Thanksgiving Day, 2015, Psalm 65
Remember what Benjamin Franklin wanted as the national symbol? It was not the bald eagle, but the turkey. It seems that 200 plus years after the fact he has won the day. It is a Turkey Day here, a Turkey Day there, everywhere a Turkey Day. One is left with some confusion. Is it turkey day or Thanksgiving Day?
David in Psalm 65 offers us a song that removes any doubts whether the emphasis should be on turkey or thanksgiving. He writes, “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.”
Indeed, we can say, “You, O God have drawn us here so that we might offer a sacrifice of Thanksgiving.” What do I have to offer to the Lord for all his benefits to me other than a sacrifice of thanksgiving? Because Jesus sacrificed his body and shed his blood on the altar of the cross, the author of Hebrews writes, “let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.” Thus, we sing, “Come, ye thankful people come; come to God’s own temple, come; raise the song of harvest home.” Whatever thankfulness and
praise we bring, whether within our hearts or in our hands or to serve to guests is to be an offering of thanksgiving that glorifies God.
We have more reasons for offering thanksgiving to God. God has drawn us here to meet us with the promise that he will hear our prayers. When a child says, “I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” before drifting off to sleep, God hears that prayer. God hears not only our united hearts and voices here in the sanctuary, but also our individual petitions, which we might only be able to express with sighs, and groans.
God draws us here to forgive our sins. The Hebrew in Psalm 65 also allows us to say that our iniquities and transgressions have drawn God here that he might hear our pleas for forgiveness. Through Jesus death and resurrection God atoned for all the times we get bent out of shape (that’s what iniquity means) using religion and God’s name to serve our own purposes and force our own will on someone else. Jesus took the termination of life we earned when we rebelled against God’s manual of right and proper behavior.
Despite our transgressions, God still has chosen us and drawn us to himself. For the blessings we receive from God, just to have the goodness that comes with being here, we owe endless thanks and praise.
However, David moves on in his song to sing of the strength of the creator. “By his strength he set the mountains in their place.” The ancient people had a very down to earth view of things. They could picture God in their minds eye as the master of a huge landscaping project, picking up the mountains and establishing them solidly in their place. The seas and their roaring waves were the most uncontrollable force the people could think of. Yet, God in the creation placed boundaries for the seas to keep it from flooding and destroying the land. Of course, humanity doesn’t think it has to respect those boundaries. We build where we want to build and expect creation to cooperate with us. We put under the plow that which should not be plowed. I think of the 120 acres of the hilliest ground in the whole township that my grandfather August Glaubitz homesteaded back in 1884. And cover with asphalt and concrete that which should be used for producing crops and food. I’m thinking of the vast expanse of bottom land along I-255 being covered by warehouses. At some point creation pushes back and we are dismayed only to redouble our efforts not to change our behavior, but to make creation behave according to our will. However, God is God of all that he created. He is the hope to the ends of the earth. He is the Lord not only of the seas and the land, but also of humanity, so often in tumult and roaring, like the seas and their waves, smashing up against one another. God governs, rules and ultimately controls all that is.
God also has shown his power and might by being our savior from sin and ourselves. He is the “saver,” the God of our salvation. Indeed, the Hebrew word used here for “saver” is the word from which our Savior received his name, even Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ. He is not only our savior he is the hope for the ends of the earth. He, who had strength to set the mountains in their place and keep the seas in their place, also has strength to save all who dwell on the earth. Shortly, in the season of Advent, we will once again hear the words spoken to Joseph by the angel, “do not fear to take Mary as your wife…she shall bear a son and shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Thirty three years later, Jesus said shortly before his crucifixion, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.”
David sings that such deeds of creation and salvation cause the morning to go out in joy as well as the evening. The whole day is filled with joy because of God and what he has done. Praise and thanksgiving are due to God from our hearts and hands and voices from the time we get up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night.
David thanks God for the harvest and produce of the land. He is the Provider of what we need to sustain our body and life. I have always liked Jesus approach to matters. When he raised the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, he said to the dead girl, “Child, arise” and she got up at once. Then Jesus directed her parents to give her something to eat. That must have been some thanksgiving meal, turkey or not. One of the appearances Jesus made after his resurrection took place on a beach in the early morning. The disciples had been out fishing and when they came in they discovered Jesus had made them breakfast. A Thanksgiving breakfast with grilled fish and all the trimmings.
David then sings of the gift of water through which God enriches the earth. Water enables the grain to grow. The valleys decked themselves with amber waves of grain. God produces such a bountiful crop that the wheels of the heavy laden cart dig ruts in the road. The cart is so loaded with grain that some even spills off on the rough road. Then the ruts themselves become irrigation channels for God’s river of water to replenish the fields.
Then the farmer, to whom God had given such a bountiful crop, would bring part of that crop to the worship sanctuary as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. The same would be true of the owner of the vineyard, and the shepherd whose sheep made a white on green polka dot pattern on the hillside.
It would be like if some here had grown the grain, ground it into flour, baked bread and brought part of it here to use in communion as the body of Christ. In addition, some of the bread would be used today at the Thanksgiving meal. Others brought wine, pressed and fermented from grapes they had raised in their vineyard. Some would be used as the blood of Christ in Communion and still more at the Thanksgiving meal. Others would bring meat and wool from the sheep to be used to feed the hungry and the wool spun into clothing to be worn by those in need.
For God’s salvation and for his daily provision, we thank and praise God today and tomorrow, yes, even on Black Friday. We do so because on a Spring time Friday, 2,000 years ago, the sun refused to shine for three hours on that truly Black Friday we call Good. On that Black Friday our sins rushed upon Jesus and he greedily gathered up the whole lot for himself, leaving not one for ourselves. All we came away with on that Black Friday was the freebie of forgiveness and eternal salvation. Today, let us give thanks unto the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever.