time of the Old Testament, what event would you continually remember that showed you God’s protection and deliverance?  The Exodus from Egypt.  The Exodus was God’s great Old Testament saving act where He delivered His people from the bondage of slavery and led them through the wilderness to the land of blessing in Canaan.  In the event of the Exodus, God showed that He indeed is the God who not only made people, but made them His own by saving them from their bondage as Egyptian slaves.  Therefore, God’s people could enter His temple gates and His courts with thanks and praise for this great saving act of protection and deliverance.

What about us New Testament people?  What event do we continually remember that showed us God’s protection and deliverance?  The exodus from sin, death, and the power of the devil!  God used His servant Moses to lead His Old Testament people out of slavery.  But now the greater Moses has come and has led God’s people out of sin’s slavery.  Jesus, God’s Son, is that greater Moses.  Jesus rescued us by giving up His life on the cross.  Jesus bled and died paying the price for our sins and rebellions against God.  The Good Shepherd laid down His life for God’s sheep.  The eternally valuable blood of Jesus, the priceless perfection of His obedience in life and in death, and the precious treasury of His merit on the cross was the payment to win our freedom from bondage and slavery to sin, Satan, and death.

That is truly reason to enter into God’s presence with thanksgiving and praise!  You and I are God’s people, redeemed and forgiven by Jesus Christ.  We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. (Ps. 95:7)  Covered in the blood of Christ by grace through faith we are able to enter through the gates and into the courts of the Lord’s presence.  We enter knowing that His steadfast love and faithfulness to us lasts forever because we are His children through faith in Jesus.  God will always be there for His people, for you and for me.

And that is good reason to give thanks, to make a joyful noise to the Lord, and to serve Him with gladness.  Give God thanks and praise for all the material blessings you have received from His bountiful goodness.  Thank Him for the country in which you live.  And most especially praise Him daily for Jesus who won your freedom from death and the devil and forgiveness for all your sins.  “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34).  Amen.

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