Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve, November 23, 2022

Psalm 67 (Thanksgiving Eve)

“Praise and Thanksgiving”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 23, 2022

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

The text is the psalm appointed for the day, Psalm 67:

1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, 2that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. 3Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. 4Let the nations rejoice and sing for joy because You judge the people with uprightness and You lead the nations on earth. 5Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. 6The earth has given its produce. He will bless us; God, our God, will bless us. 7God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.

          As you heard these words again, did you notice that something seemed to be missing in this Psalm read at Thanksgiving? The word, “thanks”! The closest we get are the words, “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.” Martin Luther found thanksgiving in the word praise, as he translated, “Es danken dir, Gott, die Völker; es danken dir alle Völker” (Let the people thank you, O God; let all the people thank you). Well, this sent me on a “linguistic archaeological dig” to find what good things our Lord has for us in this psalm.

          Twice, in verse 3 and verse 5 we have the refrain, “Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.” That refrain brackets the centerpiece of Psalm 67. Maybe you’ll have a centerpiece on your Thanksgiving Day table tomorrow or one at your Christmas celebration. A centerpiece is meant to be the focus of attention. The centerpiece, the focus of Psalm 67 is verse 4, “Let the nations rejoice and sing for joy because you judge the peoples with uprightness and lead the nations on earth.”

          Flanked before and after with the direction to let all the peoples praise God, we discover the reason that all the peoples can do so. God judges the people, probably meaning here something closer to “God governs the people,” with uprightness. God rules over all nations of people with justice and fairness. He is impartial and does what is right as He leads and guides the nations upon the earth. Jesus points this out in the Sermon on the Mount when He reminds us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45 ESV). The Psalmist can then proclaim, speaking for all peoples, “God, our God has blessed us” because “the earth has given its produce.” This is also what we pray in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? Answer: God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, even to all evil people; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”[1]

          And so we are back to the word of the day, as it were, “Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.” In my exploratory dig, I uncovered a real treasure in the root meaning of the word translated “praise.” It’s the Hebrew word יָדָה (yadah). This is a word used to publicly confess and declare who God is and what God has done and is doing. In Psalm 67, the divine writer sees what God has done and is doing. Through the people of Israel, the Lord was making known His way on earth, His salvation among all the nations. The psalmist writes, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.” Let all people everywhere declare what God is doing as He offers, gives, and seals His salvation to the nations of the world. God governs fairly and rightly. He punishes sin. He announces His wrath against all who transgress His ways. He makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In the same fairness, according to His mercy and grace, God offers salvation to all, Gentile and Jew alike, as He declares all people “justified,” “righteous,” “by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24 ESV).

          Christ Jesus, the One-of-a-Kind Son of God, took to Himself human flesh so that He might be humanity’s substitute. Jesus took the sins of all the peoples and nations upon Himself and bore them on the cross as if they were His own. He faced God’s anger and wrath, the Lord’s justice and judgment against sin, so that you and I and all people would have the complete forgiveness of sins, be released from the power of death and the devil, and be given eternal life. This is what we praise and thank our God and Father for. This is what we publicly confess and announce here in this place. And the Lord’s praise is found among all the nations as His people, in heaven and on earth, give Him praise and thanksgiving for who He is and what He has done for us in His Son, Jesus. Christ governs us in uprightness. As Luther wrote, “The 67th psalm is a prophecy of Christ, that He shall be king the whole world over and rule the people rightly, that is rule them with the Gospel, that they may be freed from sin to live for Him in righteousness and thank Him with joy.”[2]

          From a text that, at first glance, might not have seemed to be appropriate for a day of Thanksgiving, we have discovered a Word from God that leads us into true praise and thankfulness for His gracious and merciful blessings bestowed upon us day in and day out, without any merit or worthiness in us. Our God blesses us with the fruits of the earth. He supplies us with our daily bread, all that we need to support this body and life. He has given to us His own Son to be our Savior. He lavishes upon us forgiveness and everlasting life. Christ feeds us with His own Body and Blood with the bread and wine, nourishing us with Himself, the very Bread of Life. And as we depart from this Divine Service, the Lord places His blessing upon us one more time as He is gracious to us and makes His face shine upon us so that we depart in His joy and peace. Amen.

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

     [2] Martin Luther, Reading the Psalms with Luther (St. Louis: Concordia, 1993), 154.

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