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Happy Thanksgiving

This was the Thanksgiving message. Hope you and your’s had a good day and continue having a good weekend with family and friends.

Text: Thanksgiving, 4Th Commandment, Psalm 104, Luke 19:1-10
Gospel in the World

That first Thanksgiving was definitely a celebration of material good, but it was also something larger than that. The pilgrims had arrived at Plymouth Rock in November of 1620. They spent that winter on the Mayflower. When they got off the ship in March 21st of 1621, less than half were alive. By November of 1621 that colony had had a good harvest, had seen its first marriage in May, and had established relations with the local tribes.

Luther’s long list of what is meant by daily bread – food, drink…house, home…husband, wife…good weather, peace, health…good friends. Could clearly be seen. Gov. Bradford’s Thanksgiving declaration is short, but has some of that same flavor.
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience…”

It is not as if the ravages of just a year prior were forgotten. What those pilgrims recognized was providence. They recognized exactly what Luther says in his first part. That God gives daily bread to everyone, even evil people. What we pray for when we ask for our daily bread is to recognize who it comes from, and to receive it with thanksgiving.
Trouble in the World

What I always find interesting is that is somehow seems to be easier to recognize providence after 7 skinny years instead of 7 fat ones.
Maybe there has been a time and place of greater material abundance than the United States, but I doubt it. I’ve read elsewhere that the number one health problem of the poor in America is obesity. Yet at the same time as our astounding material providence, it seems to give us nothing but trouble.

The bread to strengthen man’s heart, is turned into obesity, diabetes and drugs. The wine made to gladden the hearts of men, is tuned to abuse. The oil to make faces shine, seems to turn rancid.
We receive it all, and yet we don’t.

Trouble in the Text

And we don’t, not because God does not provide – because he does. We don’t because we often don’t recognize what we have. And when we don’t recognize what we have, we turn God’s good gifts into things that kill us.

The Pharisees had it all. As Paul would say, “to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ (Rom 9:4-5).” They had the promise and presence of God. Yet that great providence had been reduced to checking off Sabbaths. “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

They had received it all. But they didn’t know “that something greater than the temple was there.”

They wanted the sacrifice, and rebuffed the mercy.

Gospel

But the son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

When he hides his face, we are dismayed. When he takes away his breath, we die and return to dust.

When he sends forth his Spirit, we are created, and he renews the face of the ground.

The material is good, but the deep goodness of it rests upon knowing what we have – a Spiritual truth that those Pilgrims knew.
We have not just the providence of God, our daily bread. God surely provides this to everyone, even to all evil people. But we have the mercy of almighty God.

Christ has poured out his Spirit upon all flesh such that the presence of God is with us. We are renewed daily and hourly. We are renewed unto eternal life.

If we receive it. If we receive our daily bread – the manifold material gifts of the Father – with thanksgiving. If we just take it – it is never enough. But received with thanksgiving, we are filled with god things.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works. And I am sure of this, that he who began this good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thanksgiving at Zacchaeus’ Place

tg-bulletin-cover Text: Luke 19:1-10, Thanksgiving (3rd Petition Catechism, Psalm 147)

Introduction
Thanksgiving is such a great shared holiday. It’s a secular one, but it treads on sacred ground. A sign to how those spheres in better days can work together. In the past I’ve attempt to dig out Lincoln or Washington or some other American President on the topic of Thanks, if not the day itself. Coolidge, maybe the last true heir of the Pilgrims, is more touching than you might think. Silent Cal loses some of his reticence to speak and having suffered personal loses in the midst of the roaring ‘20s, his reflections are homey-er and occasionally prophetic of what was to come.

But this year I think we’ve had enough of Presidents. The judgement passed I think if we are honest would be the God let us all have what we desired. If we didn’t like any of the results, that is what this Thanksgiving sermon is about.

Text
The text, Zacchaeus, might not be immediate for Thankgiving. Part of picking it was simply it always gets skipped. Reformation Day and All Saints – because we Observe them on Sunday instead of the actual days – consistently bump a couple of assigned readings. Poor Zack is one of them.

