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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving Sermon, 2014 “We Praise You, O God.”
For our sermon today, we will be singing through the hymn, “We Praise You, O God.”  To follow along, turn to hymn 785 in your hymnal.

The story behind this hymn isn’t that inspiring or moving.  In fact, it goes like this: There was an organist who loved this tune but disliked the accompanying words, so he approached Julia Cory, an author in the early 1900’s, to pen new lyrics to the tune.  Simple as that.  Yet when you begin exploring the words of the hymn, you quickly realize that though the hymn’s origins are simple, the hymn itself is quite profound.
In the first verse, right away we encounter our Redeemer, Creator.  This is not some far off god that we singing our praise to, but the one true God that has revealed Himself to us in a very personal way.  He has even given to us His holy name!  Long ago, at various times and in various ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.  To them God revealed Himself as our Creator.  He has revealed Himself as Yahweh.
Not only did he form the heavens and the earth, but as our creator, God made us and all creatures; He has given us our body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses, and still takes care of them.  He also gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all we have. He richly and daily provides us with all that we need to support this body and life.  He defends us against all danger and guards and protects us from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of our own. For all this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  It is His Son that saved us from our sins.  As our Redeemer Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is our Lord, who has redeemed us, lost and condemned people, purchased and won us from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that we may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.  It is God as our Creator, Redeemer that we kneel before to give thanks, and it is His holy name that we bless and sing praises to.
Let us now sing the first verse of our hymn.

We praise You, O God, our Redeemer, Creator;
    In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before You, we kneel and adore You;
    We bless Your holy name, glad praises we sing.

In the second verse, we worship our God with confidence, knowing that He has been faithful to our fathers.  We have seen Him deliver His people Israel from the bonds of slavery and the land of Egypt.  We have seen His ever enduring patience and mercy as His people strayed from His Word.  We have seen Him guide them in the way of righteousness and through persecution and oppression.  We have seen that He too has delivered us from the bonds of sin and the land of death, and His ever enduring patience and mercy as we stray from His Word, and Him guiding us in the way of righteousness and through persecution and oppression.
In the days of old, God let His Spirit rest upon judges, prophets, priests, and kings.  In that way He led His people Israel and protected them from all harm and danger as well as corrected them when they went astray.  In the latter days, God has spoken to us through His Son.  Christ has revealed the Father’s Will to us.  For God our Father has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.  When Christ ascended, He sent to us His Holy Spirit, the great comforter, so that the Spirit of God rests upon all of us.  With the assurance of the Holy Spirit, we know that though trials and tempests come, we are secure in God’s hands and nothing can pluck us from it.
So we are able to face what comes our way, knowing that Christ has not abandoned us.  Instead, Christ comes to us through our suffering, and it is while we suffer that His power is made known.  It is in our suffering that God is glorified, not by the suffering itself, but by what God does through our suffering.  In our suffering the Spirit is at work, comforting us, guiding us, strengthening us.  He is building us up and conforming us to Christ.  He creates life out of death.  This is the power of the Spirit, and for that we are thankful. 
And when that day comes, when the perils of this life overwhelm and overtake our bodies of flesh, we know that we are not forgotten.  For when we live in Christ, we die in Christ.  Whether in life or death, we are His because Christ is the victor over death and the grave.  We are not forsaken in death, but instead ushered by Christ to the throne room of God where we will dwell securely in His presence.  On that day our struggles will be over and our battle won.  On that day we will have everlasting peace.  So we worship God as our guide in life and in death.
Let us now sing the second verse of our hymn.

We worship You, God of our fathers, we bless You;
    Through trial and tempest our guide You have been.
When perils o’ertake us, You will not forsake us,
    And with Your help, O Lord, our struggles we win.

In the final verse we move from individual to corporate worship.  We sing out with voices united as the whole Christian Church on earth praises our God as one.  Further, we have discussed how God was faithful to our fathers, but now we turn to our fathers themselves.  We recognize that the Church on earth is not alone in its praise, but that when we sing we are joining in a heavenly song that has been sung since the beginning of time.  Not only are we worshiping with all the angels and arch angels, but with all the company of heaven.  We worship with all the saints who have gone on before just as we worship with the saints that are with us now.  The Holy Christian Church is not bound by time and space, and thus our worship is everlasting and eternal.  We worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit with the whole Christian Church, both in heaven and on earth.
We have moved from the past to the present, now let us move from the present to the future, the reason for our salvation.  God, our Creator, Redeemer, has made everything out of love, and He has sent His only Son to reconcile us to Himself, so that we one day will enjoy His creation the way it was meant to be.  On the Last Day, Christ will come and we will be raised with all the dead, and the faithful found in Christ will rise to eternal life.  We will have glorified bodies; without fear, without sickness, without sin.  God will spread His presence over all creation and we will dwell securely with Him forever and ever.  This is the reason for our hope, this is the reason for our praise, and this is the reason for our Thanksgiving.
Let us now sing the final verse of our hymn.

With voices united our praises we offer
    And gladly our songs of thanksgiving we raise.
With You, Lord, beside us, Your strong arm will guide us.
    To You, our great Redeemer, forever be praise!

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