Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve, November 27, 2019

First Article of the Creed (Thanksgiving Eve)

“Thankful for the Gifts”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 27, 2019

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The basis for our time together is the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

In the office, I often have WCRB, Classical Radio Boston, streaming on my computer while I work. Every day, just after noontime, they have the quote of the day and then give you a short classical piece during which you have to guess who said it. Just for you, here’s your quote of the day, “I would not even have a pig’s ear, if God had not created it for me.”[1] Who said it? If you chose the Great Reformer Martin Luther, you are correct. He preached those very words in a 1528 sermon on the First Article of the Creed.

So what was his point? Very simply, everything that we have is a gift from God. (Even a pig’s ear if you are so fortunate!) God is the Creator of all that exists and so is the Giver of all that exists. Isaiah 44:24: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.’” We trust that God is our Creator and we are His creatures, whom He made and to whom He alone has given life and everything that we need to support this body and life. “[The Lord] has given to me body, soul, good eyes, reason, a good [spouse], children, fields, meadows, pigs, and cows, and besides this, he has given to me the four elements, water, fire, air, and earth. Thus this article teaches that you do not have your life of yourself, not even a hair. I would not even have a pig’s ear, if God had not created it for me.”[2]

Our Creator God and Lord gives us everything—body and soul—life itself—clothes, shoes, food, drink, house, car, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, electricity, refrigeration. If you “have it,” God gifted it to you as He gives people the wisdom and knowledge to produce and to provide for these earthly needs through their various callings and vocations. But what do we often do with the gifts we receive from the Lord’s bountiful goodness? We use them to sin against God. We use them to satisfy our own needs and wants and desires. In doing so, we fail to fear, love, and trust in our Giver-God and so fail also to give Him thanks and praise.

You and I sin against God with all our members. Our eyes and minds lust and covet. Our mouths shame and hurt and cause others pain. We fail to use our hands to serve one another and to help and befriend others in their times of need. You and I have not always taken care of what we have been given, or paid what we owe, or return what we’ve borrowed. With our eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have, we have not done the good we should and instead, have disobeyed God’s commands, doing that which He forbids. In the words of the Large Catechism, we “strut about proudly, act defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, honor, and such, of ourselves [James 4:13–16]. We . . . act as though others must fear and serve us, as is the practice of the wretched, perverse world. The world is drowned in blindness and abuses all the good things and God’s gifts only for its own pride, greed, lust, and luxury. It never once thinks about God, so as to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.”[3]

Yes, you and I fail to use God’s gifts to His glory and for the benefit of our neighbors. We do not use what He has given us always according to His commandments. And we fail so often to give God proper thanks and praise for all that He has given us. The Lord might very well ask us, “Were not all of you given everything from My loving grace? Was no one found to return and give thanks regularly for what they have received?”

But does our sin and thanklessness stop the Lord from giving? Amazingly, the answer is no! He continues to give His gifts. As we pray the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we understand that this means that “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayer, even to all evil people” (SC). He also gives us, along with all the blessings of body and soul, the gift of forgiveness for all of our misuse, for all of our failures to follow to His command, for all the times we have not shown love and mercy to others. To purchase our forgiveness, God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, gave us His One-of-a-Kind Son. This Son of God took upon Himself human flesh and blood and joined the very creation which He had made. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7). Jesus came into the world to save us by offering Himself as the final payment for all sins with His sacrificial death on a cross. With the shedding of Jesus’ own blood, you and I are gifted the complete forgiveness for our sins, including the misuse of His gifts and our failures to be thankful.

We receive Christ’s forgiveness by another gift, that of saving faith and trust in the merits of Jesus alone for salvation from sin, death, and Satan. The gift of saving faith changes us in that it brings us new life. It changes us from creatures who were once held captive to sin into new creations with the ability to both trust, love, and fear God above all things and to give thanks to Him for all His blessings of body and soul. St. Paul shows us what this new life looks like in Colossians 3 when he writes by the power of the Holy Spirit, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).

By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we now live lives of thankfulness. We are more aware of the fact that everything we have is a gift from God: “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”[4] We are able in repentance to call to mind the times we’ve failed to render thanks and praise and confidently seek the forgiveness that flows from Christ’s cross and empty tomb. We trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, who works through Word and Sacrament, to continue to shape us and form us to be thankful people.

The Evangelist Billy Graham shared the following in 2017, “The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.

Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!

The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV).

Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.” Thanksgiving is also your reality in Christ. The Lord Jesus has changed your life through the work of the Spirit. With the eyes of faith, you see the gifts of God given to the people of God, given to you, richly and daily! With your heart, soul, mind, and strength, give thanks to the Lord. Bless His holy name! Rejoice in all that He daily gives you. Most especially, give thanks for Christ, your Savior and King who lavishes upon you through the Gospel forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 163.

[2] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 163.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 400.

[4] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 335.

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