But Zacchaeus starts out wanting something simple and specific. He wanted to see who Jesus was. The Galilean prophet of renown is approaching Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is only a parable away. I want to see this prophet. And mixed in there is probably some apprehension about his business. Zach was a tax collector and rich after all. Is this prophet and his mob one that is going to upset my revenue stream? How big and of what type is his following? Are they going to burn it down, and me with it? That is what he wants to know. Can I keep my life?
And the crowds are big enough that he has to climb his tree to see over everyone and get his glimpse. That is when what he desired starts to be changed.

Jesus looks up as he passes the tree and calls up to Zacchaeus, “Come down, I’m going to your place today.”
I doubt that is what Zack was thinking initially. In fact it is probably just the opposite. The last thing a rich tax collector wanted at his door was a populist prophet. But Zacchaeus hurries down and receives him joyfully. Not what he originally wanted, but something better. Fear turned to joy.

Now the people following Jesus I think had different expectations as well because they begin to grumble. We brought along the pitchforks, tar and rails for guys like this, and you are going to eat with him?
But somewhere in the midst of that grumbling Zacchaeus starts thinking about “Can I keep my life” in a different way. No longer is it – are my position and goods safe for me, but how am I walking with my God and my neighbor? And he takes actions that were probably the furthest thing from his mind at the start of the day. Half my goods to the poor, and if I’ve cheated anyone – which is more or less the definition of tax collector in the day – I restore it four-fold. Who is this man? Does the grumbling crowd recognize him? Does he recognize himself? “Can he keep his life?”

And Jesus answers that one for him. “Today salvation has come to this house.” Yes he can, but his life doesn’t mean what he thought in the morning. “Because the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

Application
We rightly give thanks for all the stuff we have – harvests and food and plenty. We rightly give thanks for those we have been placed with – family and friends, hearth and home. We rightly give thanks for all the first article bounties of creation that the Father daily and richly provides. And we share that thanks with all people because the Father daily and richly provides for the sinner and saint alike. A shout out to the traditional Thanksgiving text – all 10 lepers are cleansed even if only one gives thanks.

But our deeper thanks should not be over all those things that we desire. Our Father knows that we need them and provides. Our deeper thanks should be over what our Father knows we need, but we did or do not desire. He could hand us over to our desires. That is actually the punishment of sin. God doesn’t have to cook up lightning bolts and plagues to punish sins. He just lets us live with them. What our Father knew we needed was salvation. He knew when we didn’t that we were lost. We were bound to the plans of the devil the world and our sinful nature.
And he broke them. There on that cross he broke all those evil desires. That cross shows us where those desires end. In mocking, and cruelty and death. If we desire to keep that, we can.

But He has also called us. Today, I must stay at your house. If we desire His life, we can receive it joyfully. Because he’s done it, and though Christ and in Christ we are all Children of Abraham. He came to seek and save the lost.

That is our deeper thanksgiving. Not that God gives us the things we naturally desire. These are good, but we can often twist even the greatest of his gifts. We give thanks because in this one most important thing – life – he didn’t just give us our desires. God acted and continues to act. He builds up Jerusalem and gathers the outcasts of Israel. He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names. Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving. Amen.

Lesser and Greater

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Biblical Text: Luke 17:11-19
Full Sermon Draft

Recording Note: Sorry, the live recording was unusable, so this is a re-recording after the fact.

I was sure walking into the pulpit this morning that I had failed. I was a page or more short. And I felt like that shortness wasn’t because I had successfully condensed a good word, but simply because I had wrestled with the text and lost. The Samaritan Leper is an easy story to just make into a moralistic word. There is nothing wrong with saying “give thanks”, the law is good and wise, but such often comes off not as “give thanks” but “give thanks because there are starving children in China”. There is always something specious about that old common phrase to get kids to eat. It doesn’t bring about thanks. It rarely made you eat your vegetables. So what I was struggling with was a way to preach not just “give thanks” as the law, but to make thanksgiving like the Samaritan Leper, full of wonder and joy and recognition. I thought I had failed, but somewhat surprising to me is that I got more good feedback than I would have expected. My inner cynic would say that is because it is only 10 minutes long, but I’m going to dismiss him as the crank he is. The Spirit takes the lessor and makes it greater.

