LSB Series A
Thanksgiving Eve/Day; November 25/26, 2020
Old Testament Reading 8:1-10
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Remember. A lot can happen in forty years when you think back and remember. Perhaps you have been in the restaurant Cracker Barrel. In their country store that you wait in before going to eat, there are all these little booklets that you can buy that tell you about the costs of certain items in a particular year. For example, forty years ago, back in 1980, a loaf of bread was fifty cents; a gallon of milk was $1.12; a ticket to see Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back was $2.75; and the average house was $69,000.
Now truth be told, when you run the inflation numbers with today, 1980 really was not that great of a year from an economic standpoint. But when you look back forty years, there have also been many events that have taken place in that time as well. For example, the internet was born, there was the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the Gulf War took place, the Cold War ended, the Smartphone was introduced, there was 9/11, Facebook was founded, and countless other events as well. (Pause)
The act of remembering, forty years or otherwise, has a way of giving us the great opportunity to look back in retrospect and give thanks for all of God’s provision and the blessings that He bestows upon us as we navigate the trials and tribulations of this life.
So it was with the people of Israel as well. As they were nearing the end of their forty years of wilderness wandering, they were instructed to take a moment and remember.
The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to you fathers. And you shall ‘remember’ the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not (Deuteronomy 8:1-2).
As the Israelites remembered the past forty years, they were given a chance to recall all of God’s provision and faithfulness. They were given a chance to give praise where praise was due. The reason that their bellies did not grumble with hunger was because God had fed them with manna from heaven. Though they had been marching through the wilderness for forty years, it had been God who had made it possible for their clothing not to wear out and their feet not to swell along the way. None of it had to do with them. All of the credit went to God.
The Thanksgiving holiday gives us all an opportunity to look back in retrospect and remember all that God has done for us, be it forty years or otherwise. It is a chance for us to give praise where praise is due and return thanks for the many blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us. And as we do so, there is this humbling reality that it is not we have sustained ourselves, but rather it has been God who has sustained us.
After all, when we look back, and we see all of the hardship and rough times that we have been through, how can we not say that it has been because of God’s gracious provision that we have made it this far? Then again, we love to take the credit nonetheless.
When we look back and remember how far we have come, there can be the temptation to make it a time to give ourselves a pat on the back. After all, just look at all we have accomplished. Look at all we have done. It’s like any person who spends time admiring their trophies on the shelf and their plaques on the wall. Any time we find ourselves giving ourselves the atta-boys and the atta-girls, it is a temptation to forget who is behind all of the accomplishments.
As the people of Israel gathered near the Promised Land, God made sure that they would not forget who it was that had blessed them to come as far as they had come…who it was who had provided for their every need. After all, it was because of Him that they were free from slavery in the first place. He made the Exodus from Egypt possible. He made it possible for them to survive these last forty years. And He was the One paving the way for them to enter into the Promised Land. It was all because of Him…and they best not forget it.
To forget who their provider was would be catastrophic, just as it had been before. Forty years ago, when Moses had gone up on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel had quickly forgotten who had led them out of 430 years of slavery in Egypt. Their being quick to forget had them turn from the One, true God to the constructing and worshipping of a golden calf. It was because of such idolatry that they had had to wander these past forty years. So, in an effort to direct them to Himself as their source of salvation, God called upon them to remember.
“Remember who led you out of slavery. Remember who provided for you in the wilderness these past forty years. Remember who will soon be giving you the Promised Land. Remember?”
God calls us upon us to do the same here today. He knows just how quick we are to forget Him and all the ways that He has provided for us. He knows just how quickly we get caught up in the trials and the tribulations of this life, and it is as if we are blinded to all that He has done for us.
I think back and remember all of the times I have sat in hospital rooms, either with my own family or with you or your loved ones. In those moments, it can sometimes be like those white walls are like barriers that restrict us from remembering all that God has done. All we can see is the suffering before us. And so we forget.
That’s one of the many aspects that I love about being a pastor. I have the great opportunity to enter into those hospital rooms to deliver God’s Word…to help you and I both remember where true hope is found. It isn’t found in healing or science, though both are certainly helpful. But true hope is found in the Word of God declaring that your sins and mine are forgiven. True hope is found in the One who promised never to leave us or forsake us. True hope is found in the One who entered into our suffering to bring peace and solace no matter the circumstance.
And such circumstances aren’t only in hospital rooms. They happen all the time in countless places…a car ride, sitting in your office, lying in bed looking at the ceiling, staring at the gravestone of a loved one. And in each circumstance, it can be so easy to forget…to forget about God and His gracious provision.
So God routinely calls us to His house to remember where true hope is found. To remember that man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. God’s Word that became flesh and dwelt among us is the sustenance and the nourishment we need as we journey through this life.
It’s no wonder that the liturgy calls upon us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Word. It’s no wonder that week after week, we are instructed to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We pray this petition so that God would help us to realize that He is the sole source of what we need and that we receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
We remember with thanksgiving that our God was faithful to His people as they wandered the wilderness and provided for all of their needs. We remember that He faithfully remembered the covenant that He made with His people, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. He promised that they would one day enter the Promised Land. And now here after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, that is exactly what they were about to do.
We remember with thanksgiving that our God was faithful to remember His promise to send His Son to crush the head of the serpent. We remember that on a hill outside of Jerusalem, His Son gave His life in our stead so that true hope would be ours as our sins were forgiven and our death was defeated.
In fact, with thanksgiving, we remember this often as we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. We feast on His body and blood, and we do so in remembrance of Him. Not because this is some sort of remembrance meal, but because He has commanded us to do so often so that we may receive His forgiveness as we look forward to His return. (Pause)
It will not be long and we too will enter into the Promised Land that awaits us in a new heaven and earth. There we shall eat and be full, but on much more than turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. There we will dine upon the feast of our Savior, the One who has remembered His promise to save us so that we may live eternally with Him. And our response will be much like we will do at our Thanksgiving tables today. We will bless Him as the Lord our God…O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.
I would like to close today with a devotion my father-in-law recently shared with me based upon these words from Deuteronomy 8:10-11: When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
What is the last thing you forgot? Do you have any trouble remembering? Do you ever have trouble remembering God? Do you sometimes think it would be easier to trust God is you saw a miracle? The Israelites had. They had seen the ten plagues. They had crossed the Red Sea. God had provided manna and quail. Yet as they are about to enter the Promised land Moses says, “Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God.”
We might scratch our head and wonder how they could forget God so quickly.
But what about us? We’ve receive God’s miracle of life and new life. We receive the miracle of salvation. But how long before we forget God and His blessings?
Yes, the text says, be careful that you don’t forget God. The Israelites had memory loss and so do we. The Good News is that God doesn’t forget us. He doesn’t forget His promises.
May God enable us through every day of life remember what God has done for us in the sending of His Son. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.