Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Fellow redeemed in Christ, the text for
this evening comes from the 103rd Psalm, the first fourteen verses.
You may be seated.
David did write:
103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the
who crowns you with steadfast love
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like
6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and
slow to anger and abounding in
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us
according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our
11 For as high as the heavens are
above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love
toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the
so far does he remove our
transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to
so the Lord shows compassion to
those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
So far, the text.
When the Roman Empire became Christian around the year 300 A.D., Emperor Constantine declaring it
to be the official religion, there were two holy patriarchs in the church, the
bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople. The bishop of Constantinople
was a man named Chrysostom, a gifted orator and a great teacher of the faith.
In his old age, he was removed from office, banished from his country, thrust
into misery and abused, made to flee, suffered hunger and pestilence. His
dying words were recorded as saying, “God be praised for everything.”
From every hymn that you’ve sung yet this evening, for every
responsory that you have vocalized back, every word that’s come from the lips
of our choir members, it has focused in upon the blessing of God’s holy name
whom you and I bear and the blessing of that name because He is good and
gracious to us. The definition of “good and gracious” is a difficult term to
pin down if we only define that term according to life experience. Chrysostom
could not have defined it according to his life experience, and yet, he said,
“God be praised for everything.”
There are many people who will eat their Thanksgiving meal
with dust and dirt scattered among the turkey and the dressing over in Iraq and
Afghanistan, far away from their loved ones and their family members. And
they’ll get done eating that wonderful meal and it’ll seem like any other day.
Because they’re eight or nine hours ahead of us, there’s no football game to
watch, at least not till the wee hours of Friday morning. There’s no family
around which to gather. There’s no joy to be found in frivolity with their
loved ones. It’s just them and their fellow comrade in arms. And that’s it. God
be praised for everything.
When Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, and the
text for this evening has God reminding them, the people of Israel, very
clearly when…. they are to remember the whole way that the Lord your God has
led you these forty years, how he humbled you, and how he made you know that
man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth
When someone is hungry, it is very easy to say, “Man does
not live by bread alone,” because he doesn’t have much bread. And so he
understands, whatever comes comes as a gift from God, but what happens….what
happens to people like us when we’re so stuffed with bread? We’re so satiated
with the blessings of this life and this world and the things around which we
can gather ourselves and which God can take and give at His whim and at His
And so, what of those things? What of God’s Christians who
are so full of bread? It’s easy for us to say, “God be praised.” It’s easy
for us to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s easy for us to say, “We’re so blessed
that we’re not like those who struggle and have difficulty in gathering their
food, who live in horrid conditions.”
Maybe….maybe it’s not such a good thing to have so much, to
be so satiated with the things of this world. It’s why Jesus, in the Gospel of
Matthew in this evening’s lesson, reminded the people very clearly again, where
your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters.
It is only when we are spiritually humbled, as our Lord mentioned in the Old
Testament reading, how he humbled the people of Israel those forty years.
He fed them, too. Fed them and they were not hungry. It
wasn’t as if they struggled to gather and feed themselves. They were fed. Hand
and foot they were fed. God caused the quail to land every evening. God caused
the manna to be out to be gathered every morning. It wasn’t as if they
struggled with food. What they struggled with was their hearts’ devotion. The
same thing that all of us struggle with….our hearts’ devotion.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians in the epistle
reading, he was in jail, and he wrote, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever
situation I’m in. I know what it’s like to have a whole bunch, and I know what
it’s like to be without any. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
Which is exactly what we sang about, wasn’t it.
He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you and
satisfies you. Even though we’re dust, He does such things for dust because
He’s chosen to breathe His breath of life in dust and make dust a living being,
setting dust apart from all other dust that inhabits this earth. You are
remarkably different than any creature that roams this planet. You are not cut
from the same bolt. You are different, for only you bear the breath of God’s
soul. You have a living Spirit within you whom God has crowned and has redeemed
at great cost to satisfy your soul.
It was an early church father that said, “Our soul shall
find no rest till it finds rest in Thee, O Lord.” We have, for the most part
in this congregation, all of us who are sitting here, rest. We’ve amassed a
great quantity of food to consume. We have gathered wonderful furniture upon
which to sit and rest. We have a nice television on which we will watch the
game tomorrow evening. We have all of these great blessings, and it is Satan
who wishes us to set up shop here in this life and not consider the great rest
That’s when Paul, when he was humbled in such a manner that
he was and sitting in prison, he reflected and wrote those words. That is the
same reason that the people of Israel, sleeping out underneath the stars,
reminded themselves again it is not about the things of this life but the
promised land that we have inherited, not will inherit, have
inherited. Your promised land is heaven itself. You have inherited
such a place. It is not a will. It is…you have done it. It has been
given unto you. It’s just that we have to be crushed a little bit along the way
and humbled to be reminded of such gifts.
Isn’t it interesting? In the midst of so much blessing
where we thank God for blessing, we almost have to include the prayer, “Lord,
preserve me from myself and my blessings, for they are so bountiful and so
numerous that it is my temptation to be attracted to them and not unto You,
drawn unto them and not unto You.”
It’s almost sad and sick at the same….self-same time that
God almost needs to crush us so that we realize what it is that is so important
in this life.
Having done so, He is also the one who lifts you up and
crowns you, redeems you and calls you His own, as a father has compassion on
his children as the psalmist said, so He has compassion on us, for He has given
birth to us, begotten us, called us by name, and has paid the all-sufficient
sacrifice for the souls that inhabit a body of but dust that will live
forever. Remarkable indeed.
Be reminded that the same God who has stuffed us to the
point of satiation, of which you and I are, is the same God who is merciful and
gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and does not deal with
us according to our sins nor repay us according to our iniquities. Moving from
Thanksgiving to thanksliving is a transition that occurs every moment of every
day. It is not a New Year’s resolution that’s written out and the commitment is
made to turn over a new leaf. It is a daily turning it over, a daily and
moment by moment, because the challenge and the temptation never leaves us
while we inhabit this body and all that it contains, and until we’re departed
from this world and all that it contains and rid of the one who continually
nags upon us like a steady drip.
Thanksliving is each day and each moment. Thanksliving is
taking that which has been given to you and sharing it. It is not the sharing
of the thing, which is what we all wish to turn it into. It is the
sharing of the salvation and the forgiveness. It will manifest itself in many
ways, but that must be the prime motivator, or it’s empty giving for that which
is being given will rot, no different than the person unto whom you’re giving
Ah, but the salvation….that is eternal. And that brings the
person unto whom you’re giving it the same eternal life that you have. And you
will be with them forever in Heaven. So, no matter whether one is eating
dinner in a dining facility in Iraq, thousands of miles from their family, it
is the faith that binds the family together. It is that same faith that binds
us as a communion of saints, and it is that same faith that gives cause for
thanksliving. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.