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Psalm 67

Pastor Dean M. Bell

Thanksgiving
Unknown Location  

Wed, Dec 31, 1969 

+In Nomine Iesu+

+In Nomine Iesu+

Thanksgiving Day

Psalm 67

28 November 2013

An old adage says: “It is easier to give a gift than to receive one.” What does that mean?  Simply this, receiving a gift is difficult because it assumes a thankful spirit.  Indeed, receiving a gift requires an expression of thanksgiving.  And that must be learned.  Learned, because being thankful suggests being in the debt of someone other than ourselves.  To say “thank you” means we are dependant upon someone else – even if for a very little.

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And yet, you remember the words of St Paul.  To the Corinthians he wrote, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Here the commandments are laid before us.  And what is it we have received from God?  Well, let’s see.  Life.  Family.  Possessions.  Reputation.  Protection from devilish greed.  And that’s just the Second Table of the law.  Far more important are the gifts of the First Table – God in His person, His name and His worship.  It’s no wonder the psalmist speaks as he does.

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And how does he begin?  “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us.” To anyone who attends church with any regularity those words instantly strike a chord.  They harken to the conclusion of virtually every Sunday morning Divine Service.  How?  Because they echo the words of the benediction God drapes over you as you prepare to leave His sanctuary.  “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord life up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

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For what purpose?  “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” Any fool can recognize a gift when he sees one.  At least physical ones.  But only a Christian sees things as they truly are.  Only the Christian sees the eternal gifts of God.  Someday your home, your farm, your business will no longer be yours.  They will belong to another.  Your car will rust away into dust and your clothing into piles of lint.  Those gifts are only temporary.  But, to use the words of the psalmist, God’s “saving power” is eternal.  That’s the gift that plucked you from the jaws of Satan’s eternal hell and placed you into the household of God.

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“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.” You are not here today because there were no other places you could have been.  You are here because God has recreated you.  Your heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh.  Unlike those dolts who can do no more than belly up to the table and feast until they belch, you see the things of this world as only penultimate.  The ultimate is the eternal feast that knows no end.  The feast that if Christ Himself.  The feast to which you have been called.

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“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” Do you think the ways of God are clearly to be seen?  They are not.  If your turkey turned into an old hen and your dressing into stale bread, it would still come from the hand of a gracious God.  You see, your God judges and guides with equity – with justice.  God’s wrath over your sin has been revealed.  His fury against your sin has been displayed – and has run its course.  You see, between you and God the Father hangs Christ the Son.  Always it is so.  There is no way the Father in heaven can look upon you except through the crucifixion of Jesus.  You wonder why we have a crucifix on our altar?  That’s the reason.  To remind you that Jesus always remains before the Father as the one, perfect sacrifice for your sin.  In the crucifixion your sins are ever seen to have died in the body of Christ.  They can condemn you no more.

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“The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.” Those words echo the promise God made to Noah after the flood.  “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” The Christian sees this promise played out daily – yearly.  We see it again today – this year.  For our part, may greed never so blind us that anything less than a hundred-fold increase is seen as failure on God’s part.  That the seasons run their course, and God simply gives as He sees fit – that alone is sufficient cause to bring forth from us prayers of thanksgiving and praise.

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Finally, “God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him.” It is Martin Luther who helps us properly understand these words.  “The fear of the Lord,” he reminds us is not an emotional attitude or physical stance.  Rather, “the fear of the Lord” is a Hebrew figure of speech.  A figure of speech that means to truly worship God.  To run to God where He has promised to be found.  To run to God – revealed in His Word and Sacraments.  Think for a moment, why would we quake in fear of Him who blesses us?  Why cringe before Him who promises us all good?  That would be nonsense.  Rather, the Christian – seeing and recognizing the blessings of God for what they are – the Christian falls to his knees in worship.  And what is worship?  It is the receiving of God’s gifts of grace and salvation over and over again.

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Now, put it all together.  “May God be gracious to us and bless us.” He has.  “And make His face to shine upon us.” He has.  And for what purpose?  That “all the ends of the earth fear (worship) Him!” So may it be among you, always.

Amen

+Soli Deo Gloria+





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