The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
Sermon for Thanksgiving Day 11/26/20
Let Us Give Thanks
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Our nation pauses once each year to celebrate a national day of thanksgiving. On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea – but it is religiously somewhat silly. We are to be a people of thanksgiving. Every day is thanksgiving day for the child of God. We are instructed in Scripture to give thanks always, to thank God with all our prayers, to rejoice with thanksgiving, and to praise God for all His blessings – both temporal and spiritual. To simply set aside merely a single day is unthinkable.
Then there is the second question about encouraging everyone to thank whatever deity they might worship. It seems that on this one day we are expected to pretend as a nation that all Gods are real, or all gods are equivalent, or all gods are the same God, which seems to me to be a denial of our faith. Look, for example, at the various communities' ecumenical Thanksgiving services in which all the churches are expected to gladly participate. Does that meal mean that on this holiday theology doesn't matter?
Of course, most people don t think that way, and, frankly, most people don't really take time to give thanks. Our nation has made this the holiday of parades and football games, at least until Covid. Many people limit their thanksgiving thanks to the table prayer at the big meal — if they think to do it there. This year the Governor is trying to keep us from even going there.
So why do we Lutherans celebrate this day with a special church service? Because we have so much to give thanks for! Plus, we, of all people, know better than most people what it is that God has done for us and how richly He has blessed us! I mean, if those who do not know God and His love will pause for a moment on this day to offer some sort of thanksgiving to the air, we who do know God will surely take time to worship Him in the holy assembly of the saints, and to gather as His holy priesthood to offer our thanksgiving in public – where the whole world may come and see how God's people truly give thanks!
Our Old Testament text speaks about God's goodness and faithfulness, but it really doesn't say anything about giving thanks. You will notice that the text doesn't even use the word "Thanks," or "thanksgiving," or even the word "praise." Nonetheless, it actually describes real thanksgiving. And our theme, this morning, is, Let Us Give Thanks.
The verse that describes genuine thanksgiving is verse 24. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." Those few words tell us how to give God thanks. We give God thanks by confessing Him and trusting in Him.
The Lord is my portion, says my soul. That is a confession. It is a confession of faith that sees the Lord as the Giver of all that is good. He is the Source of our riches – and we are rich, even if you don t feel that way. Let's look at that truth: many people in the world have only the clothing they wear. When they flee as refugees, many can carry all their belongings in their arms or in a cart which they can pull. We cannot. And very few of us have ever had to flee as refugees.
Most people in the world today do not own houses. Most cannot afford a car. Only a minority can have a telephone in their home, or a color TV, or even a radio. Most of the world cannot go to the grocery store and buy the incredible variety of foods that we take for granted. When they can get food, they have to disinfect it and worry that it is safe to eat.
We grumble about health care costs and the inconveniences we face, but the vast majority of humanity cannot see a doctor, let alone go to a modern hospital, have expensive and extensive tests, and receive elegant and effective treatments for various aliments which were fatal even in our nation just a generation ago. Oh, how richly God has blessed us.
But best of all are the blessings you cannot stockpile in your pantry or save up in your bank accounts. We have the knowledge of the love and goodwill of God for us. Most of us have grown up in the presence of the preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We have weekly services in which we can rehearse His great goodness and His desire to save us, and the salvation which He has won for us.
Because God loves you so much, He sent His Son into the world to be a man. Because of His great compassion, He placed His Son under the burden of the Law – with the same promise of eternal life if He kept it, and the same – and to us more familiar – curse that if He should sin, He would die both physically and eternally. He desired our good and our salvation so much that Jesus never surrendered to temptation – and He faced it more directly at times, and more subtly at other times – than we have. He kept the Law without flaw or failure and kept Himself pure and holy.
And because God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place, to take our sins and be punished for them. "He became sin for us, who knew no sin of His own, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." He paid the price, and now He declares that we are forgiven, freed from the punishment and penalty of our sins, removed from the power of sin to threaten and the power of the Law to force and coerce our behavior, and no longer accounted as guilty or as enemies in the eyes of God.
To those who know these truths - and believe that God did these things - and raised Jesus from the dead, and who trust God to do the wonderful things He has promised to do because of Jesus, to them God gives eternal life and salvation. And every little bit of all of these blessings comes to us because of the good will and the overwhelming love which God has for us.
So, yes, the Lord is my portion! He is the one sure thing in this world. His love is proven over and over again in the furnace of affliction and shines forth in the sheer wonder of His gift. How can we do anything but thank Him? Let us give thanks! And the truest thanksgiving we can give is to know Him as He reveals Himself in His Word, and confess out loud, not just in church but in my daily life that the Lord is my portion, and I owe all that I have and all that I am to Him!
How sad it is to consider how few who claim to know Him take the time on Thanksgiving to gather with His saints to worship and demonstrate by their worship that the Lord is truly their portion. The nation, an institution which cannot be Christian, can set the day aside to give thanks, but the people of God often cannot be bothered. How can His children treat Him so?
But thanks be to God you are here! You have come to lift up His name and cry aloud, as our text says, that the Lord is your portion. So, that you have the opportunity once this day to say it, please say it out loud, "the Lord is my portion, says my soul."
He is the Giver of all things, and the One who watches over our lives to rescue us, therefore I have hope in Him. It is because we know of His love and particularly because we know about Jesus and all that Jesus has done for us and won for us that I have hope. Let us give thanks!
We can give God no greater thanks than to have hope in Him. I place my trust in Him and I look at all of my life through His grace. How can illness or trouble really hurt us if God is on our side? How can our adversaries triumph over us if God is with us? If God is for us, who can be against us?
In our troubles, God comforts us with the promise that the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that He will reveal to us and in us through Jesus Christ. When we are grieving, God promises a day of resurrection filled with profound joy that will outweigh all of the sorrows you may feel.
To those who know these truths - and believe that God did these things - and raised Jesus from the dead, and who trust God to do the wonderful things He has promised to do because of Jesus, to them God gives eternal life and salvation. And every little bit of all of these blessings comes to us because of the goodwill and the overwhelming love which God has for us.
He also says that He knows that we cannot see or feel the reality of these truths today, but He calls on you to trust His love and His promises – not blindly, but with the cross of Jesus Christ in full view.
In the day of trouble, faith is the only real thanksgiving, that is, a living faith that speaks boldly and publicly about what God has done and which lives in complete confidence in Him. That is what God desires for us and in us. He wants us to "fear not", but rather to trust in Him.
And so the real thanksgiving is not simply a table prayer before we eat until we cannot move without pain, although the prayer is a part of it. It is not simply coming to church, although that is surely appropriate as a part of it. Our real thanksgiving is faith which finds hope in our troubles and sicknesses, and comfort in our sorrows in God's promises and blessings. Therefore, let us give thanks with both lip and life.
It is true, you know, what the Prophet said, The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. So we will wait for Him, and seek Him in prayer, and always give thanks for all His mercy and goodness!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)