Thanksgiving Day

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“Let All the Peoples Praise You”

Psalm 67

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

“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:4, 6).  That has always been the goal: one creation praising the Creator of all.  One creation, spoken into existence through the Word and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, praising His Father in the splendor of holiness (Psalm 29:2; 96:9).  The goal of the Triune God has always been that the peoples of the earth, all of them, should praise their God and Father, from whom every good and perfect gift comes (James 1:17).  He made men and women for that purpose and when sin entered His good creation and people ceased to give Him thanks and praise continually, He did not give up on His creation or His people.  He kept reminding a particular people of His promises; He kept being gracious to them, though they turned from Him to idols again and again.  He kept making His face to shine on them in blessing, though they tried to block out His light with the darkness of their sin (Psalm 67:1).  Finally, He made the light of His face shine with a unique intensity in Him who said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, ESV).  And it was all so that they would be His people and so that His way would be known on earth and His salvation among all the nations (Psalm 67:2).  “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.”

And so it continues, God’s gracious blessing and His saving plan for His whole creation.  It continues for you; has not the earth yielded its produce for you?  Has not God blessed you?  Has He not shined the light of His face on you in Jesus Christ?  He has, and He will continue to do so, though you and I, like those ancient Hebrews, do everything we can to prove we don’t deserve it.  And that is why we must continue to pray the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread; let alone the Fifth Petition, Forgive us our trespasses.  We pray in the Fourth Petition not only that we would receive what we need to support this body and life.  Has God ever allowed you to go without food, clothing, and shelter, at the very least?  No: “God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer, also to all the wicked” (SC, Fourth Petition).  That is the nature of our God.  “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45, ESV).  As George Washington put it in his first Thanksgiving Proclamation, 219 years ago yesterday, “[I]t is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”  (Though even that much seems to be far from many in our nation, lost in thoughts of the biggest shopping day of the year; giving thanks, to be sure, but more than likely not to God.)  But we Christians pray for more than that: “we pray in this petition that [God] would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving” (SC, Fourth Petition).  We pray that we would know that everything we have, from food and drink to good friends and faithful neighbors comes from God.  We pray that we would know it and receive it all with thanksgiving, especially the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (Psalm 67:7, ESV).

But God does not bless us just so we can survive and be comfortable and do the things we want to do.  Hear again verse 1 of our Psalm: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way be known on the earth, your saving power among all nations” (67:1, ESV).  This is an echo of the blessing Aaron gave to the people of Israel in Numbers 6, which is the same blessing that we use at the end of each Divine Service.  And God says about this blessing: “So shall [the priests] put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27, ESV).  You bear the Name of God, which He gave you at your baptism.  That blessing is renewed every time you hear His holy Name and the sign of the cross is made over you.  That is why you are blessed, and why you give thanks today.  And He blesses you also that His way would be known in your little corner of the earth, in your family and among your friends.  You are here, in the House of God, to return thanks for all His many blessings.  By your presence here you bear witness to the blessing of God, you reflect the light of His face to the people around you, and God has the same goal for them that He has for you: to trust Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.  There is no greater blessing, and all earthly blessings pale in comparison.  “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8, ESV).  It is through you, His people, that the blessing of His grace spreads to all nations: that His way of hope in Jesus Christ would be known on earth.  We bear His Name, we reflect His light; it is through us that God is making His appeal that all people be reconciled to God through Jesus.  In the light of that gracious blessing, then, we pray with both Martin Luther and the psalmist: “O God, who givest daily bread without our prayer, even to all the wicked, we pray thee that thou wouldst give us to acknowledge these thy benefits, and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”  “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7, ESV).

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/26/08

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