Worship Note: Because of the recording problem you won’t hear it, but an important thing was this service started with a baptism. Baptism’s place in the sermon’s conclusion rests partly on what we had all witnessed that morning. Also, I just want to put this here. Lutheran Service Book 788, Forgive Us Lord, for Shallow Thankfulness, was the hymn of the day, surrounded by the staple hymns of Thanksgiving. This is also probably part of the rescue. Those are some of the best hymns in Christendom. But 788 is a powerful text. It is a comparatively modern hymn from 1965. I could wish that the text had a better tune, although Sursum Corda is not bad. It is the text that carries a necessary message about recognizing the greater and less, and not confusing them. The fifth stanza stands out to me: Forgive us, Lord for feast that knows not fast/for joy in things that meanwhile starve the soul/for walls and wars that hide your mercies vast/and blur our vision of the Kingdom goal. I’m sure it was written by a old fuzzy commie, but one that never let his politics become unmoored from the signs and wonders of the true kingdom.

Thanksgiving Homily

Text: Luke 6:27-36, Psalm 34, Fifth Petition & Explanation

If I say prisoner’s dilemma or game theory, I hope you have some understanding of what I’m talking about. It is usually represented as a 2 x 2 grid. The Prisoner part is the standard cliché of cop shows. Two criminals in separate rooms. Each one issued demands. Tell us what happened. First one to open up gets the deal. The other guy gets the book. If the prisoners follow the code of omerta – they can’t be touched. But is your criminal buddy in the box next door going to talk? Do you risk a dime upstate to get away scot-free, or do you take the two-year stretch and talk? Prisoner’s dilemma is the negative framing. I always appreciated the more positive one. Think of the binary win/lose. There is a variable pot of money. If you both pick win, usually co-operation, you both get 7 units. If you both pick lose, usually hostility, you both get 2 units. But if one picks win and the other lose – the one who picks lose or hostility gets 9 units and the one who picks co-operation gets nothing. There is a clear world nobody wants to live in. Lose-lose only has 4 units. Its shelves are North Korea. There is also a clear world where we all want to live in. Win-win has 14 units. It’s the local Sam’s club of worlds. But those other two worlds are tempting. I could have 9 units. It is a much poorer world overall, but I’ve got it all.

As a kid and not so kid – I often found myself in lose-lose. Lose-lose can have a roguish charm. I can take this longer that you can. It’s the position captured in: Born to Run, Against the Wind, Rebel without a Cause, and more recently Breaking Bad. Walter White, a guy tired of choosing win and being paired with lose, sets it on permanent lose. “I’m in the empire business”. It’s all mine.

But even Bob Segar claiming he’s still running against the wind, finds himself searching for shelter. The Stones would end gimme shelter turning from rape, murder to love, It’s just a kiss away. The romance of lose-lose wears off with deadlines and commitments. Or with enough blood.
But the problem is not lose-lose, the problem is lose-win. How do you avoid a conflict with those who want a fight? Or maybe more troubling, how do you avoid making your own separate peace. I’ve got mine, go find someone else to get yours from.

Every real-politick expert and all the best research will tell you lose-lose is necessary sometimes to maintain win-win. When they put one of yours into the hospital, you put one of theirs into the ground. And that is true. It is not called real-politick for nothing.
But here comes Jesus saying essentially rip out your lose option and stick it permanently on win. Do good to those who hate you. The one who strikes you, give him the other cheek. Love you enemies. Completely unrealistic. Dangerously unreal.

And for us maybe it is. Although as a law – notice that the golden rule is embedded here. As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. As a law I think it tells us how far from righteousness we are. Just how impossible righteousness by the law is.

