Thanksgiving Day, 2016

 

The Epistle. James 1:16-27

The Gospel.  St. Matthew 6:25-34

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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In the sermon just this past Sunday, we saw how the people living in the land of Judah were taken into exile by the Babylonians.  And Jeremiah the Prophet exhorted the people not to forget that God had once delivered them out of Egypt and He was again going to deliver them.

 

And He did.  God raised up King Cyrus who allowed them to return to their own land. And at that time they were to give thanks to God for this second great work.

 

In one of the Morning Prayer lessons for today, Thanksgiving Day, a passage is pulled from Deuteronomy.

 

In that passage, it reads in part, “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2 ESV)

 

This is what the people were to do once they arrived in the Promised Land of Canaan as they were coming out of Egypt.  They were to give thanks to God for His deliverance…for their salvation from Egyptian slavery.

 

 

In like manner, the first people who landed in the New World from England, the Puritans also gave thanks for their deliverance from a kind of tyranny.  They gave thanks that God had brought them safely to America where they could worship without outside intervention.

 

The Puritans saw themselves or saw their arrival as a similar sort of deliverance as those that the ancient Israelites experienced. 

 

Sadly that thankfulness and understanding of history has fallen on hard times as of late and has been almost purposely erased from memory.

 

There are no direct passages in Scripture addressing Thanksgiving Day.  This is a holiday that emerged long after the Biblical Canon was closed. 

 

Thanksgiving is a relatively new holiday in the larger history of the world.

 

Yet even though there is no Thanksgiving Day passage in Scripture, there are plenty of places where we are exhorted to be thankful or to give thanks.  So there is no shortage there.

 

Today’s lessons have ways in which we should be thankful.  In the Epistle passage from James, he tells us that every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. 

 

A very unique way of describing God …the Father of Lights.  And he talks about every good and perfect gift.  What are those?

 

Good, perfect.  The things that are good are from God.  They are good and perfect because God makes them so and because they are from Him and He only gives good and perfect.

 

Someone phrased it nicely when he said, “This passage teaches us, that we ought to be so affected by God’s innumerable blessings,

which we daily receive from his hand, as to think of nothing but of his glory; and that we should abhor whatever comes to our mind, or is suggested by others, which is not compatible with his praise.”[1]  

 

So there is a summary of all of the reasons why we should be thankful today and every day.  God blesses us in so many ways every moment in our lives.  These are gifts, he says that come from God’s hand.

 

A nice way to phrase it. 

 

The things we receive are from the hand of God.  We can imagine what this looks like.  It gives us an image of a hand, outstretched, perhaps bending down to reach us who are lower in some way….and in the hand are all kinds of blessings.

 

And these are blessings that should cause us to think of God’s glory…of glorifying God.

 

Anything else that comes at us from any other source must be scrutinized by our minds in order to assure that God continues to be glorified and we don't forget His graciousness.

 

Each day we are to be thankful for all things we receive from God. 

 

In the back of the Prayer Book we are reminded in the Thanksgiving Prayer to be thankful for, “for our being, our reason, and all other endowments and faculties of soul and body; for our health, friends, food, and raiment, and all the other comforts and conveniences of life.”

 

That is a short summary of all good and perfect things we receive from God.

 

All of those, if you notice, are under the umbrella of comforts and conveniences of life.  In comparison to many other peoples and places, we do live very comfortable lives. 

 

We find out just how comfortable we do live, when we travel away to places where things are not so readily available,

or not so comfortable,

or not so modern,

or not so spacious, or rapid, or efficient, etc. etc.

 

This is why Jesus’ words to us today in the Gospel, where we hear once again the call not to be anxious about our life…what we shall eat, or what we shall drink or what we wear.

 

These are all to us, though vital, still comforts and conveniences of life.  All three come to us easily and relatively cheaply.  Food, drink, clothing.  Comforts and conveniences.

 

And since these are supplied by God, and comforts and conveniences to us, Jesus says, “Don't be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

 

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

It comes back to this every time.  This is the design of God the Holy Spirit in giving us the Holy Scriptures.

 

He intends for us to read it in such a way so as to see in all of the pages, God working to give to His people.  In them we are to seek first and foremost, the Kingdom of God…above all other things.  Seek first the Kingdom of God.

 

He begins by the great-unmerited favor of creating us in the first place.

He goes on, after Adam and Eve rebel against Him, to seek out and to save a fallen people unto Himself.

He saves a group of people from slavery in Egypt, symbolizing His saving a still larger group out of the entire world from slavery to sin and death.

 

He does so by coming to us in the person and through the work of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ dies willingly for us, coming for the very purpose of saving us.

 

James says today, in fact, goes on to say that, “God, of His own will, brought us forth by the word of truth.”

 

He conquers death for us by rising from the dead and proclaims attaching ourselves to Him by faith…and clinging to Him by faith…. we will receive all of the same benefits when we die….and then rise again.

 

So even Thanksgiving Day extends far beyond the comforts and conveniences of life.

It extends far beyond Food and Drink, which we will all be enjoying today.

It extends far beyond the true meaning of Thanksgiving …for our land, our freedom, our liberty, our heritage.

 

It always circles around and ends up ultimately thanking God for all things, because He is the source.  And it ends up finally being thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All things in history and the world revolve around the centrality of Christ.

 

This is why James can encourage us with his words today on how to live this Thankfulness out.

 

Thanksgiving and other holidays around this time bring to our homes and tables different people….Family and friends who usually aren't there.

 

With this new company brings possible opportunities and possible difficulties…and a testing of our faith perhaps. 

We might be seated amongst unbelievers, those in lifestyles that go against our beliefs as Christians, those we are estranged from, those who have caused harm or discord or pain within the family…or those we just don't want to be with.

 

But, let us, this Thanksgiving, as we sit down to a warm meal in a comfortable home this afternoon… be, as James reminds us……(without compromising our beliefs), be, “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”  Why? Because the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

 

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

 

 

James is not thinking of Thanksgiving meals when he is writing this, but let us keep his words in our minds as we approach even this day.

 

Out of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us…in giving good and perfect gifts… let us in turn show forth the righteousness of God James calls us to show.

 

Of God’s own will, He brought us forth.  Out of His own good will and pleasure He has brought us forth and saved us.

 

In thanksgiving for that, let it be our guide in our approach to all things this day and always.

 

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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 



[1] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 291). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.