“Though the Fig Tree Should Not Blossom” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 22, 2018

“Though the Fig Tree Should Not Blossom” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

A long time ago, as a young man, I decided to go backpacking in the Sierra Mountains of California. I had cousins who lived in Fresno, so I went out there and stayed with them for a couple days before heading up to the mountains. They had an above-ground swimming pool, and there were some fig trees right alongside the edge of the pool, within arm’s reach. So here I am, on a nice sunny California day, swimming around in a swimming pool, picking these delicious figs right off the tree and popping them into my mouth. Now for a city boy from Chicago, this was a rare treat! I tell you, it was easy to be thankful to God for his many blessings on a day like that, swimming around in a pool, picking figs off a fig tree.

But that raises the question: What about when there is no swimming pool and there are no figs to pick off a tree? What about when all the trees in California are burning to the ground, and the wildfires are taking a bunch of homes along with them? Can we still thank God on those days? Because, to be honest with you, there are a lot more days that are Midwest overcast than California sunny. There are more days now with achy knees than with young legs ready to go backpacking in the mountains. On days like these, can we still give thanks to God?

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Published in: on November 21, 2018 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 23, 2017

“Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Today I have three words for you. These are three things you can do to celebrate this Day of Thanksgiving. They are three words that are easy for you to remember for the rest of this day. And here they are: “Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk.”

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Published in: on November 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Thanking God for His First-Article Gifts” (Apostles’ Creed)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 24, 2016

“Thanking God for His First-Article Gifts” (Apostles’ Creed)

Thanksgiving is a time for “Thanking God for His First-Article Gifts.” What do I mean by that? I mean all the good gifts our heavenly Father gives us that are summarized in the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed. Let’s turn there, shall we? Page 322 in your hymnal. We’ll read that article of the Creed itself and then the explanation from the catechism. Together:

“The First Article: Creation. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”

In this First Article of the Creed, I think we can see at least seven kinds of gifts that God gives us, along with countless particular blessings within each category. The seven kinds of gifts I have in mind I can call by these terms: Creation. Preservation. Provision. Protection. Mercy. Thanksgiving. Faith. Let’s take them one at a time.

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Published in: on November 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Thanking God for This Good Land” (Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 26, 2015

“Thanking God for This Good Land” (Deuteronomy 8:1-10)

Today is the Day of National Thanksgiving. This is the day set aside for Americans to go to their churches and give thanks to God for his many blessings on our nation–which is why we are here today. And surely we have much to be thankful for, not least of which is this good land God has given us. So many natural resources, in such abundance! As we reflect on this, we are reminded of what Moses told the Israelites: “And you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” And so our theme this morning, “Thanking God for This Good Land.”

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Published in: on November 25, 2015 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Very Ferguson Thanksgiving” (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 9-11; 3:17-19)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 27, 2014

“A Very Ferguson Thanksgiving” (Habakkuk 1:2-4, 9-11; 3:17-19)

I’m sure many of us were watching on our televisions the other night when we saw what was supposed to be a peaceful protest in Ferguson suddenly and not unexpectedly turn quite unpeaceful. Looters started breaking store windows and stealing what they could get their hands on. Arsonists began to torch buildings and cars and burn them to the ground. Rioters were running wild and not much was being done to stop them.

Now suppose you were one of those business owners whose store was looted or burned. Or maybe you worked at one of those businesses, and now you don’t have a job. And here it is Thanksgiving. Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What do I have to be thankful for? Why did this happen to me? Why did God let this happen?”

Or let’s look at it from the other point of view. Suppose you were one who genuinely felt that the police officer should have been indicted and gone to trial. You sincerely believe that justice was not done in this case. You feel that the police do not treat everyone the same. You’re upset about it. And it’s Thanksgiving. And you wonder, “What is there to be thankful for? We’re still being persecuted unfairly.”

