in Sermons

21. November 2012
Thanksgiving Eve

Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Thanksgiving. Thanks and giving put together. Word order matters. It should be Givingthanks. First you are given and then you receive with thanks. That’s how it works. You say thanks only after receipt. We teach this to our children. First say please, then receive, and then say thanks.

Thanksgiving presumes we have received something and something worth giving thanks for. Everyone takes time before their big buffet tomorrow to say thanks to someone for their food. We say thanks to Mom or Grandma for slaving over the hot stove. Dad cooked the turkey and he gets a thanks. Our friends or family arrive and we say thanks for coming. These are good gifts—food, friends, and family. No doubt they are worth their thanks.

These are gifts given by God. God gives us homes, family, friends, food, and everything we have because He loves us in Christ. Thanksgiving is really about giving. God’s giving. Gift. Free. Generous. Bountiful. Loving. You’re here to receive. You’re here for the blessings. Free, underserved, and generous as God gives. God the Father gives you Jesus Christ. He forgives you, washes you clean, feeds you holy food, cares for your body and souls through bread in the ears. You receive everything needed from God.

No one wants to be dependent on another. Only reluctantly will someone resort on food stamps. Only out of complete desperation will they ask family, friend, or stranger for cash. To be a beggar is to be inhuman or so we were raised to think. Not with God. There is no more taking credit for your life. You know better. You are beggars and this is good. God made everything. The earth is full of His creatures. He makes the grass grow for the livestock and plants to grow for man to harvest. God gives us food from the earth and wine to gladden our hearts. (Psalm 104)

The pagans worship the god of their stomach and Football. They give thanks to the gods of hard work, fortune, and luck. They have been blessed by God but something is missing. The gifts of the Spirit—forgiveness, life, and salvation in His holy church—are notably absent. They feed their body and their eyes but pay no attention to their souls and their future death.

The pagans get the God part wrong. They also give the thanks part wrong. Throughout the Holy Scriptures, Jesus teaches us that thanksgiving is not a merely word but it is a giving. Word order matters. God gives and we return thanks by giving. It’s the divine “pay it forward” scheme. Thus, when you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground… and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there… You shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God.

There it is. Thanksgiving. Giving an offering of the first of the fruit in thanks. An offering is given not out of obligation, or duty, or even necessity, but in thanks. How many of us can lay our offerings before the LORD and then rejoice in all the good that the Lord [our] God has given to [us] and to [our] house[s]?  Too few. We hold the purse strings too tight. We love our wealth too much. Jesus says: take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.

You are completely dependent on your God. He gives even without your asking. He gives you daily bread and gives you faith to realize this is from Him. There’s the rub. God gives and faith receives. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Giver is ignored or dismissed. You’re here today not for turkey, smashed potatoes, or sweets. You’re here to receive bread from heaven, the Word that gives faith. And in receiving you realize God’s blessing and receive everything with thanksgiving. You receive and give thanks to the Giver of every good gift.

The thanks only come after the giving. If there is no gift, then there is no thanks. Christian worship is all about the gift: Word preached, absolution declared, water and word washed, body and blood of Jesus fed, blessing given. Such great gifts received and what happens? Anything? Wake up! The glory of God is revealed in His gifts. The Lord rejoices to give and gives that you receive. Receiving God’s gifts changes you. He gives you blessings that make you whole again through forgiveness of wrong. They are seals of a promise to be with you until the end of time. They give the inheritance of heaven from His last will and testament.

To the one who keeps the Lord’s treasures for himself, God calls a fool. It is foolish for you to receive and never give. It is foolish reap bountifully and then store in barns. It is foolish to give thanks and withhold charity.  It is foolish to receive the Lord’s gifts of Word and Sacrament only to horde this bounty for yourself. God gives, we receive, and we give thanks, not merely in word but in deed and truth. Lord, grant us the humility to receive with thankfulness and share with those in need.

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

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana