Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Eve Service - Wednesday at 7 PM Central

Thanksgiving, 2010

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Central Standard Time

The Hymn # 558 All Praise to Thee 4.44
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 100 p. 144
The First Lection 1 Timothy 2:1-8
The Second Lection Luke 17:11-19
The Sermon Hymn # 574 Come Ye Thankful 4.9

Thanksgiving Is Medicine

The Prayers and Lord’s Prayer p. 44
The Collect for Peace p. 45
The Benediction p. 45
The Hymn #361 O Jesus King 4.1

KJV 1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

KJV Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Thanksgiving Is Medicine
KJV Luke 17:17 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Thankfulness to God one of our most important responses to all He gives us, but this thanks is often forgotten – or replaced with bitterness, anger, and coveting.

The illustration of the 10 lepers is noteworthy. Only one out of 10 thanked Jesus for taking away the most horrible and stigmatizing disease of that era.

When I told my wife that I usually get 10% of the students posting comments about liking the class, she said, “That is the normal ratio, just like the Bible.” They normally press the most positive response for the survey, which affects my future income. But they seldom write in personal remarks, which are also kept and read by the supervisors. The interesting fact is that this ratio of 10% holds true for class after class, no matter where the students come from or what the subject matter is.

What God gives is vastly different from anything we can do for others, because He gives us life and prosperity, the blessings of the Gospel, everlasting life, and a country where we can still enjoy our religious freedom. Very few people in history have lived with such prosperity and freedom.

Our response to what God gives is either healthy and healing, or unhealthy and damaging.

Our attitude toward God expresses our faith in Him. As Chytraeus (Book of Concord editor) said, “Doubting the graciousness of God is a sin.” Even the kindest and most loving parents (who are fallible) will do plenty of things their children view as negative, restrictive, oppressive, and just plain mean. When children grow up, they realize that the very things they resisted the most were the surest signs of parental love.

The irony is that we become more thankful to God when our faith is more child-like (rather than childish). We have to become more mature to realize God’s wisdom and love in all that He does. Unlike human parents, He can change things in a moment, so the times of difficulty are revealed as a necessary prelude to blessings.

Many opportunities that might have given me financial stability would have also tied me down. For example, one university is now offering people like me full-time positions, but only if I live in Phoenix. A year ago I would have interviewed for that position and received a full-time job, because they are short in that area. And we would be lining up for our pat-downs and body scans instead of routinely seeing our grandchildren.

So it is better to be laying up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, where moth and rust do corrupt and thieves break in and steal (and not all of them bankers – some are neighbors).

I told my classes that I would go easy on deadlines this week, as I always do for holidays, because time with their family and friends is more important than deadlines. What do we remember in 20 years? – The great committee meeting? Beating a deadline? Or a priceless moment with a family member or friend?

Many people mis-identify what they should be thankful for. The eternal treasures of the Gospel are the most important. What God alone can give us goes along with the Gospel. Every single life is precious in His eyes, and should be in ours as well. Marriage and the family are God’s Creation, declared His will by the Word. World-wide, even the pagans observe the importance of the family, even though they often distort its meaning.

I have noticed, living in this area where people take the Christian faith seriously, that it constantly influences how they treat each other. Smiles, thank-yous, and God bless you are quite common. So is an attitude of patience and consideration. That can also be the way we treat one another in Christian Church and in our families, co-workers, and friends.

Politeness creates a different attitude, and the words we use generate a different kind of atmosphere, if we are thankful to God.

This thankfulness is derived from being forgiven of our sins and knowing God loves us. We cannot be thankful if no sins are forgiven. When people imagine there is no reason for repentance, because the whole world is free of sin, they are not thankful.

The true Gospel produces the Fruits of the Spirit. Variations on the Law will never produce those fruits, especially when they are demanded as proof of a transformation.

Many times we need to evaluate what we are thankful for, and what we are overlooking. My experience over the years has shown me that people would much rather have the ordinary blessings known only in a family than all the honors and glory of the world – although the outward honors and privileges seems so appealing from a distance.

Most people realize that a terrible price is paid for the glamour, and they would rather have the simple joys of life instead.

A poll would probably show that everyone would like to have fresh citrus in their backyards in the winter. They would like to walk outside in summer clothes and pull an orange, lemon, grapefruit, or tangelo from a tree.

In Phoenix we saw oranges hanging on trees and dropping on the ground, uneaten. Roof rats were attracted to them. (“Very cute creatures,” a scientist told us. I said – “Not on your own roof.”)

