Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve, November 21, 2018

Psalm 104:24-31 (Thanksgiving Eve)

“Giving Thanks All Year Long”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 21, 2018

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

The text is for Thanksgiving Eve is the Introit for the day from Psalm 104:24-31.

24How many are your works, O Yahweh; in wisdom you have made all of them. The earth is full of your creatures. 25This sea there, great and broad, teems with innumerable swimming creatures, living things, small with great. 26There go the ships and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. 27They all wait for you to give them their food at the proper time. 28You give it to them and they gather it. You open your hand and they are satisfied with good things. 29When you hide your face, they are dismayed. When you take away their breath, they die and they return to their dust. 30When you send forth your Spirit, they are created and you renew the face of the ground. 31May the glory of Yahweh be forever; may Yahweh rejoice in his works.


          Dr. Luther commented on our text saying, “The 104th psalm is a psalm of thanks for all the works that God had accomplished in heaven and on earth, beyond those done for us here on earth. He has surely ordered all things according to a wise place to produce works, fruits, and crops. The psalmist recounts these one after the other: the heavens—full of light and outstretched as a tapestry without post or rafters; the clouds—an arch without foundation or pillar; the wind flying without wings; the angels going and coming, appearing like a wind or a flame.

          Thus sings the psalmist. He finds his desires and joy in God’s creations, which are so wonderfully made and so beautifully ordered together. But who pays attention to this or sees that this is so? Only faith and the Spirit.”[1]

          A Day of National Thanksgiving certainly draws more people’s attention to the wonderful creation that God has given to people. Even non-believers are inclined to at least say “thanks” for what they have, even if they do not acknowledge the true source of their physical blessings in God Himself. However, it is also believers who are, should I used the word “forced”?, to give thanks to the Lord at this time of year when their thanksgivings have been grossly overlooked all year long? We Christians ought to be the most thankful people around! We daily pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and as we do, we remember that God gives daily bread—everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body—to everyone without our prayers, but we pray that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving! (Small Catechism, 4th Petition).

          Also, when we hear God’s Word in the Divine Service, what do we give God after receiving that gift? Is it not thanks? “This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!” It’s not just a cute little phrase. We are thanking God for His Holy Word of Law and Gospel! In the Service of the Sacrament, there is another opportunity to give thanks to God. In the Preface, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give Him thanks and prayer. It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O Lord, our God.” But how many times do we let the ritual cloud our thinking and our actions as we speak our thanks just because we’re “programmed” to speak these words?

          A Day of National Thanksgiving is a time to examine ourselves in light of God’s Word. We are “forced,” if you will, to see how often we fail to thank God for what He richly and daily provides for us simply out of His Fatherly love and care. All of His creation waits for God to give to give them their food at the proper time, says the Psalmist. If God doesn’t give and provide, guess who goes without? The whole of creation is totally dependent on God for sustaining it day to day. And when we come to realize that total dependence through the hearing of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enables us to be more thankful people. When God gives, God satisfies with good things. That is cause for thanksgiving simply because, without the good things from God, we would be left empty and wanting for even the basics of life.

          Thanksgiving Day, then, is a time for repentance and faith. It is a time to confess that we have not always been the thankful people of God that we should have been throughout this year. And it is a time to trust that we have been recreated and renewed by the Holy Spirit to be people of faith who trust in the goodness of God who satisfies us in body and soul with the forgiveness of sins. You and I are forgiven for our failed thankfulness. God the Son humbled Himself to become a human creature. He took to Himself in the womb of Mary by the power of the Spirit a true human body and soul. God the Son became man so that He could live a perfectly thankful life in our place and then suffer the just punishment for our thanklessness and all our sins.

          God the Father hid His face from His One-of-a-Kind Son as He hung on that cross, bearing our sins as if they were His own. Jesus, the sin-bearer, was dismayed: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” Jesus gave up His breath. He died and was buried. But He did not return to the dust. He rose again on the third day, the beginning of a new creation. He ascended into heaven and with the Father poured out the Spirit on all people through His Word. So we are created new by grace through faith. We are renewed in body, soul, and spirit with sins forgiven and life everlasting as our present possession. By faith, we come before the throne of our God and Father in the power of the Spirit with faith in Christ. We confess our sins and our un-thankfulness and we receive the forgiveness that Jesus’ shed blood purchased and won for us.

As the forgiven, renewed, and thankful people of God in Christ, Lord rejoices in us! We are His adopted sons and daughters who are thankful for all of the Lord’s blessings of body and soul. Our lives of thankfulness reflect God’s glory to the least of these in how we show the love of Jesus to other people in words and especially in deeds. We have been given what we need and so many of us are blessed to be able to share with others who are in need of the basic things of life. With thankful hearts for what our God has done for us in Jesus, we share not only the Gospel Word with people, but we also share in their burdens of this life. “Jesus loves you, go in peace,” is true and a message that we must share so that others may hear the Gospel and, by the power of the Spirit, confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. But those Gospel words won’t matter a whole lot unless we show them what that love looks like in action. St. James put it this way, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:15-17 ESV).

What good is that, indeed! God in Christ uses us to provide for others so that they too might give thanks and praise to the Lord. God opens His hand to satisfy the needs of people with good things through you. That is why we have encouraged you to bring these personal care items to the Lord’s altar this Thanksgiving. When we share these blessings with people at the Food Shelf, they see in you the love of Jesus. They see God’s hand open and providing help to them. And what an opportunity to tell people how much God loves them, the very God who has saved them from sin, death, and the devil by sending them Jesus. The Gospel in word and action gives folks a reason to be thankful.

I am thankful for you, the saints of God in this place. I am thankful for your God-given faith through the waters of Baptism. I am thankful for the desire to hear and to learn God’s Word better. I give thanks that His Spirit has renewed you in repentance and faith so that you come to the Table of the Lord to eat and drink His Body and Blood with the bread and wine, receiving in this Sacrament the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and the strengthening of your most holy faith. By the power of the Spirit as He works through these gifts, each one of us will be made into ever more thankful people, and not just on a Day of National Thanksgiving, but every day. “May the glory of Yahweh be forever; may Yahweh rejoice in His works.”

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


[1] Martin Luther, Reading the Psalms with Luther (St. Louis, Concordia, 2007), 244-245.

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