Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sermon for 3/28/13--Maundy Thursday (Catechism Series)

These Thy Gifts (Meal Prayers)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

The liturgy of Holy Communion also reminds us, “It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks” to our heavenly Father. In his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther wrote, “I believe that God…richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. …For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” And in his explanation to the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer he exhorts us to “receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” It should come as no surprise, then, that in putting together his booklet to teach the basics of the Christian faith, Luther should include a prayer acknowledging God as the giver of all good gifts before meals and a prayer of thanksgiving to be prayed after meals.

We live in a place where we see so much of what we eat produced on our own land and on that of our neighbors, and we rely on the mercy of God in giving sunlight, rain, warmth and cool weather in their seasons for our livelihood. It should be a no-brainer that we acknowledge God as the One who provides in abundance. It should be obvious that we give thanks to Him for feeding us with our own manna from heaven. Add to that such things as shelter, clothes, your spouse and children, your parents and brothers and sisters, your intellect, and everything else you need from day to day. Such generosity our Father displays to us, even though we don’t deserve it. The Lord does, indeed, “fill the hungry with good things”, as the Virgin Mary prayed.  Or as Luther quotes Psalm 143, the Father opens His hand to “satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Yet we are quick to take credit for our hard work—to accept the praise for the bountiful crop that we planted and sowed and put up, to point to our fattened cattle and -pat ourselves on the back for a job well done—all the while forgetting the One who gave us the ability to do the work, who gave weather favorable to the growth and nurture of crops, who created and ordered the world to produce a harvest from something that started as small as a seed.

Though His children lack gratitude, He does not fail to provide. Though we forget to turn around to worship God, just as nine of the ten lepers forgot to turn around and praise the One who healed them of their leprosy, the Lord does not take away the gifts He so generously provides. Indeed, He continues to bless His creation. The sun continues to rise and shine and set on both the righteous and the unrighteous; the rain gives moisture for both the thankful and the thankless. The crops continue to grow, the cattle continue to graze and mature, our pantries and cabinets and tables bow under the weight of the fruits of the earth, and our bellies groan with the richness of the bounty our heavenly Father provides for us. “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

But even more than that, our heavenly Father even provides for our thankfulness. He provides in the body and blood of His Son a “Eucharist,” as we call it in the Greek—a feast of thanksgiving. Remember how Luther told us that the Father provides “all that I need to support this body and life”? He even provides in this life for the feeding of our souls, for the feeding of our eternal life. There is no end—literally, no end—to His gracious goodness. His mercy, His steadfast love, endures forever.

Once again our Father provides for you. Here at His Table, the dinner table of the baptismal family, the Church, you are gathered to eat the living bread from heaven. The Father welcomes you to the feast of His Son, the Lamb. Once again He feeds you, body and soul. He fills you with the forgiveness of sins, with salvation, with eternal life, and even with the words with which you may praise and thank Him. “O, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

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