Thanksgiving Day

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True Daily Bread”

Luke 12:13-21

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

Somehow this text does not strike the right note. Admittedly, it is the text assigned to “Harvest Observance” rather than Thanksgiving, but since Thanksgiving Day is a peculiarly American day, and not a liturgical day, I felt free to use these texts instead. But the other Gospel reading, from Luke 17, is about the single thankful leper; or, at least, the single thankful leper who actually thought to thank God for his healing. So, that’s not much better, unless we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we, of course, would be that one thankful man. So we have either the one percent of people who are thankful to the Giver of all good things; or we have this text, about the rich man who thinks he’s gotten everything for himself. He’s so impressed with his industriousness that he’s going to tear down his small barns and build bigger ones. He’s going to retire, take it easy, relax, eat, drink, drive his new car to his favorite restaurants and pass the rest of his days in luxury and laxity. And that goes down on this Thanksgiving like an overcooked piece of breast meat or a dry yam. Here we are, ready to give thanks for the abundance of our possessions, and Jesus says, “Watch, and guard [yourselves] from all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). And it doesn’t really fix anything if we call them “blessings.” They are, and, they are all given from God “purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me” and, so, “it is my duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him” (SC, Creed, I). But we can hide a lot of selfishness under the word “blessings.” It would not solve the rich fool’s problem if he had said, “Thank God for all these blessings which He has given me! Isn’t He good? He’s so good, in fact, that I never have to work again!”

Frankly, there’s no good news in this parable of Jesus. It kills us where we stand. It denies us any credit for what we have, and it says to those who do not thank and praise, serve and obey God, “Even what you think you have will be taken from you” (cf. Luke 8:18). But there is good news, and it is given to those who know that we have nothing except what we have received: “Rather, seek His Kingdom, and these things”–food, clothing, shelter, our daily, physical bread—“will be added to you.” But you don’t have to seek far: the Word of Faith, by which the Reign of God comes, is proclaimed to you this day: “Fear not, little flock, because it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Now it is near to you, not in heaven where you have to ascend to get it; not in the deep, to which you have to descend; but right here, in our midst; in your heart, and in your mouth (Luke 12:31-32; Romans 10:6-9). This Word of Faith is nothing other than Jesus Himself, given into death and raised from the dead for all us rich and thankless fools. But more than that. Now He, by His Word received in faith, is our daily bread.

In order to strengthen the Kingdom in us, to cause us to pray for His Kingdom, and for His Will to be done, God, in the words of Luther, “attacks the arch-knave, the old Adam, with might and main, inflicts all kinds of adversity on him, thwarts all his plans, and blinds him and foils him on every side. This occurs when God visits all kinds of woe and grief upon us…All this takes place so that our will shall be throttled with all its evil inclinations and so that God’s will may be done in such a way that grace may reign in the kingdom and only God’s glory and honor prevail. When this happens, man finds himself beset by great fear and anxiety and cannot in the least imagine that this experience is related to the doing of God’s will. No, he now imagines that he has been abandoned into the hands of the devils and evil men, and that there is no longer a God in heaven who cares to know and hear him. Then the real hunger and thirst of the soul make themselves known as the soul yearns for solace and help. This hunger is far more tormenting than physical hunger. Now the word ‘our’ comes into its own; now we long to satisfy our need, and we say, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

“But how is that done? God has allotted us much tribulation in this world, and, at the same time, offered us no other consolation than his holy Word….Therefore, if you are willing to have God’s kingdom come to you and have God’s will be done, do not resort to evasive measures. It cannot be otherwise: God’s will is done only if yours is not done….It has been ordained—and no one can alter this—that in this world we find unrest, and in Christ we find peace. …

“This petition [“give us this day our daily bread”] teaches you where you may seek solace and how you may find peace in such disquietude. You must say, ‘O Father, give us your daily bread.’ That is to say, ‘O Father, with your divine Word comfort me, a poor and miserable wretch. I cannot bear your hand, and yet I know it works to my damnation if I do not bear it. Therefore, strengthen me, my Father, lest I despair.’ … It is true that no one is able to suffer and die fearlessly (which God, after all, wants us to do) unless he is strengthened for this. There is no creature that can give us this strength. On the contrary, all creatures, especially man, are more apt to make us weak and inconstant and yielding, if we should seek help and comfort from them.

“Therefore, it is only the Word of God or our daily bread that must strengthen us. This is what God says through the mouth of Isaiah, ‘The Lord God has given me a wise tongue so that I may know how to sustain them that are weary’ [Is. 50:4]. And in Matthew 11[:28] we read, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ And in Psalm 119[:28] David says, ‘Strengthen me with thy word,’ and in Psalm 130[:5], ‘My soul has relied on his word.’ With such teachings the entire Scriptures are full, full, full! …

“[H]ere we are not asking primarily for ordinary bread, which is also eaten by the heathen and given unbidden to all men by God, but are asking for ‘our bread’ because we are children of the heavenly Father. So then, we are addressing a heavenly and spiritual, not an earthly, Father in this petition, and we ask not for earthly, but for heavenly and spiritual bread, which is ours and which we as heavenly children need. … [God’s Word] nourishes [man] as an immortal and supernatural being, yes, far beyond his present existence even as an eternal being. Christ says, ‘He who eats this bread will live for ever’ [John 6:51, 58]. Hence this petition means to say, ‘Father, give us the supernatural, immortal, eternal bread.’ …

“The bread, the Word, and the food are none other than Jesus Christ our Lord himself. Thus he declares in John 6[:51], ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven to give life to the world.’ So then, let no one be deceived by words or false appearances. Sermons or doctrines which do not bring and show Jesus Christ to us are not the daily bread and nourishment of our souls, nor will they help us in any need or trial….Christ our bread is given…outwardly…in two different ways: first, through words; second, through the Sacrament of the Altar….God confers a great blessing whenever he permits Christ to be preached and taught. Of course, only Christ should everywhere be preached and this daily bread distributed. …

“’O heavenly Father, since no one likes your will and since we are too weak to have our will and our old Adam mortified, we pray that you will feed us, strengthen and comfort us with your holy Word, and grant us your grace that the heavenly bread, Jesus Christ, may be preached and heard in all the world, [including in our United States,] that we may know it in our hearts, and so that all harmful, heretical, erroneous, and human doctrine may cease and only your Word, which is truly our living bread, be distributed” (Luther, “An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer,” AE 42:49-62).

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). Amen.

Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/23/10

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