But if we hear this only as a law, I think we miss its purpose. “You will be sons of the most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Yes, it is a call to live the Christian life. But it is more a statement of how God himself acts. In Christ, God has ripped out his lose button. He’s declared peace and put down the conflict. We are the ones who insist upon conflict. And the only way to avoid conflict is to accept personal loss. To not withhold your tunic, as they gamble for it at the base of the cross. To accept the beating and the lash. To forgive those nailing you to the tree. To be merciful, as the Father is merciful.
Yes, it’s a call to the cross. One that even the best of disciples often run from. But it is also a statement of shelter. God always welcomes the prodigal. He always invites the older son in to the feast, when he’s willing to put down his accounting.

We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them…but God gives them to us by grace.

Thanksgiving can be about thanks for many things. But the wellspring of it should be we have this kind of God. One who is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. One who redeems the life of his servants. One that none who seek shelter in him will be condemned. One who loves his enemies and does good. Lending and expecting nothing in return.

And the best way to show that thanks? Turn away from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it. Sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us. Be conformed to the likeness of our God. Amen.

Abominations and Consolations

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Biblical Text: Mark 13:14-37
Full Sermon Draft

This week we read the rest of Mark 13. The sermon is really divided into a macro and a micro part. The consolations are the macro. If you read Mark 13 as a whole there is a great rhythm to the sermons. The horrors seem to increase, but each increase ends with a promise. The point is not to stoke worry or even less rage as so much of the world’s narratives are designed to do. The point is to restore sanity. He’s got the whole world in his hands. He really does sit at the right hand of God. It’s going to be okay.

The micro part is when you start focusing on the words and tracing out what they mean in scripture and history. One part of that is listening carefully to Jesus’ time markers. When we listen carefully we can make the distinction between those times by which Jesus means the time around AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple and that day and that hour by which he means the last day. Those times have a specific sequence and will end within this generation. And they did. That day and that hour are unknown. That is necessary to set some ground rules, but the word that this sermon hones in on is abomination or more specifically the abomination of desolation. It is actually a well defined term or concept in the Old Testament and history. We can’t use it to make a timetable; that is foolishness, but we can think about endings of old orders. This sermon lays out that groundwork and does what a watchman does, it cries watch.

Musical Note: This morning was our matins week which I always realize when formatting is so defined by its music and continuous in one way it is difficult to cut pieces. But cut I did. I left in two musically bits. Our Choir sang “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns” which is a great Last Sunday of the Church Year or Advent piece. And I left in the final hymn, Rise My Soul to Watch and Pray Lutheran Service Book 663, which is fast becoming one of my favorites and captures the key thought of Jesus’ sermon – watch. It is a great tune that you find yourself humming all day. The text is a typical Catherine Winkworth translation by which I mean crisply poetic and poignant if sometimes pietistic. (I’ve been told that her translations are often quite free. Nothing wrong with that because they work.)

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Ezekiel 1 and Romans 1

Ezekiel 1:1-14,22-28
Romans 1:1-17
Vision and Call, a thanks for those who bring God’s Word, as strange as it might be

Happy Thanksgiving

happy-thanksgiving

Here is the message from last night’s service – Collecting the Broken Pieces.

Text: Mark 8:1-9
Introduction

As I looked at the forecast on Monday, one of our staple prayers – “for seasonable weather” – came to mind. And it struck me being a very Christian prayer. It is not for Florida weather in New York, or for Fall weather to continue through Winter. It is for God’s good creation to continue to be good. Lord, for seasonable weather…for things to be as you made them to be.

Trouble in the World

Living in a fallen World – if we aren’t in denial about that fact, if we are at all sensitive to those daily and hourly cracks in creation where it is not as God made it – can sometimes pull us into a spiritual ditch. We can look at the accumulation of cracks in creation and say what a mess. How can God let this continue?
Trouble in the Text

And I think that is part of what the disciples are experiencing in the text we chose. In Mark, there are two mass feeding stories. Jesus has already fed the 5000, not too long ago. Our reading is the second, the feeding of the 4000. The audience is different. The 5000 was a Jewish context. This one is gentile with probably some Samaritans layered in.

To good Jewish boys, like the disciples, they had to be wondering – what is our messiah doing out here. Out here is the problem. Out here is nothing. “How can one feed these people, with bread, here in this desolate place?”
Looking at the cracked world can make one imaging our God is a God of scarcity. It can make us forget the abundance of good that this world, even cracked, still maintains.

