Thanksgiving Day 2018

Philippians 4:6-20

November 22, 2018

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

The secret of life.  The secret of happiness.  Many are finding out now that it’s not in the financial market.  It’s not in the money.  Faith in the almighty dollar ultimately will always let people down.  It’s not in relationships with other people, because relationships often are strained to the point of failure.  Paul had found the secret of being content in any and every situation.  Philippians 4:12 “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” 

This secret that Paul found is one that people today are still looking for.  Just watch late night television and you can see the self help books and DVD’s you can buy to get rich fast from the comfort of your own home.  Or turn it on during the day and you can have your time with the self help gurus, the relationship rulers of our day – Judge Judy, Dr. Phil, and all the others.  And then there’s the Sunday morning prosperity preachers preaching a false gospel of health, wealth, and happiness – false christs and prophets as we were warned about last Sunday. They are all in the business of trying to help people find this secret by solving your problems, by looking to your inner strength and self confidence, then you’ll just know this secret.

Though there is some merit to what they do, the main problem is that ultimately all their advice, all the heartwarming stories, all the life changing moments captured forever on screen don’t last.  The excitement fades.  The feelings disappear.  The old problems arise, and the secret turns out to fail when it’s needed the most.

This is usually because people somehow think that their happiness and contentment is determined by their ability to do whatever they want.  And yet with all our technology, with all our advances, with all our progress, people are generally not any happier today than they were 100 years ago.  In fact, many are generally unhappier.  Prosperity can sometimes end up being a source of discontentment, just as much as being in complete need.  And here the secrets of the world always fail.

But we, we Christians, know the secret.  We know what Paul is talking about.  We know the meaning of life. We know the source of contentment in whatever situation we are faced with.  We know how to be happy even when in the dumps.  We know the secret on this Thanksgiving Day.  The secret is not what we’re thankful for, but who we’re thankful to.  The secret, in fact, isn’t a secret at all, for it has been revealed to the whole world by the preaching of the Gospel. Just preceding the verses we heard, Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

The secret is that we have a God that doesn’t just sit up on His throne way up in heaven, who doesn’t ignore our problems or brush away the bad things that happen as not significant, but who gets down and dirty personally involved in our lives.  The Lord is at hand. He is near. He is coming.  This really is the key to all. We give thanks to the God who is near to us, who became man in order to save us. We give thanks to the God who has given us body and soul, eyes, ears and all our members, our reason and senses, and still takes care of them. We receive these things from His gracious hand as He reaches down into our lives. This is what we’re thankful for this day.  In the midst of an uncertain future, of a culture that is becoming less familiar with the Church and less friendly, we give thanks with content hearts because we have a God who provides for all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

And what a more fitting thing today then, that we are gathered in the Lord’s name to receive the Word of the Lord and the blessings from His table.  In this Sacrament, God is active. God offers Himself, His grace, His mercy, His life, His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. The Word and the Sacraments are the things that true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praise worthy that we are to think about, dwell upon, give thanks for as they enliven, inspire, and guide all that we do.  It is by these means that God creates a spirit of gratitude toward Him that characterizes the life of the Christian. We give thanks for all the favors we have received from God, in particular that we have been chosen to be children of God.

For in our weakness, God’s strength encourages.  In our anxiety, our thankfulness ought to be all the more, for the loving kindness of God breaks through our lives.  We can be thankful that the very Son of God is with us, even when we don’t see or hear Him.  Rather than count your blessings, look to the source of any blessing.  Look to the one who was crucified, died and buried and risen on the third day for you, so that in our thankfulness we practice these things we have learned and received, and the God of peace will be with us always.