Thanksgiving Eve                   
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Psalm 145:10-16 Sermon                                    
November 25, 2009

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
450 "We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator"
443 "Now Thank We All Our God"
363 "Come Ye Thankful People, Come"
444 "For The Beauty Of The Earth"
364 "We Plough The Fields And Scatter"



 TEXT (KJV):   "10All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee. 11They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power; 12To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. 13Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. 14The LORD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. 15The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. 16Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."


            Do you know what one of the most common subjects is in the Bible?  Would anybody care to hazard a guess?  The answer is, "food."  I can't even begin to hazard a guess as to how many times the subject of food comes up in the pages of Holy Scripture, both in a literal and in a figurative or metaphorical sense.  And right along with that, we also read about the human feelings of hunger and thirst.

            We can start right at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden where God indicates that he has given various herbs and plant life as food for his creation.  Or we can move ahead a bit and read about the instance where Esau trades Jacob his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup.  And then, we read about how God fed the Israelites in the desert by sending them manna from heaven.  The story of Passover is centered around eating a meal.  And there are other feasts that are spoken about as well. 

            In the New Testament, we know the story about how Jesus fed the five thousand with the few loaves and fishes given him by a small boy.  We have read about Jesus going to the home of Mary and Martha for a meal, or how Jesus cooks breakfast on the shore of the Galilee lake for the men who have been out fishing.  In the story of the Prodigal Son, we are told about the grateful father killing the fatted calf and hosting a huge celebration upon his son's safe return.  In the book of Acts, Simon Peter sees the great sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals, as he hears God's command to "take Peter, kill and eat." 

            Then there are all those metaphorical, or illustrative references to food as well.  The very Word of God is compared to food, food for the soul that is.  Jesus is described as the Bread of Life of which a person may eat; or the water of life of which a person may drink.  In Revelation, there are scrolls which are eaten that are described as tasting "sweet as honey."

            And as we are now celebrating Thanksgiving, our thoughts are turned toward food and eating.  In one way or another, Thanksgiving and food are almost inseparably connected.  And I can assure you that every supermarket and grocer in the country have prepared for it.

            As I read through the grocery advertisements in the newspaper last Wednesday, numerous supermarkets are advertising carry-out Thanksgiving meals.  For somewhere around $60, you can get a turkey (or sometimes ham if you prefer), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, maybe sweet potatoes of some description, green bean casserole, bread rolls, and pumpkin pie.  All one has to do is just warm it up and eat it.  For a lot of people who want a more traditional Thanksgiving meal, and don't want to fuss with all of the preparations, this has been a great way to go.  And considering the number of people that such a meal can feed, it is a very economic alternative as well.

            This evening before Thanksgiving day, the text I've chosen for our meditation contain words that are most likely familiar to you, especially verses 15 and 16: "15The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. 16Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."  I have, at many times during my ministry, when I have the opportunity to return thanks before a meal, repeated these words as part of the prayer.  I think they are most appropriate. 

            I can't take credit for this idea however.  Dr. Martin Luther himself suggests these two Psalm verses as a table prayer.  And he also suggests the use of the verse that reads:  "O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever."

            Now you may be wondering why I didn't include the Biblical reference for that last verse.  The reason I didn't, is because those exact same words are repeated eight different times in the Old Testament--six times in the Psalms, once in Ezra, and once in 1 Chronicles; so take your pick. "O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever."  In good Lutheran tradition, we follow Luther's suggestion every time we repeat these words when we, as a congregation share a meal together.  Very appropriate indeed.

            So now we see two very important things coming together here:  First of all, we recognize and understand that all of our food and other necessities of life come from God as a blessing.  Acts 14:17 informs us, "And yet he has not left himself without witness by doing good, by giving you rain from heaven and crops at the proper times, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." James 1:17 also instructs us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or varying shadow."

            In the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer, Jesus instructs to pray seven very simple words:  "Give us this day our daily bread."  To further explain this, Dr. Martin Luther writes in his small catechism: "Daily bread includes everything that we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, fields and flocks, money and goods, a godly family, good workers, good government, honest leaders, good citizens, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, loyal friends and good neighbors."

            God graciously gives us the necessities of life, not because of anything we have earned or deserved, but because of his great love for us.  God is the one who provides; and if anybody thinks that they are providing for themselves without God being involved, then they need only to think of what could happen should God withdraw that hand of blessing.  I shudder to think of what would happen.

            Secondly, God wants us to give thanks for the blessings he has given us.  For the Bible to repeat the same exact words of thanks eight times alone is a good indication.  Plus there are other instances too.  One of the Gospel readings appointed for Thanksgiving is from Luke chapter 17 where Jesus heals the ten lepers.  Ten were healed, but only one came back to Jesus to say "thank-you," and that one person wasn't even a Jew.  Verses 15-18 read:  "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at [Jesus'] feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."

            Out of all of the festivals and holidays we celebrate as a church, do you realize that Thanksgiving is the only such festival that has a command of God attached to it?  That's true!  Thanksgiving has roots going back throughout Biblical history, because it is something God wants his children to do.

