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Thanksgiving Eve

[1 Timothy 2:1-6] First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.


Lord’s Supper: The Church’s Thanksgiving Meal

“First of all” – first of all, first order of business – “first of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”

Thanksgiving – the giving of thanks - is of first importance in the faith of a Christian. Faith in God gives thanks to God. And we make our thanksgivings not only for ourselves but also on behalf of all people – for that which God has done for all people – “I urge that… thanksgivings be made for all people.”

In our nation, we have a day of thanksgiving commemorating one particular event, a feast of thanksgiving, from our nation’s past. I won’t give a history lesson on the first Thanksgiving Day feast – many of you probably know the details better than I do. But we all know the basic facts. A group of Puritan Christians – a very different brand of Protestants than our own tradition – sought to build a community in freedom where they could worship, teach, believe, and live according to their understanding of Scripture.

As Lutherans there’s a lot we disagree with in their understanding of the faith, but their willingness to do what they did for their perceived faithfulness to God’s Word is truly commendable.

The journey across the Atlantic was long, and their first year’s stay in a new land was disastrous. The majority of the group died in the first winter. The community would have quickly gone extinct if God had not provided them with friends in a native tribe. Having become political allies with one of the nations native to the land, these Puritan Christians, the “Pilgrims”, learned how to properly cultivate crops in that particular environment, and so on.

The Puritan settlement survived thanks to God’s providence of crops, game, sea food, and, especially, good and faithful neighbors.

The Thanksgiving meal itself was a meal in which the Puritans and Natives together consumed the very things for which they were thankful – they consumed in that meal the very things which gave them life – the food God had provided. It was a meal of thanksgiving and communion – thankful fellowship – and, in a bodily sense, a life-giving meal.

We too give thanks for all that God has provided for this body and life. We thank our Father for our body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses, and for still taking care of them. We thank Him for clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wives, children, land, animals, and all we have. “He richly and daily provides me with all I need to support this body and life.” [Small Catechism, Creed, Article I]

“For all this, it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”

We rightly give thanks at every meal – and must. And we rightly give thanks tomorrow for our nation and for those who first helped to establish it. God has made you prosper in this nation. Tomorrow you will give thanks by a meal, by a banquet, in which you receive and consume some of those very things for which you are thankful – a good portion of your daily bread.

As Christians, in the Church, dear brothers and sisters, you know also of other, greater gifts for which to be thankful. You know of another, greater, everlasting nation for which to give thanks. And you know of another thanksgiving feast.

Most of you, by birth, were born into the earthly nation in which we stand. By baptism – by your second birth – by baptism you were born into the Everlasting Nation, the Church, the Kingdom of Heaven. In this Kingdom of Heaven God has made great provision for starving, dying pilgrims like you and me – dying of sin; starved in spirit. And, in this Heavenly Kingdom, we also have a life-giving thanksgiving meal.

Heaven itself is a Thanksgiving Banquet. Heaven is a Banquet encircled around the Lamb on His Throne, the Lamb Slain from the foundation of the world. This is a Thanksgiving Banquet in which we forever sing thanksgiving and praise to God and to the Lamb for what they have done for us. And in this forever-Banquet, the Lord Himself – the Lamb Slain for our salvation – is our sustenance. He is our Feast forever.

The Lord’s Supper at the altar is earth’s side of this Heavenly Banquet, hidden under bread and wine. On earth, the Lord’s Supper is the Church’s Thanksgiving Meal and a foretaste of the feast to come. From earliest days, a common name for the Lord’s Supper has been “the Eucharist” – Greek for “the Thanksgiving”.

The Lord’s Supper is the Church’s Thanksgiving meal, not once a year, but as often as we’ll receive it. It never runs out. It never gets old. The more often we receive it, the more it abounds unto to us.

The Lord’s Supper is the Church’s Thanksgiving Dinner in which we receive the very things for which we give thanks. We receive the forgiveness of our sins. Our dying bones receive life from God. We receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Himself – His very Body and very Blood given and shed for us on the Cross, where the Lamb was slain.

In the Church’s Thanksgiving Meal, in a mystery, we receive the very Savior for whom we give thanks. Thanks be to God for our Lord Jesus Christ who has purchased and won us lost and condemned sinners, not with gold or silver, but with His own precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. In this Thanksgiving Meal, we receive all that Jesus is and all that Jesus has done. In our receiving, our sacrifice of Thanksgiving and Praise to God ascends.

Thanksgiving to God comes from faith. Faith in God gives thanks to God. Jesus healed ten lepers in our Gospel lesson today [Luke 17:11-19]. To the one out of ten who returned to give thanks, Jesus was able to say, “Rise and go, your faith has saved you” – “your faith has ‘made you well’”.

Our God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” The man and Lord, Christ Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for all people” [1 Timothy 2:4,6]. In a few days – this Sunday – return here to give thanks to your God and Savior, in His Thanksgiving Meal, for all He has done for you and for all people. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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