Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Eve
November 25, 2009
Text: Phil. 4:6-20

Paul writes, “(D)o not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6; ESV). Easy for him to say? Not really, since he writes these words while in prison, the possibility of martyrdom a constant reality. Why can Paul say such a thing? Paul knows the source of all good, spiritual and material, and that is God, that is Christ Jesus our Lord. He has given us all that we have, and He alone preserves us. That is to say, the God who made me and all creatures, and “has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses,” still takes care of them all.[1] He also gives me all that I need to support this body and life. He gives me “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have” (1st Article). And as if this were not enough, He sent His Son for me. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and also the Son of Mary according to the flesh, “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, form death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own” (2nd Article). Well, if that is true, why should I be anxious? The God who created me has also redeemed me, and He has provided for my every need. For this reason our Lord Jesus also commanded, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will put on” (Matt. 6:25). Your heavenly Father, the One who created you and provided for your salvation by sending His only Son to die for you, He knows that you need all these things (v. 32). “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” ( v. 33).

This is not a promise of prosperity in the earthly sense. This is not to say that you will never feel any want. But this is to say that from the perspective of eternity, God has given you everything that you need, and continues to provide for you. This is why Paul can say, even from prison, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11-12). He can say this because he knows that in plenty and hunger, in abundance and need, all his good comes from the Lord alone, who has promised to take care of him in every circumstance. Therefore Paul can write boldly, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (v. 13).

Beloved in the Lord, you can make the same confession of faith along with St. Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” through our Lord Jesus Christ. For the same God who created Paul, the same God who sustains Paul, the same God who sent His Son Jesus Christ for Paul, has done so for you. The blood of the Son of God is the guarantee that God will preserve you. You have been purchased for God by the blood of Jesus Christ. How will God not also along with Him graciously give you all things (Rom. 8:32)? And so, we ought to rejoice in the Lord always, in all things, and in every circumstance. That is the admonition Paul gives two verses before our text. He writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). As strange as it sounds, rejoice not only in plenty, but also in hunger, not only in abundance, but also in need, recognizing that God is in control of everything, and He gives hunger as well as plenty for your good, need as well as abundance for your good. He always and only has your good in mind, even if you are unaware of what that good is at the time. What we are confessing in such rejoicing is God’s providence, that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

This helps us to foster a life of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day is not a Church holiday. It is a national, civic holiday, with a long and varied history. It is always Thanksgiving Day for the Church. But it is good and right that our government asks us once a year to especially give thanks to God for the blessings we’ve been given. How could the Church not respond to such a call? To give thanks to God is not to have an emotion, but to make a confession. To give thanks to God is literally to acknowledge verbally, with rejoicing, what He has given us, only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. We thank Him this day, above all, for our salvation in Christ Jesus, for the Gospel, for His Spirit, for eternal life, and the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. And so also we thank Him for all that He has given to us for our earthly lives, the people He has surrounded us with, our family and friends and congregation and community, our homes, our nation, our livelihood, our schools, and all the “stuff” that we have in addition. And we give of our abundance for the sake of the neighbor in need. That is how the Philippians gave thanks in our text, by giving to Paul in his need. In thanksgiving, we give to the neighbor. We can do so liberally, because we know that God is never finished giving to us. We know that the more we give, our supply is never diminished, because God gives more and more and more to us, without end. And what we are giving was never really ours to begin with, but a trust from God who gives it to us that we might use it for others, and so be an instrument of His giving to our neighbor. For this, too, we give thanks.

And we are content. Our happiness is in God. Not in things, but in God. Therefore we can face any and every situation without anxiety, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6). And here is the promise: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7). That is the peace of knowing all your sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus. That is the peace of knowing that you belong to Him in Holy Baptism, God’s own child. That is the peace of knowing that in the end, no matter what trials and tribulations you may have to pass through now, heaven is yours for all eternity.

Let us pray: “Heavenly Father, God of all grace, govern our hearts that we may never forget Your blessings but steadfastly thank and praise You for all Your goodness in this life until, with all Your saints, we praise You eternally in Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ,” Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.[2]

[1] Catechism quotes from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).
[2] LSB, p. 310.

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