We had two lemon trees and a tangelo tree. The fact is, an abundance of free citrus made me say, “Oh, I will go out and harvest some tomorrow.” The very proximity of the fruit, the ease of harvesting, made them less desirable. It was not like my first berry on my first vine, that I waited and watched while it ripened, only to see a jay fly off with it.

I always picked the citrus eventually, although I had to give away lemons by the bag.

The Gospel comes to us in the same abundance. Now that faithful congregations are so rare, people value them that much more. They wonder, “Can I drive 50 or 100 miles each Sunday?” I cringe at the situation because the ordinary LCA congregation in the 1960s was far more conservative in worship and preaching than the typical “conservative” church of today.

One woman even began giving me the Church Growth talk before inviting me to her LCMS church. “We had a study and we have to start reaching out into our community, inviting more people, or we are going to die.” Nothing she said in her sales pitch mentioned the Gospel, proclaiming the Word, or being faithful. It was “do, do, do.” Very sad.

In our own families, the fruit of the Gospel shows in our appreciation for each other and our expressions of that attitude. It is so easy to say “I want to” or “I am happy to” instead of “Do I have to?” One student impressed me by saying how important gift-giving had become to him. He learned that from his Asian relatives, because gift-giving is practiced so carefully. That is not the same as buying everything someone wants, but little acts of kindness, such as unexpected flowers, not to mention speaking the words.

In fact, as one author noted, people respond differently to acts of love. Some like gifts while others like the words being spoken. Still others look at gestures shown.

Thankfulness is contagious and spreads to others, and it is medicine for the soul. A merry heart doeth good, like a medicine, as the Proverbs say.

Luther said, “You have as much laughter as you have faith.’


When Christians do pray for themselves, the blessings they receive are by no means confined to themselves; equally, when they pray for all men, their rulers, etc., “all men” not only includes all Christians but the many blessings secured by this prayer for the non-Christians, for rulers and people are again not confined to non-believers. One of the very great results will be the one here stated. Some specify what is to be prayed for. The best interpretation as to the contents of such a prayer is that embodied in our General Prayer: “Cause thy glory to dwell in our land, mercy and truth, righteousness and peace everywhere to prevail, etc.… Graciously defend us from all calamities by fire and water, from war and pestilence, from scarcity and famine,” etc.

Stellhorn comments: “In the case of an individual mature Christian little or nothing for his own spiritual life may depend on the government of his country; the most wicked government may afford him opportunity to attest and to prove his faith in the most notable way. But for the weaker and younger Christians and thus for the congregation and the church, which as a rule consists for the greater part of such, ‘a tranquil and quiet life’ is necessary if it is to be at the same time a life of ‘godliness and gravity.’… How disorder and wild, undisciplined conditions in a country, how especially cruel persecution harms the weaker members of the church and thus the church herself, experience has abundantly proved. Thousands, hundreds of thousands have permitted themselves to be drawn away from the Christian confession and life, have lost faith and salvation, no more living ‘in all godliness and gravity.’ ”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 540

"Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God's grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God's grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God's fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands."
            Thorough Declaration, Of Other Factions and Sects, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1103.

"'If there ever was a strictly conservative body, it surely is the Missouri Synod. Nevertheless, this growth!...It is a mark of the pastors and leaders of the Missouri Synod that they never, aye, never, tire of discussing doctrine on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. That is one trait that may be called the spirit of Missouri. People who thus cling to doctrine and contend for its purity are of an entirely different nature from the superficial unionists who in the critical moment will declare five to be an even number. God will bless all who value His Word so highly.'"
            (Dr. Lenski, Kirchenzeitung, May 20, 1922)
            cited in W. A. Baepler, "Doctrine, True and False," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 515f.

"We should not consider the slightest error against the Word of God unimportant."
            What Luther Says , An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 637.

"Error and heresy must come into the world so that the elect may become approved and manifest. Their coming is in the best interests of Christians if they take the proper attitude toward it. St. Augustine, who certainly was sufficiently annoyed by wretched sectaries, says that when heresy and offense come, they produce much benefit in Christendom; for they cause Christians industriously to read Holy Scriptures and with diligence to pursue it and persevere in its study. Otherwise they might let it lie on the shelf, become very secure, and say: Why, God's Word and the text of Scripture are current and in our midst; it is not necessary for us to read Holy Scripture."
            What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 639.

“You cannot of a truth be for true doctrine without being unalterably opposed to false doctrine. There can be no 'positive theology' where the God-given negatives have been eliminated from the Decalog."
            Norman A. Madson, Preaching to Preachers, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1952. Preface.

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