Thanksgiving Eve

“GOD’S GRACE AT WORK”

Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Wednesday November 24, 2021 (Thanksgiving)

Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text for this thanksgiving observance is the OT lesson from the Book of Deuteronomy that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to enable us to remember that throughout history, your grace has been always at work within life’s changes and relocations, always providing a place to receive and share your gifts with others. Amen

Dear Fellow Redeemed Christ:

Starting with our first parents, Adam and Eve, God has given us a place to live, a place to tend, a place that produces sustenance for our existence, a place that cares for us while we care for it. In Genesis, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15).

Later, God, through a covenant, gave a land—a holy land—to his people. To Abraham, he said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the [river] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Gen 15:18).

And of course later, after Moses had led the Hebrews out of their Egyptian bondage and through forty years of wandering in the desert, “Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land. . . . Then the Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants’ ” (Deut 34:1, 4).

The gift of a land to call our own is God’s pattern, right from the beginning. Today, Thanksgiving Day, exemplifies and highlights this—especially for us as Christians—but in more ways than that.

Thanksgiving Is a Day to Recognize God’s Pattern of Grace Always at Work among Us.

Of course, we, as Christians living in the United States, thank our God for this land where we enjoy the ability to worship God without persecution. A land that produces much good food. A land in which to raise our families and build our homes. A land in which to live out the days of our earthly lives.

I.

But today, Thanksgiving Day, I want to remind you that we, as Lutheran Christians of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, should also remember what it is that brought our Lutheran forebears to America in the mid 1800s.

Three hundred years after the Reformation, religious persecution returned to the area, once again directly affecting those Christians who followed the reformer Martin Luther’s teachings and theology as recorded in the unaltered Augsburg Confession.

But this time, the persecution was different. The government was essentially forcing the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church—what we would know in America as the Methodists and the Presbyterians, among others—to ignore their differences and merge into one church.

Essentially, the Lutherans were being asked to abandon the Lutheran Confessions, especially as found in the Augsburg Confession, in order to bring only one state church to the area; indeed, false religion was again the source of great troubles. The direct descendants of the Reformation Church again found themselves being persecuted by the government for their faith.

Therefore, devout Saxon Lutherans—the descendants of Luther, Melanchthon, and all those who fearlessly stood down Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the pope himself—now some three hundred years later, in the 1830s and 1840s, were again being persecuted. This time, they packed up, boarded ships, and settled in Perry County, Missouri, a new world that would allow them to practice their faith freely.

These brave Lutherans, the forebears of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod—our forebears—about 1,100 of them, wanted the freedom to practice their Christian faith in accordance with Scripture, expressed in the Lutheran Confessions, the Book of Concord, and so they bravely and came to the United States in November 1838.

Four of their ships arrived in New Orleans in January 1839. Not knowing that another ship had been lost at sea, they spent some time waiting there. Finally, most of the remaining 750 immigrants settled in Perry County, Missouri, and in and around St. Louis.

Later, on April 26, 1847, twelve pastors from fourteen German Lutheran congregations met in Chicago, Illinois, and founded the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States. Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, better known as C. F. W. Walther, became the first president of the synod.

One hundred years later, in 1947, the synod changed its name to our present name: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. And today, the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is the thirteenth president of the LCMS.

I take the time on this day of Thanksgiving to give you a brief history of our own Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod because, while today is not specifically a church holiday, without question, today is a day that highlights God’s great mercy toward his children throughout time.

God continues to bless us with his grace—that beautiful, sweet, unmerited, undeserved goodness he shows toward us, his sinful and rebellious children. What he’s done for our church fits his pattern of grace always active among us.

II.

That pattern of grace is all a result of God’s one great act of grace. The gift of God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who took your sin and my sin upon himself and paid for those sins on the cross, is God’s grace at work.

And that one act of grace, Jesus’ death on the cross—since it removed the sin that would have ever separated us from all of God’s gifts and now instead has reconciled us to him as dear children—that one act of grace has made possible every other gift for every person.

The gift of the Garden given to our first parents is God’s grace at work. The gift of the Promised Land—promised to Abraham, shown to Moses before his death, and given to the people who entered into this Promised Land—is God’s grace at work.

The protection afforded the Wittenberg reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, as he faced kings and emperors and pope, in order to proclaim fearlessly the pure, life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ—salvation by grace through faith, without any work of our own—that is truly God’s grace at work, in so many ways!

The exodus of our own forebears—those brave Saxons who had their hand firmly on the Gospel as recorded in Holy Scripture, who, when challenged, refused to let go of that Gospel and instead chose to leave their own country behind in order to practice their God-given faith freely here in America—this is God’s grace at work!

And friends, the fact that you and I are here today, worshiping this same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—this is God’s grace at work. For this same God protected our own ancestors, whoever they might be: original immigrants to the first thirteen colonies or perhaps refugees just a few decades back from Cambodia or Laos.

Perhaps slaves taken against their will, either from Africa or from wherever they called home, literally ripped away and stolen from their own lands. Perhaps immigrants from Mexico or the Philippines or Russia, recent immigrants from Africa, or perhaps a happy bride coming to this country with her American soldier husband.

Whatever the background, whether the trip to America was one of optimism or one of terror, these are our ancestors, whom God has promised never to leave or forsake.

We recall the words of the psalmist in Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore”

Indeed, in our pilgrimage here on earth and our journey to our heavenly home, our Immanuel God is with us. This is God’s grace at work!

And so today, on Thanksgiving, we, many of whom are either immigrants ourselves or descendants of immigrants, give thanks to God that he had his hand of protection upon each man, woman, and child as they came here, as they came here to America, regardless of situation. And because of God’s grace at work in protecting them, you and I are here today, November 24, 2021, worshiping God freely.

God’s grace at work! Our Immanuel God is with us at the fall in the Garden, with us during the time of horrible Egyptian enslavement, with those brave reformers in Saxony some five hundred years ago, with those original immigrants from Saxony as they came to America to worship God freely, and always with us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, true Messiah for the world!

Thanksgiving is a day to remember God’s grace—his living, active, all-powerful, and all-forgiving grace—and that is why we gather here today. We gather to worship God. We gather to receive grace upon grace as we read God’s Holy Scripture and hear his Word being preached to us.

We received grace and forgiveness as our sins were washed from us in those waters of Baptism. We receive grace and forgiveness of sins as we receive Jesus’ body and blood in, with, and under the elements of the bread and wine.

Friends, this is God’s pattern! At a time when we were horribly and irrevocably lost, God saved us from our fallen nature through his Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, we have so very much for which to be thankful today!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends and family of Trinity Lutheran Church. You are living proof of our God’s grace at work. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.