This Just In: Turkey, Stuffing, and a Great Big "Amen, Gift Received!"
By Mark Buetow
What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:12-13)
What do you get for the guy who has everything? How do you thank the God who made everything that exists? The God who made you? How do thank the Lord who can call all things into existence out of nothing with just a Word? How do you show gratitude to the God who becomes man to be nailed to a cross and die and then rise again so that you will rise from the dead and live forever? No matter how good your manners are, tossing out a “Thank you very much, Lord!” doesn’t really seem to cover all that Jesus has done for us. Besides, is the Lord really so vain that He needs to be told how awesome He is? How grateful we are? There are people like that--people who think that if you don’t fawn over them for what they’ve done then you aren’t grateful. We do that ourselves. “I don’t do it to be recognized but a little thanks would be nice.” You’ve just proven the point!
So what is true thankfulness to God? How do we express our gratitude? How do you say “Thank You” to Jesus? Psalm 116 helps us out here. We sing it in the first and second settings of the Divine Service: “What shall I render to The Lord?” How can we thank Him? How do we repay Him? We don’t. Rather, we receive more from Him! When Jesus gives you the forgiveness of sins, the only way to truly thank Him for such a gift is to receive more forgiveness! Live more in your Baptism! Receive again and again His Body and Blood, the cup of salvation. Hear again that He was crucified for you, died for you, rose for you, and forgives you. To put it another way: We don’t thank Jesus by returning something to Him, be it our “thankful hearts” or something else, but rather by receiving more of what Jesus has to give. To live in and enjoy the gifts of Jesus is the only way to thank Him. To live as a sinner who can’t get too much forgiveness but knows He has always more, is to render true thankfulness to God.
Now we certainly do say “Thank you, Lord,” in our hymns and prayers. Such words are a confession that everything we have is a gift from our Heavenly Father given to us through His Son. It is because of Jesus that the Father lovingly bestows on us “food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rules, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” We ought not forget that even what we earn in this life or receive as a gift is ultimately from the gracious hand of our heavenly Father.
Some people will try to guilt you into being thankful. Prepare for the barrage of Facebook photos of people waiting in line for iPhones while folks in Africa wear soda bottles as shoes; or reminders that on Thanksgiving we are thankful for all we have and then spend the next day waiting in line to get more; or reminders that if you’re enjoying yourself, there’s always someone who is miserable during the holidays. Or maybe we’re the miserable ones who so easily forget all of God’s gifts to us in Christ. It’s the sort of thing that drops a guilt-bomb that makes us feel bad for enjoying what we have. Then we feel bad we feel guilty when we know we should know better. How’s THAT for thankfulness? The world goes crazy trying to manipulate our emotions from happiness to sadness to guilt to excitement to apathy.
Away with all that! Christ has died for you! Washed you. Feeds you. The Father cares for you. No matter what things you have received, good or bad, nothing can take away your being a child of God. And that means Jesus has died to take away even our sins of gluttony, greed, and false guilt. Therefore there’s just no sense in getting worked up over how much gratitude you should have or how you should show your gratitude to God. Instead, live by receiving more Jesus. More forgiveness. More life in the freedom to enjoy all that God has given to you, sharing with your neighbor as you are able, and above all, taking that cup of salvation, the cup of Christ, and calling upon the Name of the Lord, the Name into which you’re baptized. It’s nice to say “Thank you” to Jesus but an even better word that confesses His goodness is the “Amen!” The “gift received, for me, yes, yes, it is so” word that receives what the Lord has for you.
On Thanksgiving Day, enjoy your turkey and dressing or whatever food you celebrate with, watch some football if that’s your thing, go get some bargains for your Christmas shopping, help serve dinner to the poor, invite someone over who has nowhere else to go. Do any of those things but do them all in the glad confidence that what most puts a smile on your Lord’s face is that He can give to you unending blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation. Happy Thanksgiving!
Rev. Mark Buetow is the pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois.
This article was originally published on the Higher Things website in November 2012.
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