Thursday, November 28, 2013


Sermon on Luke 17:11-18
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 28, 2013 (Day of National Thanksgiving)

What is the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer?  Give us this day our daily bread.  What does this mean?  God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.  What is meant by daily bread?  Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Luther says here that the first and foremost way we thank God for the blessings He has given us, is to pray for them in the first place.  After all, God gives everything needed to support this body and life to everyone, whether or not they pray for it.  In fact, He gives everything needed to support this body and life even to those who don’t believe He exists in the first place.  And so the reason we pray is not because He won’t help us if we don’t, but in order to teach us that He is the one who gives us everything.  As Luther points out in the Large Catechim, that’s what the word God means: “that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress[.]”  Which means that when we pray, we are confessing our faith that the Triune God is the one who gives us everything and helps us in every time of need.  And in that sense every prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving.  Every prayer acknowledges God as the Creator and the Giver of all good gifts, because every true prayer looks toward Him.

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t explicitly thank Him for His mercy toward us.  Just as his mercy toward us comes to us in many ways, so also our confession of faith in Him takes many forms.  And it needs to come in many forms.  We all are selfish and lazy and would rather not be reminded who it is that gives us everything, and so God has given us many ways to remind us of His goodness toward us.  In addition to the simple fact that we pray to him concerning our needs, we also explicitly give thanks to Him that He does, in fact, provide for us.  We tell others what He has done for us.  We sing, we pray the creeds, we pray along with the prayer of thanksgiving in the liturgy, we thank Him for the food we eat, we thank Him in the morning and evening that He has taken care of us.  And today, even though it’s a day set aside by a secular government to give thanks to whatever and whomever one wills, is also an opportunity to give thanks to Him for His many blessings toward us.

But if it were only the blessings of this life that we were thankful for, that wouldn’t really be giving Him very much glory, now, would it?  No matter how well you have it (or how much turkey you’re going to eat later on today), everything in this old world will have an end.  No matter what blessings God has given you in this life, you won’t be able to take it with you.  And so our true thanksgiving, our true Eucharist (by the way, that’s the Greek word for “thanksgiving”) is found when we receive His eternal blessings.  He hasn’t just given us this life; by His death on the cross He took away our sin and gave us eternity.  He hasn’t just given us this life and everything that supports it, He has given us His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection by washing us in His Word connected with water.  He hasn’t just given us food and drink, He has given us His Son’s crucified body and shed blood.  He hasn’t just given us clothing and shoes, He has given us His Son’s righteousness which cover our sin and make us acceptable to His wedding banquet.  In short, He hasn’t just given everything we need to support this body and life, He’s given us everything we need to support our bodies and lives in the world to come.  If it weren’t for that, our lives in this old world would be meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  But because we have eternity, we can live every day in this life as those who already have everything and need not worry about our needs.  Because we have eternity, our daily bread is a gift with which to serve our neighbor.  Because we have eternity, we have Jesus, whose death and resurrection are our life.  And so it is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to Him who has given us these blessings.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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