"Remembering" - Thanksgiving Eve
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
November 22, 2017 at 7:15 PM
Central Passage
Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Thanksgiving Eve, November 22, 2017

Deuteronomy 8:7-18, Luke 17:11-19




            When I think about the way my great-grandparents lived compared with the way I live today, I am amazed. Great-Grandpa Merle and Great-Grandma Dorothy lived on Minnesota prairie, from 1942 until their respective deaths in 1981 and 1985. (It was a step up for them from the North Dakotan tundra they had lived on before then!) Dorothy had to be a creative cook, as Merle brought home all kinds of game for the table. They really did need to hunt for food in those days, but she drew the line when he brought a skunk home once! They had an ancient oil furnace for heat, supplemented by a wood stove. The house had no insulation. They had no indoor bathroom until the 1970s. (You can imagine how cold that outhouse got in January.) At some point, they splurged and bought a black-and-white television that got three channels. And yet, they lived reasonably well. Despite terrible poverty, they managed to raise six children: two boys (one from Merle’s first marriage – his wife died of tuberculosis) and four girls.


            And yet, I, who live in incredible luxury compared with them, am not any richer than they were. Sure, I may have more material things, but I am no richer in love, faithfulness, or gratitude than they were. In fact, I wonder if I am more impoverished than them in those things.


            It is so easy to be ungrateful, isn’t it? It’s so easy to take everything we have for granted. We all got a rude awakening a few weeks ago when the storms went through and knocked out the power. How many times did you flip the light switch inadvertently after you lost power? (I must have flipped ours at least a half-dozen times!) There are so many blessings we enjoy that we give little thought to.


            Moses certainly knew this. He warned the Israelites against taking their blessings for granted when they entered Canaan, especially of regarding them as products of their own labor. As the Israelites grew wealthy and settled in the land, they would be tempted to forget the God who gave everything to them in the first place. Egypt could easily become a distant memory. The perils of the desert and God’s faithfulness to them in hardship could fade into legend. It would so easy to make gods for themselves, or themselves into gods.


            Temptation hasn’t changed much in 3500 years. Like then, we are tempted to be our own gods, ungrateful to the God who gives us everything. But time and time again, through word, sacrament, and experience, God reminds us where everything we have comes from. We are always receiving from outside ourselves. We require outside nourishment to stay alive. When we eat, whether at the Thanksgiving table or at the Communion table (another thanksgiving table!), we remember that we are not God – we are not self-sufficient beings. We are always dependent on others, and ultimately, on the Other – the Wholly Other who made, redeems, and sustains all things. From turkey and pumpkin pie to running water, clothing, and electricity, all gifts have their origin from God.


            Luther summed it up best in his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, which states, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” When explaining “What does this mean?”, he wrote:


I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property – along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.


            Let’s be a faithful people that remembers, in gratitude, where all good gifts come from – not just at the Thanksgiving table, but always. Amen.


© 2017, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.