Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve, November 25, 2015
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Sermon Theme: “Thank God during the Best of Times and during the Worst of Times”
(Sources: Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 12, Part 4; original ideas; Online Jokes about Thanksgiving; footnotes, Concordia Self-Study Bible; Rinckhart, Wikipedia.)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps like some of you were doing earlier today, the mother of the family was pawing through some frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn’t find one big enough for the huge number of family members coming the next day for Thanksgiving dinner. So she asked the stock boy, “Do these turkeys get any bigger?”
“No ma’am,” the stock boy replied, “they’re dead.
One year, a couple’s four year old boy wanted to give thanks before the Thanksgiving meal. Everybody bowed their heads, and the boy began his prayer thanking God for his Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa. Then he gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the mashed potatoes, the fruit salad, the cucumber salad, the cranberry sauce, the bread rolls, the pumpkin pie, the chocolate dessert and even the Cool Whip. Then he paused.
Everyone waited. And waited. Finally, after a long silence, he looked up at his mother and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t he know that I’m lying?”
Did it ever occur to you, when we think about Christmas, we think about many things, — mistletoe, Christmas trees, beautifully decorated gifts, shepherds, angels, the Bethlehem star, and baby Jesus, just to mention a few.
But, when most people think about Thanksgiving, they think about one thing – eating. Even though you may have turkey and dressing for Christmas dinner just as you did at Thanksgiving, EATING is not what comes to mind when you think “Christmas.” Many people need a different mindset when it comes to Thanksgiving.
In our sermon text from Deuteronomy, God is calling His people to be thoughtful, not careless. He is urging them to REMEMBER Him and all the things that He was doing and how much they depended on Him. How foolish it would be for the people of Israel to forget Him and give themselves all the credit for their success! How foolish it is for people today to do the same!
Reminds me of the pastor who complimented a farmer in his parish by saying, “You and the Lord produced a fine crop on that field.”
“Yes,” the farmer replied, but you should have seen that field when the Lord had it all to Himself. It was nothing but a weed patch.” That smart-mouthed farmer didn’t think about what that field would have been like if the farmer had it all to himself. All his work would be useless if the Lord did not provide sunshine, rain, and air. Not even weeds would grow without the Lord.
In our text, Moses reminded the grousing Israelites, “Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.” God tested Israel in the wilderness to humble them, to prove what was really in their hearts, and to teach them.
During His time here on earth, Jesus’ neighbors once chased Him out of town and tried to throw Him off a high cliff. Jesus’ closest friends betrayed Him and deserted Him in time of trouble. Jesus’ body sweat became blood when He reflected on the sins of the world. Jesus’ compassion for the world led Him to drag His heavy cross on His broken body up Calvary’s hill, where He was executed for our sins. Yet through it all Jesus never ceased praising and thanking His Heavenly Father.
His thankfulness never stopped even when at the cross He was forsaken by His Father, and suffered agonizing pain and death for all.
The Israelites grumbled and griped and complained about hardships in the wilderness, often forgetting about God. On the very day we are supposed to give thanks to God for everything with all our hearts, we pig out on much too much food and spend the day watching football. So instead of being a day of thanksgiving, it’s a day of overeating and being a couch potato.
Martin Rinckart, author of the hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” lived during the same time period the Puritans lived. While the Pilgrims were struggling with clearing land and growing crops in this new country, and learning to interact with the Indians, Rinckart was living in a small village in Germany.
Unlike the Pilgrims who traveled from England to Holland to New England, Rinckart was caught in the middle of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe. Because the village where he lived, like most German villages, had a big wall surrounding it, thousands of people crammed inside for protection. Adequate sanitation facilities were lacking. Adequate medical supplies were lacking. Food and water supplies were contaminated.
Those were conditions very similar to those which the Pilgrims faced in the hull of the ship named the Mayflower.
As a result of these terrible conditions in Rinckart’s village, the plague came. Eight thousand people died during one period of the epidemic. During part of this time, Martin Rinckart was the only Christian clergyman in the village. According to his journals, he personally buried more than 4,000 bodies – sometimes as many as 50 persons in a single day.
During this terrible, terrible time, Rinckart wrote his great hymn which we just sang, “Now Thank We All our God.”
“Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices; who from our mothers’ arms has blest us on our way with countless gifts of love. And still is ours today.”
Through all the insults, suffering, agony and pain which Jesus suffered, He never ceased praising and thanking God. Jesus was the “Sacrifice of Thanksgiving” because He knew the Father would not abandon the world. He knew that after the darkness, there would be light; after defeat, there would be victory; after sorrow, there would be joy; after death, there would be resurrection.
So, too, for us. After the darkness, light; after defeat, victory; after sorrow, joy; after death, resurrection!
For us, tonight and tomorrow, let the songs of the psalmists be lifted up: “Give thanks to the God of gods, His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, His love endures forever.”
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
“Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.”
“Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary, praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power, praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with harp and lyre, praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.