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Yahweh Provides November 24, 2011

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Day of Thanksgiving
November 23-24, 2011

Focus: God provides for His children.
Function: That the hearers give thanks to God for His gifts.
Structure: Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.

Yahweh Provides

Thanksgiving. Who doesn’t like Thanksgiving? When else do you get to gather with family and friends? When else do you get to eat such great home cooking? When else do we get to watch football on a Thursday? And of course, when else do we get to prepare to camp out all night for the big deals on Black Friday?
Thanksgiving. It’s a great national holiday. But have we lost the true meaning of Thanksgiving? The Pilgrims or Separatists settled Plymouth colony in December 1620. After suffering through a hard first winter in America, where half their population died, they received some unexpected help from the local tribe known as the Wampanoag. Led by Samoset and his fellow tribesman Squanto, the natives taught the settlers how to grow corn and beans, which plants were good for medicine, how to get sap from maple trees and many more things. That first fall, the settlers of the Plymouth Colony found all of their needs met. They had food, shelter, friends, and the skills needed to really call America home.
This sets the stage for the first Thanksgiving as we know it today. The people of Plymouth invited the Wampanoag tribe for a feast of thanksgiving, and they ate and celebrated together for three days.
We can only imagine how much more peaceful and relaxed their feast was than ours is today. The hustle and bustle of getting the meal prepared. The quarrels that sometimes come up when you see a relative you only see once a year, if that. The stress of finances and the burden of shopping that the season brings as we’ve all turned our eyes towards Christmas already.
And many of us don’t even get a holiday. As an example, my dad works on computers, and with the office closed, his bosses see that as the best time to work on their systems. So his whole team will work round the clock this Thanksgiving. And with stores opening earlier and earlier, this trend may grow in the near future. And some of us here may suffer from loneliness this year as families move away and loved ones die. For some, the holiday simply becomes a reminder of the things they don’t have.
Looking at the negatives, seeing the glass as half empty, is definitely a slippery slope. It’s all too easy to forget the purpose for this holiday. It’s all too easy to forget the things we have to be thankful for. The people of Plymouth didn’t curse God because of their losses, but praised Him for what they had.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to count the blessings and provisions that Yahweh has given to us. In our Old Testament lesson, Moses reminded the Israelites of just that. He reminded them of the promised land God had given them. He reminded them of their being humbled by God, of the gift of manna which they had never seen before. He reminded them that they always had clothing and sandals for their feet during their forty years of wandering. He reminded them that Yahweh indeed brought them into the promised land, with its streams, valleys, and hills, with wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil, and honey. He reminded them that they didn’t lack anything they needed. Indeed the life of the nation of Israel was better than it had been before. Moses made sure the Israelites remembered that God was the One providing for them.
And that’s where Thanksgiving should be in our hearts today. It should be a reminder to count our blessings, not our shortcomings; to give thanks for what we have been given by God, not to weep about what is lacking.
When we count our blessings, it is easier to see and give thanks for the things of this world than for the spiritual blessings we have. It is easier to see the roof over our heads, the jobs, the friendships, the clothes, and the many comforts of this life. Those are all definitely things to be thankful for. But, we’re at church, so I’ll focus on the spiritual blessings we have, and leave the rest to you and your family to give thanks for.
How often do we count this congregation as a gift from God? How often do we think about the relationships, the friendships, that we have here? This church, this place where you come to worship Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, this is a gift from God Himself to you. Each and every member here is a blessing from God. So we take the time today to give thanks for our church.
“Yahweh, heavenly Father, we come before You this day to give thanks for all the blessings that You have given to us as Your children. We give You thanks that this year alone, we had 11 baptisms. We rejoice in having received 22 new members via transfer from other churches. And we thank You that through our new member classes, we added another 36 members to our congregation. In one year, that’s 69 new men, women, and children, all of whom are Your children, our brothers and sisters. And if that weren’t a blessing enough, every weekend, You provide multiple visitors who walk through the doors and join us in the pews to hear Your beloved gospel. Yet another blessing. We most certainly give You thanks and praise for Your continued work in growing Your kingdom among us.
Lord, we also thank you for all the things that go on around this church. We give thanks to You for all the various ministries here. We are thankful for the volunteers that make up the various boards and councils, as well as all the other volunteers who work behind the scenes to keep this church moving. We praise You for our Pastor, organist, and our entire staff for all they do for Your church. We give thanks for our choirs, both vocal and bells, and our contemporary worship team. We rejoice for all the little children that You have put in this place. We give thanks for the various ministry groups, who develop friendships and do service and outreach efforts to further Your kingdom.
We give praise to you for the vast number of Bible study opportunities throughout the week. We give thanks for the Sunday School program and our Youth group. We rejoice in the gift of our school, where kids can come and learn about You. We give thanks for the teachers who teach, and the whole staff for all they do to keep the school functioning.
Yahweh, Lord God, heavenly Father, sometimes we forget that all of these things, all of our ministries are a gift from You, a provision for Your kingdom. Thank You for making us Your people. Thank You for blessing us, and for working in us to continue to bless the rest of Your creation. Thank You for the whole Christian Church. Thank You for being our God. Amen.
Before anyone accuses me of forgetting, there is one final blessing for which we give thanks on this day. That is the gift of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. Sometimes we do forget this blessing. As Lutherans, we’re typically so good at talking about Jesus, about making sure everything is centered in the cross, that our senses have actually become dull to just how strange this gift really is.
As a people, a nation, a community, as individuals, however you choose to look at yourself, we are so far from what God made us to be. Sin corrupted us so much, that God had to resort to a very drastic measure to fix us. Yahweh is so holy, that one little sin is enough to ruin man, creation, everything. Sin is so intoxicating and has spread so thoroughly throughout us, that Yahweh had to make the ultimate of sacrifices to atone for us.
It’s easy to overlook how serious the death of Jesus really is. For anyone who has lost a child, maybe you have the opportunity to know that feeling just a little better. But imagine, sacrificing your beloved child to save some no good, wretched, worthless, cheating scumbag. Well, insert Jesus as that child, and we’re the scumbag. It’s a strange, twisted reality. And that shows us all the more just how much Yahweh, our Father and Creator, truly loves us. He gave up His Son when we were worthless. That also shows us how much Jesus cares for us. We are family, now and forever.
So on this, Thanksgiving Day, we take the time to remember. We take the time to give thanks for all of the blessings that God has provided for us. We rejoice in His provisions and gifts, both earthly, and spiritually. And nothing says it better this day, than our brother Moses when he said: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise Yahweh your God for the good land He has given you.” Amen.

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