Gospel in the Text

But Jesus sets them straight in two ways. First, he gives thanks. Seven loaves…he took them and gave thanks…a few small fish…he blessed them. There is a spiritual resonance…he took, and broke and gave it to them…the very word for thanks is eucharist…but he also fed from what was present.

As Luther wrote, “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink…and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

The creation, even cracked, continues with the Father’s goodness and providence…which we rightly give thanks for.
The second way that Jesus sets them straight is in the abundance. The providence and goodness of the Father are not available in small doses parceled out to specific people. The providence and goodness of God the Father is placed freely before all peoples. “He gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they set them before the crowd…and they ate and were satisfied.”

Again spiritual overtones…God is super abundant in his means of grace. But also something very real. The church comes from all tribes and peoples and languages. The disciples daily set Christ before the nations.
The church daily picks up the pieces of this cracked world. And marvels at the abundance of grace in such broken pieces.

Conclusion

Thanksgiving invites us to see the fundamental goodness of God’s providence that cracks can’t fully obscure, and marvel at how his grace redeems the broken pieces. For things as they are, we give thanks. Amen.

A Thanksgiving Homily

Text: 2nd commandment, Psalm 50:1-23, Luke 17:11-19
As Lutherans we rally around the small catechism, but there are some other catechisms out there. Rita Fedick brought an Eastern Orthodox one to bible study last Thursday. The Westminster Shorter Catechism – a Reformed work of the Calvinist strain starts off with a classic question and answer. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. That answer captures a truth that humans have been fighting against since the start.

Our first and primary relationship, duty, orientation, end is toward God. Augustine would say, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.

And there are all kinds of diversions that we will come up with to deny that. From the simple – in the words of Billy Joel, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints…to the complex, great theological constructs whose end is to say “God didn’t really say that” when the clear words of the Bible “are that”.

One of the most pernicious of those diversions is Psalm 50 or 9 of 10 lepers. “Not for you sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me.” The majority of the lepers went to the priests as Jesus and the law told them to do. And we should be clear here – God doesn’t say don’t do these things. The Psalmist doesn’t have God saying stop those sacrifices. Jesus tells the 10th leper to go. And elsewhere Jesus would say things like “you ought to have done [the tithe requirements] without neglecting justice and mercy and faithfulness”. Jesus was not against ritual itself – we baptize, we eat the Supper, we absolve sins, all at His direction. What he was against was magic by his name. The use of the name of God not toward our end…but toward our ends.

What you might be asking is how this eventually gets to a warm-fuzzy thanksgiving homily?

Well, I think it has to do with two types of stories we tell ourselves, a current kids movie and which of those two stories the best of American History likes to tell. One story we tell is the glory story. We’ve overcome, we’ve accomplished, by our knowledge, skills and abilities we’ve won the day and taken the medal.

There are traces of the glory story in American history. Anytime you hear Teddy Roosevelt talking about the man in the arena he’s telling a glory story. Both candidates in this past election like to tell glory stories. “I won” just might be the summarizing quote of a presidency. And Ayn Rand’s John Galt floated around team red. All narratives of glory.

Wreck-it Ralph, at the start is a simple glory, the Video Game Bad Guy Ralph wants to win a medal. And he’s told of a game where climbing and destroying things gets you a medal…two things he’s very good at. So he game jumps to “Hero’s Duty” and takes his medal.

The other story is the thanksgiving story – the one about grace. It would be easy to tell a glory story about the pilgrim’s journey and how they overcame oppression and won their rights and land by their heroism. But that is not how they talked about it. From the letters of Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony talking about the first Thanksgiving…”And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” Likewise in 1789 after the Revolutionary War and the Adoption of the Constitution, a glory story might be in order. But the act of the inaugural congress, proposed by Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, reads “to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Just to let you know that our fundamental arguments haven’t shifted that greatly, the act was originally opposed in Congress for three reasons: 1) Rep. Aedanus Burke of South Carolina objected on the grounds that a Thanksgiving was too European. He “did not like this mimicking of European customs, where they made a mere mockery of thanksgivings” 2) Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker, also of South Carolina, raised two further objections. “Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?” he asked. “If a day of thanksgiving must take place,” he said, “let it be done by the authority of the several States.” And 3) Proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving “is a religious matter,” he said, “and, as such, proscribed to us.”

