Video of Matins is here. The sermon begins around the 18:30 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:4, 6). That has always been the goal: one creation praising the Creator of all. One creation, spoken into existence through the Word and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, praising His Father in the splendor of holiness (Psalm 29:2; 96:9). But there is an order to this psalm; there is a path to all creation praising the one God. It begins with the free and overwhelming mercy of God: God is gracious. He has blessed us. He spreads His favor over the whole earth. “He has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. [Yahweh] has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 65:1-3; Isaiah 52:10).
He has blessed us far beyond the immediate material things we can list on a Thursday in November. We can never remind ourselves too many times: every single thing that we have, from breath in our lungs and blood in our veins, to family, country, congregation, job, to His mercy in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected—all of it, always, is a free gift that God gives purely out of His Fatherly, Divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.
All of this blessing and graciousness has a purpose. The psalmist sings it: So that His way would be known throughout the earth, and His salvation among all peoples. Those are parallel thoughts: His way is His salvation, His deliverance. Why was it that God chose Jacob and his descendants to be His people? Why did He deliver them from Egypt? Why did He bring them to the Land of Promise? So that His way would be known throughout the whole earth. So that it would be known that this is Yahweh, the God of Israel and this is what He does: He delivers; He saves.
Why has He gathered a new people, beginning with the Apostles? Why did He keep His promises to Israel of old in the form of the Man, Jesus? Why did He deliver us from our sin? Why is He leading us to the eternal Land of Promise? Because this is His way. This is what His salvation looks like, from age to age. And He wants it known. He has gathered you and me in this place, at this time, along with all the other people of all places and times, so that when people see how He deals with us, they will know how He wants to deal with them. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!” He says. “For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).
That’s why we’re here today: not only because it’s a national holiday, but because He has made known to us that He is the giver of all that we have. That’s also why we come to His House on the Lord’s Day: not because it’s the weekend and we have nothing better to do, but because He is gracious and merciful to us; He has blessed us and continues to do so; He has made His salvation, His Jesus, known to the ends of the earth, including in East Wenatchee, WA. And since He has made us His people once and for all in the bloody bath of baptism, there is no more transaction between us and Him. It is not like this—which is the way the world thinks about thanksgiving: that He gives us some thing and we are thankful for that thing; a one-to-one correspondence. No, He gives us everything, and so our thankfulness also must be whole and complete. Even when we forget His benefits, even when we, like Israel grow full on His gifts, and lazy and complacent, He remains faithful.
I sometimes am brought to realize how I fill my own eyes; that my selfishness seems to know no bounds; that my goods and blessings and thoughts and actions are constantly turned in on myself. I could deny Him, but He cannot deny Himself. Only Christ, by His Word and His body and blood, by the Holy Spirit He has put within me, keep me from drowning in self-centered complaint. The graciousness of God is death to self-consideration, because I have given Him nothing, can give Him nothing except sin and death, but still, still, He gives me everything in Christ. Then, finally, under the forgiving blood, I have the freedom to be glad and sing for joy, to rejoice in all circumstances, to give thanks at all times and in all places, to take refuge in His promises, to rest in peace, at the end of the day and at the end of my life.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us” (Psalm 67:1). We hear echoes of Aaron’s blessing of God’s people, which we hear each week: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. This is the same Name He has put on you, the same Name into which you were baptized, the same Name which covers us from morning to evening, from baptism to resurrection. We are reminded in the morning, as we make the sign of His holy cross, that we are marked with His Name. And we are reminded in the evening, as we make the same sign, that we are still marked with His Name.
Until the end of this creation, He promises that the earth will not fail to yield its fruit, and God—our God, through His Son, Jesus—will not fail to bless us with all that we need for this body and life, and for new bodies in the life to come. He will continue to do that, not because we are more numerous than any other people, not because we’ve been so faithful or done so well, not because our lives are great and perfect during the holidays, but simply because He has chosen us in the love of His Son. He deals with us not according to our sins, but according to His own mercy from the cross. And as He has dealt with us, so He wishes to deal with all people. God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. That is why we offer our supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all people, so that the way of our God in Jesus Christ will be known to the ends of the earth, especially the small part of the earth where we live. Let the peoples praise you, O God! Let all the peoples praise you!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/23/22