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Sermon for Thanksgiving Harvest (11/22/2023)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up treasures in heaven.”

Matthew 12:13–21

In the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thanksgiving is a day to remember and give thanks for all the things that God has given to us. Therefore, we ought to think about all the things which God has given to us. Many of us today will spend time with our families gathered around a large meal where we enjoy all the fruits of the earth that God has provided for us. These are good gifts. God gives them freely to us out of His fatherly divine goodness, not because we deserve them, but simply because he is good.

God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44–46). This shows God’s grace, for all people, whether they be good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, receive from the Lord good things here in this life.

Early this year, God withheld rain from us and there was concern about drought. However, in his time, God provided rain, and yield per acre is up this year, 174 bushels of corn per acre compared to last year’s 165 bushels. To date, that means over 200 million more bushels than last year. So we have much to be thankful for. However, those of you who planted soybeans this year know that this year has not been much better.1 Regardless, no matter what you farmed this year, God has supplied seed to the sower and has caused it to bear fruit.

Therefore, we should be thankful not only that God created the world for us, but that he is also sustaining it day to day, year in and year out. He has also shown his providence by giving us a house, home, clothing, shoes, family, spouse, children, friends, good government, land, animals, and all that we have in this life. For all of this, it is our duty to thank and praise Him. 2

However, we would be foolish if we were to make Thanksgiving only a day about celebrating created gifts and earthly treasures. These things are all wonderful, but we can also make them out to be idols if we are not careful. St. Paul warns that people love to worship God’s creation rather than their Creator (see Romans 1:25).

What’s more, some of us do not have the luxury of enjoying all the things we once enjoyed. For as the years progress, we are reminded that our lives cannot only be about enjoying created things. Some of us have suffered this last year. Some of us received unpleasant diagnoses. Some of us have needed surgeries because our bodies feel the effects of sin. Some of us will have one less person at the Thanksgiving table. All of these things remind us that “life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” (Matthew 6:25–34).

But we need this reminder. Do we really want to believe that life is really about gorging ourselves with food until we are bloated? Do we really want to live our lives simply to get cheap thrills by having a few too many drinks? Do we really want to spend our whole life partying, year after year, pretending like tomorrow will never come?

In truth, we know that life is more than these things. However, we are prone to forget. In this way we look much more like the rich fool who says, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). But that is a sad way to spend your life.

So realize that there are just as many Christians as non-Christians who will celebrate Thanksgiving. There are just as many believers as nonbelievers who will celebrate Thanksgiving. They too will eat, drink, and make merry, because God’s also been good to them. His rain has fallen on the just and the unjust.

However, for you dear Christians, there is more for you to remember this day. God has not only given you earthly temporal gifts, he has also given you heavenly eternal gifts. He has given you gifts that do not rust or decay. He has given you blessings that give you greater satisfaction than simply filling your belly or the temporary sad happiness that comes from drunkenness.

He has given you His Son Jesus Christ for your salvation. He gave us His most valuable gift, His only-begotten Son that you may not perish but have eternal life. He has given you these things that you might not fear the grave, that you might not live your life simply trying to party and have fun and avoid the inevitable conclusion that is death and the grave.

The wages of sin is death, but that debt has been paid. Jesus Christ has suffered and died for your sins and risen for your justification so that you might live under him in his kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. What’s more than this, he has also given you an eternal hope of the resurrection to eternal life. These are the treasures he has laid up for you in heaven.

So the Christians who have one less person sitting at their Thanksgiving table this year can remember that they can still give thanks. Those who die in the Lord have the certain resurrection to eternal life. We will see the saints who are no longer with us. What’s more, while they are not together with us at the Thanksgiving table, they are with us at the Lord’s table, for they are with the Lord, part of all the host of heaven. Though we don’t see them at the table with us now, we shall someday see them face to face in the marriage feast of the Lamb which has no end.

Besides that, the meal that Christ has given us is better than any Thanksgiving meal. This Supper, or Eucharist (which is named after “giving thanks”)3, is a meal of the highest sort. For our Lord Jesus Christ gave his true body and blood to eat for the forgiveness of all our sins, and where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. I would prefer that meal over a million Thanksgiving turkey dinners, and I would prefer that meal more than a billion pumpkin pies (let the reader understand).

So also, we Christians ought to remember what great treasures Christ has laid up for us in the Church. He has given us His Holy Spirit, who has called us and worked faith in us in Holy Baptism. He has given us pastors who preached to us and delivered the faith once given to the saints of old. He has given us the Sacraments to keep us in this true faith. He has given us brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus to remind us of these things and to uplift one another until the day when he comes.

As the world around us is turning away from Christ, he has kept us in Christ. As the world is descending into chaos and turning away from God’s Word, he has provided for us that we still have the Scriptures and a Church that holds to what God has said.

Because of all things, we don’t have to be like that rich fool who lives only to eat, drink, and make merry, but who loses his soul in the end. Rather, we can enjoy created gifts in their appointed time and place like we will today and tomorrow. However, we can also rejoice knowing that God has given us far more abundant and better things in Christ Jesus.

If we are poor here, it is no worry, for we are rich in Christ and shall be blessed in eternity. If we have sorrow here, we can also have joy, for Christ has turned our tears to everlasting gladness by his cross and resurrection. If we are hungry or thirsty here, we shall be satisfied in the everlasting feast. If we are lonely and meek, we can be at peace knowing we shall be one with all the saints in the kingdom that has no end.

So, dearly beloved, let us not make merry like the rest of the world around us. Rather let us have a true Thanksgiving. Let us have a true Eucharist. Let us have a true Supper. Let us give thanks, for God has called us to be at his table here in time and there in eternity. And in the end, we know: Christ is surely coming. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The peace of God which passes all understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

  1. See USDA October Crop Production Report (Released November 9, 2023): ↩︎
  2. See the explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism: ↩︎
  3. The word “eucharist” comes from the Greek word εὐχαρίστω, which means “to give thanks.” ↩︎