As with things of grace “the Thanksgiving resolution passed—the precise vote is not recorded.” President Washington issued the proclamation starting with these words, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God…”

As for Wreck-it Ralph, I’ll just say it has a great ending that is in perfect accord with the last verse of Psalm 50 – “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me, to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God”.

Glory stories are tempting, but they are ultimately hollow. Glory fades. That was not our end. Our end is to glorify God. “I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” is what the psalmist records.

The call of the gospel is to give thanks for the salvation of God. To order our ways rightly, in accord with the way we were created. We were created to tell stories of grace – stories of the deliverance of God, of the salvation of God…or as the Westminster Catechism would say of the enjoyment of God forever. Because unlike glory which fades, God’s grace in Jesus Christ is eternal. Amen.

Thanksgiving

Full Text of Sermon

I don’t think there is a better day to preach than thanksgiving. It is still strange to me that a culture as lost as modern American has the best secular holiday. The day itself and everything said about it in the past and at its founding is a great text. If you are listening to what Washington, Lincoln, Coolidge, FDR, the Pilgrims wrote and said you can’t avoid the cross and grace and the mystery of giving thanks at all times…because it is all in the Father’s hands.

Thanksgiving Message

Text: 1 Tim 2:1-4, Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

I hope you didn’t mind the reading from Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation. It’s a little longer than normal and not biblical, but if you have never read it, it is a short classic and an amazing document of vision.
It a vision I think shared by Paul writing to Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy to pray for all people. Ask God to help all of them – and give thanks for all of them. Because God’s vision goes beyond the current strife. God’s vision is that all would be saved and come to know the truth. God’s vision is that all would live under proper authority in peace. That we would live lives marked by godliness and integrity. When you are still angry with your brother or jealous of your sister that vision is real tough to see. When our eyes are clouded by covetousness or envy we miss the good gifts that we have been given.
And that is where Lincoln is amazing in this proclamation. This is from Nov of 1863. Let me list the things Lincoln saw in the preceding year.
– The first military draft leading to the NY draft riots killing hundreds.
– The imposition of the first Income Tax
– The suspension of Habeas Corpus (which if you are a civil rights fan was a dark day making TSA pat-downs look like child’s play)
– Losses at Chancellorville and Chickamauga – the costliest 2 day battle of the war
– The Gettysburg victory at the cost of over 50,000 lives union and confederate, which to Lincoln were all Americans
– The switching of Leading Generals 3 times until finding US Grant
In the midst of all that, Lincoln could still say – “The year that is drawing to a close has been filled with blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies…” His vision was larger than the struggle he was persevering in. “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Among those mercies also included in Lincoln’s year were:
– The passing of the Lieber code which ordered respect for private property during times of war; a nation he hoped to restore would not pillage and plunder
– The Homestead Act, the west would be open for settlement and expansion and railroads uniting a continental nation. Some of those benefiting from that act would be my ancestors, and of course the Perry County Saxons who would found the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
– And the preparation of the Emancipation Proclamation – the nation would live up to its founding documents
Lincoln concludes his listing of graces visited upon this nation where Paul starts – with a call for prayer – a prayer for the other, for the all.
“I recommend that while offering up the ascriptions justly due [God] for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers…and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it…to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.” (Lincoln)
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them. Intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (Tim 2:1)
Thanksgiving is a wonderful vision larger than us. We will not see these things fulfilled in our lifetimes. Lincoln saw the cessation of war, but not the better angels of our nature. We do not see the culmination of all those we pray for. But we thank God for them and for their work. Thanksgiving is a wonderful national day set aside to look at the larger picture. The “peace that has been preserved… and the harmony that has prevailed.” And to give thanks for the ultimate peace that has come to us and to all people. Peace with God, a cessation from our strife through that man on the cross. Thanksgiving invites us to find our place in that larger vision – our place marked with dignity beside our neighbor.