Summary: Thanksgiving. God's greatest gift to us is His mercy. From His mercy we receive both provision for this life, and through Christ, grace for life in His kingdom, now and forever.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. (Ps. 19:14).
“His mercy endures forever”
Thanksgiving. It’s one of our favorite holidays. One of the major holidays in America. We gather together with family and friends. Turkey is the order of the day. Maybe some ham. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing. Pie, oh my, pumpkin pie. And cranberries. Don’t forget the cranberries. And then there is football.
We have a full house. We are full from the table. The screen is full of football, from one channel to another, and somehow we eat still more, with snacks and drinks during the game. One way to describe Thanksgiving is that it is a “full” day.
As we gather together, we pause to thank the Lord for His many blessings to us. Each family has its own tradition for giving thanks, but a common one, and one that is familiar to us, are the words of the psalmist, from psalm 107: “O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever.”
“O give thanks.” Thanks. The psalmist calls us to have a thankful heart. Some would say appreciation for our blessings. And this is true. But thankfulness is more than appreciation. Thankfulness is an expression of gratitude not just for the blessing, but towards the one who gave it. For example, when you give a child some candy, he has appreciation for it. Lots of appreciation. He is ready to tear right in and gobble it up. You don’t have to teach him that type of appreciation. Kids come by that naturally.
What do we teach them? To be thankful. “What do you say?” “Thank you.” We want them not only to appreciate what they receive, but to show gratitude, thankfulness, to others. Are we happy when they are happy, and appreciating and devouring whatever it is we, or another, has given them? Yes. We are happy even before they utter those words. But it pleases us even more, to hear their gratitude.
So the psalm urges us to “give thanks”. Notice that it is “give” thanks. We have to prompt our children to say, “thank you.” But one day, they learn to give thanks on their own. For true thankfulness cannot be compelled. True thankfulness overflows out of a grateful heart. It is given by one to another. It is a gift, every bit as much as the gift that was received.
We hear today people saying “I’m thankful for .... fill in the blank” And while that is good, sometimes it is a generic thanks, to no one in particular. Really not so much thanks or gratitude, as it is appreciation. So the psalmist directs us, least we lose our ways, “O give thanks unto the LORD.”
Our thanks are not just for the blessings. Our thanks is not just to one another, although it would be fitting to share words of thanks with our family and friends for all that they have done and do for us. Our thanks is directed to the LORD. It is the LORD who has given us family and friends, hearth and home. As we read in the catechism, “He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife, children, fields, cattle and all my goods.” (Luther's Small Catechism, Explanation to First Article, Apostles' Creed).
God has been good us. Very good to you and to me. “O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good.” At first I thought that was the next point of the psalm. God is good. But we must not blow by the important and little word, “is”. Our God is, Church, Our God is. God’s own name reflects His existence. He said to Moses, “Tell them, ‘I AM’ has sent you.” Others gods are only sticks and stones, the figments of imagination. It should not surprise us that the world scoffs, and says our God, the LORD God, does not exist. None of the other gods are real. None of them exist. It is only logical that they would think so of the true God as well.
But our God is. God, our God, has revealed Himself to us. We know He exists. He came to us, born of a virgin, as we will soon hear again in the Christmas story. He lived among us. He suffered, died, andwas buried. But our God did not end. He is risen, He is ascended, He is reigning. He is alive. Our God is.
Thanksgiving is a full day. But that full day will come to close. And on the morrow, despite all you ate, you will need to eat again. And life will not be so full. In fact, it can feel rather empty. And empty it would be, but from the empty tomb our risen Christ is filling the tombs of our lives with Himself. We are no longer empty shells, but vessels of His mercy, which He pours out on us in abundance and which overflows to others. Our God not only is, Our God is good, and more than that He is merciful. He is merciful in pouring on us the many blessings of this life: fields, cattle, cranberries and football. More so, He is merciful in His grace and loving-kindness towards us. He forgives our sins. He restores our soul. He brings us out of the kingdom of the darkness.