In the Liturgy of the Holy Supper these words come trumpeting forth every Sunday:
Pastor: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.
Pastor: It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Thus we confess that thanksgiving to God is not to be the activity of one day a year, but is to fill every day and every moment of our lives, everywhere. There is never a time, there is never a place, where thanksgiving is inappropriate or out of order. Rather, it is always inappropriate and out of order NOT to be thanking God. This is true for everyone of you today. No matter the hardships of your life. No matter the pain in your heart. No matter the sufferings you may be going through. You have been given a reason to thank God for all eternity. You! Do you realize that? And do you know why? Because to you and for you He has given the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That is what St. Paul was rejoicing about in our second reading this morning. He was writing to Pastor Timothy about the worship service. And the Lord’s Apostle tells Timothy that when God’s people come together there are to be supplications and prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks. That’s because in worship we stand before God - before Him of whom the Psalmist said: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; be thankful to Him and bless His name.” And this thanksgiving goes for all people, including our rulers. Why? Because God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
WOW! That is true for each one of you. You have cause for endless thanksgiving today because the heart of God has been revealed to you! And you are in His heart. You He loves. And for you He desires nothing less than salvation and knowledge of the truth.
Salvation: which simply means that you might share His joy through endless ages at His Feast. Today you gather with family and friends. There will be food and joy and laughter and stories and smells that delight the nose and sights that delight the eyes and maybe even music and singing. It will all be wonderful. But wonderful as it will be, it is only an impoverished picture of the Feast of Salvation that God has prepared for you. The joys and delights of today will come to an end and pass into memory. Treasured memory, to be sure. But memory nonetheless. And there are those with whom we used to feast who we will miss at our tables this year. And so amidst all the joy there is emptiness in our hearts - an aching and longing for the real thing. But the Feast that God has prepared for you in His Kingdom does not fade into a mere memory. It goes on forever and there will be gathered at that Feast all who have believed in the Savior. All His own. All the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Gathered together at the Father’s table, home forever. He has gone ahead to prepare our place, so He assures us. Now, is that not cause for endless thanksgiving, my friends? That’s salvation: having a spot reserved for you at the Father’s Table and sitting down to it forever with all His people!
He wants all to be saved, yes, and to come to a knowledge of the truth: that you might know the truth about yourself and this world and most of all about God. The truth about ourselves and the world is not so pleasant. The truth is that we and all of fallen humanity snatch at the good gifts of God and take them without so much as a “thankyou” in your heart let alone on our lips. Nothing shows us our fallen-ness in this world more than the fact that we are such a thankless lot. The truth about ourselves and about our world is that we are rude beyond imagining and experts at griping and complaining. Ever since our first parents reached out their hands and took what God had not given - in fact, the only thing in all the world that He had not given -- we have been blind to the gifts He does give. So blind that we need to set aside a day once a year to remind ourselves of how foolishly rude we are for the 364 days of the year.
So much for the truth about us. The truth about God, though, is that His giving doesn’t cease just because we’re rude. Just because we forget to thank Him. No, He makes His rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. He gives daily bread to everyone - even to the thankless. His giving is simply prodigal - out of all proportion! And that is because He is love. He is love and love gives and gives without counting the cost or weighing the possible returns. And the greatest gift your God ever gave or could give was His Son. Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, was born into human flesh and blood so that you might be restored to a life of fellowship with God, a life of thanksgiving, a life of endlessly receiving God’s gifts with praise and thanks to Him. To give you that life that is really life, He suffered and died on His cross, for your thanklessness and all your sin. And in His resurrection, when He destroyed forever the power of thankless existence, of death, He won for you the gift of eternal life. That wondrous gift He gives you in your Baptism. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Saved from thankless living, which is really just another word for death. Saved for thanksgiving, which is really just another word for God's paradise, His kingdom. Saved to know the truth!
So you. Wherever you find yourself today. In whatever disappointments or heartbreaks you’ve suffered. In whatever sorrow or grief. In whatever joy and gladness - know that in the gift of your Savior Jesus Christ you have cause for thanksgiving to God. If don’t feel particularly thankful today, spend some time before the manger and look at the little baby who made the universe, then journey to the cross, and look at that young man suffering under the weight of your sin and the world’s, then travel to the empty tomb and hear His angels announce His victory - His victory for you. Lift your eyes to the skies and ponder His ascension and how He prepares a place for you and will come again to take you fully to Himself. And as you make that journey you will know the joy St. Paul was experiencing when he wrote:
What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?
How shall He not indeed! Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift! O give thanks to the Lord for He is good! And His mercy endureth forever. It is indeed meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, O Lord, holy Father, Almighty, everlasting God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. May such thankfulness live in your hearts today as you feast together and every day of your life - people loved by God. Amen.