Whichever side of this case you find yourself on, this is not a happy week for our greater St. Louis region or for our nation. Unrest has been stirring in many cities across our land. And here we are at Thanksgiving. Indeed, here we are at the Day of National Thanksgiving. This holiday is specifically supposed to be about giving thanks to God for his blessings on our nation. And right now America seems to be at a low point. The economy is not great, race relations are not great, there’s rioting in the streets, Buffalo is digging out of tons of snow, and the polar vortex has arrived early and settled in for what looks to be a long cold winter. Is this anything to be thankful for? Well, today I want to submit to you that, yes, we do have much to be thankful for. Even when we’re having “A Very Ferguson Thanksgiving.”

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Published in: on November 26, 2014 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-33)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 28, 2013

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-33)

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”: The hymn our choir sang earlier and which we all will sing at the end of this service–this is definitely an appropriate hymn of thanksgiving and praise on this Day of Thanksgiving. How true are the words of the refrain:

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

And since today is the Day of National Thanksgiving, we can also say the same thing about the Lord’s blessings on our land, here in America: Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto us!

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Published in: on November 27, 2013 at 11:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Thanksgivings and Prayers for Our Nation” (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 22, 2012

“Thanksgivings and Prayers for Our Nation” (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

Today we are observing the Day of National Thanksgiving. The purpose of this holiday is for all Americans to gather in their churches and give thanks to God for his many blessings on our land. That’s the reason this holiday exists. Other things have latched themselves onto Thanksgiving–football and Christmas shopping, for example–so that by now the actual purpose of this day has gotten lost in the shuffle. But the reason we have the day off is to go to church and give thanks to God for how he has blessed our nation. And so that is why we are here today.

Besides giving thanks to God for how he has blessed us, we also gather to pray to God, that he would continue to bless our country and to amend it where it has gone astray. We pray for the people of our land, that our culture and our way of life would be more honorable and upright. We pray for our country’s leaders, that they would govern well, in conformity with God’s laws. There is much to pray for.

Thanksgiving and prayer, both. That’s why we’re here today. And so our theme for this national holiday: “Thanksgivings and Prayers for Our Nation.”

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Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Unexpected Thanksgiving” (Luke 17:11-19)

National Day of Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 24, 2011

“Unexpected Thanksgiving” (Luke 17:11-19)

It was an unexpected thanksgiving. I mean the thanksgiving recorded in today’s reading from Luke 17, the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. The thanksgiving that we find there was quite unexpected. And that may give us some guidance and inspiration for the rest of our day today, that we too may do some “Unexpected Thanksgiving.”

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Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer” (Psalm 67)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 25, 2010

“A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer” (Psalm 67)

“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.” Including this nation, the United States of America! And so this day is a Day of National Thanksgiving, a day set aside to do just what the psalmist declares. On this day the people of our nation gladly and joyfully praise God for his many blessings on this good land he has given us.

Well, at least that’s the idea. How many still bother to thank God on Thanksgiving Day is a question I’d rather not know the answer to! I’m sure the number would be distressingly small. But if other folks are failing to fulfill the purpose of Thanksgiving Day, that’s their problem, they’re the ones who are missing out. In any case, we are here, you are here, and you have come to give thanks to God. So please, let’s do!

The practice in America of setting aside a day to thank God for his goodness to us–this goes back to the days of the Pilgrims in the early 1620s. But as far as a National Day of Thanksgiving, the first one we had as the United States of America was in 1789, just shortly after our Constitution went into effect. The proclamation was issued by President George Washington during his first year in office.

I want to read this proclamation to you, because it makes pretty much the same points I was planning to make today anyways. And that’s because the things called for in this proclamation are basically what the Bible calls us to do. These are laudable goals we find here. So now I’ll read the proclamation–you have it there on your bulletin insert–and then I’ll expand on it. This is to proclaim, as President Washington calls it, “A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer”:

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Published in: on November 25, 2010 at 1:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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