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November 28, 2019 Thanksgiving Sermon

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Psalm 67 – Thanksgiving 2019

Please turn your attention either in your Bible or your Hymnal, to Psalm 67- a prayer that all people would be led to give praise and thanks to God.

  The Psalmist begins his song, which is to be accompanied by stringed instruments, with a prayer. He says, May God be gracious to us and bless us. May his face shine on us. It’s a prayer based on the blessing that God gave to Aaron to speak over his people. A blessing we still use today. It’s a prayer that God that God would make that blessing he gave to Aaron effective in our lives. It’s a prayer that starts with grace, acknowledging that we don’t deserve to have him do anything for us, but even though we don’t deserve it, he would look with favor on us and give us blessings instead of the judgement we deserve. Of course, the only way God can be gracious to us and not give us the judgement we deserve is because he gave the judgement we deserve to Jesus.

  Now you might expect that, when the Psalmist is thinking about blessings from God, he might list things like a warm house in a safe neighborhood, or plenty of food to eat, or some extra money in the bank. But notice the reason that the Psalmist asks for God’s blessing. So that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. The Psalmist understands that God doesn’t bless us so that we can horde his blessings for ourselves. He blesses us so that we would be able to share those blessings with others.

  This can happen in a number of ways. One is that if people notice we are blessed they might ask us our secret. They might think we have special insight into the stock market, or some other formula that brings us the blessings we have. That opens the door for us to explain to them that we don’t have any secret formula. We believe that “God made us and gave us our body and soul, eyes, ears and all our members, our mind and all our abilities.” Because of this we want to do our best to honor him by using everything he has given us to the best of our ability. And when our work produces results, we give him all the glory because he is the one that has given us the ability and the opportunity to do our work. We believe that the most important thing in life is not how many earthly blessings we may or may not have. The most important thing in life is knowing where we will be when this earthly life comes to an end, as it will for everyone. The most important thing is knowing that Jesus lived and died for us; that he is the only way to have the greatest blessing of all, eternal salvation.

  Think about how you can be ready to give that kind of an answer when someone comments or asks you about the blessings you have- so that God’s way may be known on earth and his salvation among all nations.

  Another way to fulfill the “so that” of God’s blessings to us is to think about those who are not so blessed. Yes, it’s important to provide for those who need food, or shelter, or clothing. But even more important is to think about the many more, even among those who have plenty of earthly things, who don’t know the truth about God’s salvation, like the rich man in Jesus’ example of the rich man and Lazarus. Whatever blessings God has given you who know the truth that Jesus is the only way of salvation, he has given to you so that you can use them to make God’s way of salvation know to all. That, after all, is the mission he has given us – to make disciples of all nations. Knowing this, may we be moved to devote a generous portion of our blessings to accomplishing this mission.

  May the peoples praise you, O God. May all the peoples praise you!  May they come to see that you rule the peoples with fairness and you guide the countries of the earth.

  That’s a tough one, isn’t it? There are many times when life doesn’t seem fair, and if you believe that God is in charge, then it seems that God is not ruling with fairness. If you believe that God is in control, that he guides the countries of the earth, there are many times when it doesn’t seem that he really is in control, or if he is, he’s not doing a very good job of guiding.

  The bible makes it clear that God is in control. All things have been placed under our risen and ascended Savior’s feet and he is ruling all things, seen and unseen, for the church. When we have trouble with this fact it’s usually because we are short-sighted or self-focused.

  One of the best ways to understand this is to review the story of Joseph. When he was beaten and sold as a slave by his brothers it must have seemed to him that God wasn’t in control or being fair. When Potiphar’s wife lied about him and he was put in prison it must have seemed to him that God was not ruling with fairness- he had done nothing wrong. When Pharaoh’s cupbearer forgot about him, he must have been ready to give up all hope. But suddenly everything changed. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, giving credit and glory to God for the ability to do so. He became the second most powerful person in Egypt with more earthly blessings than he ever could have even imagined as a shepherd in his father’s house. He was able to see his father again and take care of him and the whole family during the famine. As he looked back on his life he was glad and could sing for joy because he saw how God had been in charge, ruling and guiding everything that happened so that he could not only save the Egyptians and people from many other countries from starvation, but God used him to preserve the line of the Savior. When he wasn’t focused on himself and he looked at history in the light of God’s promise to send a savior, he saw that God really is in charge, and he was able to be glad and sing for joy over what God had done and would still do.

  Through the eyes of faith, we too see that God rules the peoples with fairness and guides the countries of the earth. We see that God is more than fair because if he were just fair, he would have destroyed us and everyone else a long time ago. But, instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, he punished Jesus in our place. He has judged everyone to be sinful and equally worthy of his just punishment, but he also judged that had everyone’s sins have been paid for by Jesus. He is more than fair because he offers his salvation for free to all. That’s the good news that moves all who hear it be glad and sing for joy because they now see how God guided everything, even a decree or Caesar, to fulfill his promise and be able to offer salvation for free to all.

  May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. In addition to your gracious ruling of all things that brought about the fulfillment of your promise of a Savior, the earth still yields its harvest, and we have abundant physical blessings.  God sees to it that the earth, in spite of storms and droughts and natural disasters in various places, still produces enough for all its inhabitants. The problem isn’t that there is not enough food to feed the people of the world. The problem is getting it where it is needed. Or sometimes the problem is a lack of willingness to share and care for our neighbor in need. If you doubt that, just look at what is thrown away each day in our country alone. As we enjoy our Thanksgiving feasts and have all kinds of left overs, may we be reminded to give thanks and praise to God that, by his command, the earth still yields its harvest, and that he has promised that it will continue to do so until he comes again in glory.

  Because the Psalmist knows who the true God is, because he knows what he has promised, because we know that he kept his promise and sent us Jesus to save us, we can say with confidence, God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. He has and will continue to bless us, not because we have earned or deserved it, but because of his grace and mercy, because of Jesus.

  As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, it’s easy to focus on our own little groups. The Psalmist reminds us to widen our view, to look outside of the circle of those gathered with us, and to think about others. Remember that along with all the blessings God has given you there is a SO THAT. The so that is, that as we give credit to God for all we have, and as we use our gifts, abilities and possessions to spread the good news about Jesus, his way will be known on earth and his salvation among all nations. Then the Psalmists prayer will be answered – May the peoples praise you O God. May all the peoples praise you.