Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The Old Testament Israelites had many reasons to give thanks. God chose the Israelites as His people. He freed them from Egypt. He parted the Red Sea. He delivered bread to them in the desert. He gave them water from a rock. He granted them healing by looking up at a bronze snake. God sent them commandments to live by. If they followed these commandments, these people would live and multiply as promised by God. Needless to say, the Old Testament Israelites had many reasons to give thanks.


Still, the Israelites complained. In Exodus we hear, “It would have been better if the LORD had just killed us in the land of Egypt. At least there we had plenty to eat. We had all the food we needed. But now you have brought us out here into this desert to make us all die from hunger.” In the book of Numbers, Moses complains, “Why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that You have laid the troubles of all these people on me?” The Lord set apart Israel from other nations. However, Israel and Moses often failed to remember the promises of the Lord. In our Old Testament reading, God promises, “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.”


Had the Israelites remembered these promises, maybe they would’ve praised God with loud voices rather than complaining to God with loud grumblings. Israel failed to realize what God had done and was doing in their times of struggle and suffering. If only they knew that God was going to deliver them from their struggles and sufferings. Then maybe their complaining would have decreased and their praises would have increased. If only they had known that God desired them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Then maybe they would have complained less and praised God more. If only they knew that God would deliver to the entire world a Savior through them. Then maybe their praises would have drowned out their complaints. Rather they failed to remember the promises given to them by God.


Instead of being a chosen nation that acted accordingly, we read about a chosen nation that failed to remember the promises set aside for them. A nation, chosen by God, should be a nation that always remembers God’s Word. This nation should have no earthly king, but crown the King of all nations, God Himself, as their king! This should be a nation that turned back to the promises of God and praised Him with loud voices. Yet, we read about a nation that forgot as quickly as they were told. We read about a nation that desired what they had in the past. We read about a nation that seemed to be less like the leper that returned to Jesus and more like the nine lepers that never returned. We read about a nation that seemed less perfect and more like you and me.

SERMON FOR THANKSGIVING DAY, 11-27-2014
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The Old Testament Israelites had many reasons to give thanks. God chose the Israelites as His people. He freed them from Egypt. He parted the Red Sea. He delivered bread to them in the desert. He gave them water from a rock. He granted them healing by looking up at a bronze snake. God sent them commandments to live by. If they followed these commandments, these people would live and multiply as promised by God. Needless to say, the Old Testament Israelites had many reasons to give thanks.


Still, the Israelites complained. In Exodus we hear, “It would have been better if the LORD had just killed us in the land of Egypt. At least there we had plenty to eat. We had all the food we needed. But now you have brought us out here into this desert to make us all die from hunger.” In the book of Numbers, Moses complains, “Why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that You have laid the troubles of all these people on me?” The Lord set apart Israel from other nations. However, Israel and Moses often failed to remember the promises of the Lord. In our Old Testament reading, God promises, “For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing.”


Had the Israelites remembered these promises, maybe they would’ve praised God with loud voices rather than complaining to God with loud grumblings. Israel failed to realize what God had done and was doing in their times of struggle and suffering. If only they knew that God was going to deliver them from their struggles and sufferings. Then maybe their complaining would have decreased and their praises would have increased. If only they had known that God desired them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Then maybe they would have complained less and praised God more. If only they knew that God would deliver to the entire world a Savior through them. Then maybe their praises would have drowned out their complaints. Rather they failed to remember the promises given to them by God.


Instead of being a chosen nation that acted accordingly, we read about a chosen nation that failed to remember the promises set aside for them. A nation, chosen by God, should be a nation that always remembers God’s Word. This nation should have no earthly king, but crown the King of all nations, God Himself, as their king! This should be a nation that turned back to the promises of God and praised Him with loud voices. Yet, we read about a nation that forgot as quickly as they were told. We read about a nation that desired what they had in the past. We read about a nation that seemed to be less like the leper that returned to Jesus and more like the nine lepers that never returned. We read about a nation that seemed less perfect and more like you and me.


The promises of God are not conditional to our thanksgiving. The ten lepers who pleaded, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” all received healing from Jesus. When the one leper returned to Jesus to give thanks, Jesus did not take away the healing of the other nine. God’s promises are not conditional, but eternal.


However, our thanksgiving is not eternal, but very much conditional. Like the Israelites, we give thanks on an emotional whim. We do not live in a chosen nation like Israel, but we do empathize with the Old Testament Israelites. Often, when we are experiencing struggles and sufferings, we romanticize the past. Remembering the good and downplaying the bad; in the same way the Israelites romanticized slavery. We begin to play God. We think these struggles and sufferings we are facing are unfair. We begin to question God’s love and we fail to remember His promises. Our thanksgiving is very much conditional.


On the other hand, we are also like the nine lepers. We may receive exactly what we wanted. We may have received something we desired in the field of academics, a job or career, finances, home, health, or something else, and we fail to turn back and return to God the praise He deserves. We forget that we do not receive any of these things if it wasn’t for the mercy of our Lord. Yet, we fail to give the thanks that is His.


God does not take away his promises because we are not grateful. But this does not mean that we do not try to be grateful. This Thanksgiving we turn to God to give Him thanks at the feet of Jesus for His eternal promises. This Thanksgiving, many of us find profound gratitude in the mundane things that can be easily taken for granted. For God gives us all things. For many, Thanksgiving is time spent with family. Whether this is the family you were born into, or the family God joined you in, or a family that brought you in. Family is a great blessing from God. For some, Thanksgiving is a reminder of what they once had, but no longer have. In this, they search to give thanks for what they continue to have.


The good news is God has called you His child. God has brought you from being a spiritual leper to His son or daughter. He has freed you from the chains of sin into the freedom of Christ. Jesus struggled and suffered by being denied, betrayed, arrested, mocked, and crucified. He then rose and now death has no power over you. He proclaims to us, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of His truth. He promises salvation to the believer. He grants us forgiveness for all of our sins. We are unable to give God proper thanks for all that He has done. Even if we dedicated the rest of our lives giving him thanks. The debt is too great. Yet, in Christ, our account of thankfulness is perfect.


Today, many will be brought together with family and friends to a table to feast. In Christ, as he comes to feed us, we are brought together with all saints and given a foretaste of the feast to come. God continues to daily and richly grant us His promises. One day, we will be resurrected into a Thanksgiving Feast without end. In the name of Jesus.

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