            The church has celebrated Thanksgiving in various forms throughout the ages.  Only the United States and Canada actually have public holidays for this event.  But regardless of where we might be living, we need to remember that God's desire for his children to give thanks is universal, public holiday or not.  And for us to take an hour of time once a year to come to church specifically for this purpose is hardly too much to ask.

            Another thing we need to remember is that as we have been blessed, we in turn become a blessing for others.  And there are many ways we show gratitude to God by the way we treat others.  In Matthew chapter 10 verse 42 Jesus says, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."  It can be that simple.

            As we consider how food and Thanksgiving are almost inseparably connected, I can only think how we all have been blessed in that way.  Food is a great topic for me; I enjoy preparing it; and as you can quite obviously see, I enjoy consuming it as well.  And I know you all have been blessed in this way too.  In fact, I think it would be a safe bet that I could walk into any of your homes right this very minute and find something to eat.  You can open the fridge, or freezer, or the cupboard, and one place or another you'll have food of some description.  I don't believe that any of you have the proverbial barren "Mother Hubbard cupboard."

            But do we realize that by having food in our homes, this is a direct blessing from God?  Do we realize that God has given us the financial ability to purchase what we need?  Do we see God's open hand continually providing for us?

            During the years of my ministry, and especially since I've been a Police Chaplain for the last 10 1/2 years, I've often helped people who are in need of food.  In Lincoln, we have a lot of places where people can get free food.  There's the Salvation Army, Lincoln Action Program, the People's City Mission, various church affiliated social service agencies, and countless Food Net participants.  There are lots of resources.

            But the thing that gripes me the most, is when people want help, but they want it on their own terms.  Or, they feel that somehow society owes them a handout.  I remember one instance when I was on chaplain duty where I had to take food to a family.  Normally people have to go to the agency to get the food. The chaplains deliver only if it is a shut-in or an emergency situation. 

            Anyway, when I got there, I discovered two adult women and several teen children who were lounging around the television playing video games.  They complained because I hadn't brought the food boxes to their door.  In response, I told them that those strapping young kids could shut off the TV and come out to the van to get the food; and if they didn't, then I was going to take the food back and they could do without it.  They didn't like my response, but they came and got the food. 

            Situations like this make us shake our head in amazement.  How can somebody be so selfish and thankless?  But the Israelites in the Old Testament weren't much better.  Even when God gave them manna to eat in the desert so they wouldn't starve, they complained about it.  God was understandably quite upset with them.

            In our own lives, we often express dissatisfaction when God doesn't bless us like we think he should.  We want to be blessed on our own terms, and not on God's.  And usually it's because what we want isn't exactly what we need.

            There's an old hymn that's made its way into some of the newer hymnals.  Allow me to share a couple of the stanzas with you:  "Forgive us, Lord, for shallow thankfulness, for dull content with warmth and sheltered care, for songs of praise for worldly wealthiness, while of your richer gifts we're unaware.  Forgive us, Lord, for selfish thanks and praise, for words that speak at variance with deeds; forgive our thanks for walking pleasant ways, unmindful of a broken brother's needs."

            The words of that hymn do seem rather harsh, but yet they are realistic far too often.  Many times we are half-heartedly thankful, taking God's blessings for granted.  And as it goes so often, we are selfish with what we have.  It's mine, I worked for it, and nobody's going to deprive me of it.  And God's hand of blessing sort of fades into the background as we once again take him for granted.

            When we see how far short we've fallen when it comes to giving thanks to God; when we see how sinful our attitudes have become; when we see just how dissatisfied we can be with what God has blessed us with, then it's time to look to food--but a different kind of food.

            In John chapter 6, Jesus says in verse 27: "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."  And Jesus continues on in verse 35:  "...I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

            Jesus invites us to come to him in faith.  For all those times we have demonstrated shallow thankfulness, for all those times we've grumbled and complained, for all those times when we think we have better things to do than to give thanks to him, he gives us the ultimate gift.  Because Jesus gave his life for us, we have forgiveness and life.  Through faith, in a figurative sense we "taste" this "Bread of Life."  When we partake of Jesus through faith, we are eternally satisfied.  We will one day join in the feast in heaven, the place where we will hunger and thirst no more.  As important and as necessary as God's earthly blessings are, the gift for which we are truly thankful is Jesus himself.  Jesus is the food that never spoils or decays, but is the food that endures to eternal life.

            In the old Communion liturgy, we hear the phrase:  "It is truly meet, right, and salutary, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty and Everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Giving thanks at all times and in all places--it's the right thing to do, and it's what God wants us to do.

            I don't know what your plans are for a Thanksgiving meal.  But regardless of whether it is a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, or it is nothing more than beans and rice, may we always be truly thankful for what we have received.  And as we eat our meal tomorrow, or whenever we consume any meal, may we always remember the words of the Psalmist in our text for this evening: "15The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. 16Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."