Sermon 11.22.2017 Thanksgiving

Matthew 15:29-39    Rev. Kenneth Frey
Thanksgiving    11/22/17

Matthew 15:29-39  Moving on from there, Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, 30 and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel.  32 Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to feed such a crowd?”  34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked them.  “Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.”  35 After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. They collected the leftover pieces—seven large baskets full. 38 Now there were four thousand men who had eaten, besides women and children. 39 After dismissing the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

Oh, Give thanks to the Lord for he is good
1.  Jesus’ power
2.  Jesus’ compassion
3.  Jesus’ abundant provision

In the old movie, “Shenandoah”, Jimmy Stewart played the self-reliant father of the family.  He went to church because it was expected and his wife made him, but he wasn’t really a religious man.  At the meal time prayer early in the movie, Stewart’s character prayer, “Lord, we cleared this land, We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it and we’ve cooked the harvest.  It would be here, and we would be eating it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.  We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat.  Amen.”

Is that our approach to thanksgiving?  We have to make money. We have to pay the bills. We have to make repairs on the house.  We have to do the shopping.  We have to put gas in the car.  We have to make dinner, do dishes, clean the house.  And God is just an afterthought?  Moses warned us earlier, “When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, 13 and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, 14 be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God . . . You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ 18 but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth.” (Dt 8:12-14, 17, 18)

Yes, we have to be responsible adults.  We have to work and pay bills.  We have to cook and clean and fix.  But we could accomplish nothing without God.  Everything we have is a gift of his grace and so we want to learn to say from the heart, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord for he is good.”

It’s nice to have a long weekend.  We can get away from our work and responsibilities for a while.  Jesus and his disciples were trying to do the same.  They went up to a mountain for some down time, but people got wind of their location and they brought to Jesus every physical ailment you can think of:  cripples, deformed, deaf, mute, blind and many others.  But they didn’t just bring them to Jesus.  They threw them at him.  It’s the same word used when Judas threw the moneybag into the temple.  You can imagine here such a rush of people wanting their child or brother or mother healed that they were practically tossing them at Jesus.  

And what did Jesus do?  He healed them.  Every single one.  Maybe people threw their loved ones at Jesus because the feared he might run out of power.  But he healed everyone who was brought to him.  And what does that tell us?  Jesus is God.  Jesus is fully God, with all the almighty power of God.  

Can he heal you? Christ has the power to save, not only from sin, but from every disease and sickness.  Isaiah said that he bore our illnesses.  He died from multiple sclerosis.  He died from cancer and heart disease.  He died from alcoholism and anorexia.  What’s more he rose victorious over them.  Believe that.

Believe that whatever you might be dealing with in life, you are already whole in God’s eyes.  Although you see sickness and pain, you are whole.  Although we see nothing now but death, hell and the judgment of God, yet we must not look at them.  Fully trust that Jesus, by the power of his promise, not because we are worthy, gives life, salvation and grace.  

Oh, give thanks to the Lord for his power at work for us.

Believe also that he has the compassion to care.  Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”  33 The disciples said to him, “Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to feed such a crowd?”  Jesus had compassion.  His heart goes out to us as we struggle with the affects of sin.  How many times don’t we read in the gospels about Jesus’ compassion? 

But it was more than compassion.  We may have compassion for someone’s suffering, but how often don’t we say, “It’s not my problem.”  Jesus saw mankind as his problem.  Jesus felt responsible for their needs.  Their physical needs were his problem.  Our spiritual needs are his problem.  His compassion for us takes action.  Martin Luther said, “What then is all this but a purely living sermon, proving and witnessing that Christ is so earnestly and heartily concerned about us.”  (Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume 4, p. 223.)

We see that compassion for us when Jesus was born in a lowly stable and when he went hungry in the wilderness.  We see that compassion betrayed by Judas.  We see his compassion as he sweats great drops of blood.  We see that compassion as he hangs on the cross.  We see that compassion take the whole load of our sins on himself.  

Oh, give thanks to the Lord for his compassion for us.

Jesus’ power and compassion are at work to provide for us abundantly, even though there was little available.  “How many loaves do you have?”  Jesus asked them.  “Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.”  This is the second time Jesus feed a multitude with very little.  The first time he fed 5000 men plus women and children.  That first time the disciples asked, “How far will they go among so many?”  This time they didn’t ask the question.  They now knew what Jesus could do.

After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. They collected the leftover pieces—seven large baskets full.   When Jesus fed the 5000, we’re told that they collected twelve baskets of leftovers.  The basket then was a small basket that you might carry bread in.  

This time it’s seven large baskets.  These are baskets big enough to hold a man.  It’s the same word used for the basket that Paul was lowered in from the wall of Damascus.  Do you see how much Jesus can provide for us?  He give to us abundantly.  But we so often fail to appreciate the great miracles that God still does for us.  Is it not just as great a miracle that every year we get miles and miles of corn out of dirt?  And drive around Wisconsin.  Field after field filled with crops.  Jesus can take even the little that we have and turn it into abundant provisions.

This miracle shows that God can provide for us no matter how little we have.  Psalm 37 said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”  We should burn this promise into our memory and trust that God will always take care of our needs.  

Then let us say, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord for his abundant provision.”  

Someone once said that to be ungrateful is one of the greatest sins.  Martin Luther said, “We cannot give God anything; for everything is already his, and all we have comes from him.  We can only give him thanks.” (What Luther Says, #4357)

So let us give him thanks.  Let us give him thanks on this national day of Thanksgiving.  Let us give him thanks in our worship.  Let us give him thanks at every meal we eat.  Let us give him thanks for every blessing we receive from his bountiful hand.  Let us give thanks for his power at work for us.  Let us give thanks for his compassion.  Let us give thanks for his abundant provisions. 

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.