St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

We Thank Our God

Thanksgiving Sermon on Psalm 65:1-4

Text: Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.
2 You who answer prayer, to you all people will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.

It appears that writing a “thank you” note is becoming a lost art. Perhaps, this is because we rarely write letters any more. I do not believe that we are any less thankful when people do something nice for us or give us a gift. I believe that we just do not often take the time to write a “thank you” note. We email or text a thank you. We call the person on the phone and thank them. While this is all fine and good, I think that there is still a place for a “thank you” note. Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are going to use the idea of a “thank you” note as WE THANK OUR GOD 1. By Recognizing His Many Blessings and 2. By Living For Him.

King David wrote Psalm 65. As you read this psalm, you see the many reasons why David was thankful. In verses 5-8, David is thankful for the way that God rules the nations. We surely can echo these words when we look at the country we are blessed to live in. We think of the government that we enjoy. We have good roads. We have stability and security. David concludes the psalm by thanking God for the harvest. Once again, we join our voices with David’s in this respect. Once again, we have enjoyed a good harvest. While it might not have been perfect due to weather throughout the summer, yet, we still have been able to bring in a plenteous harvest. We also are reminded of all of the other physical blessings that we enjoy. We have more than enough to eat. We have plenty of clothing. We have nice houses in which to live. We have medical technology that was so much science fiction not that many years ago. The list goes on and on of the many ways that we have been blessed physically on a personal and on a national level.

One of the earmarks of a good “thank you” note is to mention the things that the person gave you. Psalm 65 surely does that. While all of the things that we have mentioned already are wonderful blessings which we receive from our loving God’s hands, they are not the most important. Verses 2-4 mention some of the spiritual blessings that have been given to us.

David writes about the most important one in verse 3, for without this one gift, none of the other ones would be possible. “When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.” God’s forgiveness is the greatest blessing that we have received. Without this blessing, we would have been lost forever. If we take a moment and think about the sins that we have committed against God, it is truly overwhelming. For example, can we say that we have always been thankful for what God has blessed us with? Don’t we sit and complain about how little we have? Don’t we sit and compare what we have with what others have and become envious of them? Sometimes we are like the little child who has just prayed “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever,” and then makes faces at what they are having for supper. “Yuck! Do I have to eat that?” God wants us to be content with what he has given us. God does not want us to be greedy. Every time that we are not, we sin. We should rightly spend our eternity apart from God in the fires of hell. It doesn’t take too much soul-searching to become overwhelmed by our sins.

How beautiful, then, are the words, “When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.” In God’s great mercy, he sent his Son into the world to take care of our sins. Jesus did this by being perfectly obedient to his Father. This included the fact that he was content with what his Father gave him. When he was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, Jesus refused, because that would have shown that he did not trust that his Father would provide for him. When faced with the task of going to the cross, Jesus did not complain about his lot in life. Rather, he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus has given us his perfect life, so that when the Father sees us, he sees the perfection that he demands. To take care of our overwhelming debt of sins, Jesus went to that cross. While on the cross, he paid for every one of our sins. We know that our debt was paid for in full, for, just before he died, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Jesus lived for us. He died for us. He, also, rose from the dead for us. This assures us that his work of our salvation was completed. His Father accepted his payment for our sins. We are forgiven. We are now part of God’s family, through the faith that was created in us. This, truly, is the greatest blessing of all. If this were all that God had given us, we would have all that we needed.

David calls to mind another blessing in verse 2, “You who answer prayer, to you all people will come.” The opportunity and the ability to pray is another blessing that we receive from God. It is truly an amazing thing, when you think about it. We have the ability to come to God, the Creator of the universe, with everything that is going on in our lives. We come to him with things that concern us. We come to him with things that are making our lives difficult. We came to him and thank him for all that he has done for us. More than that, we know that he hears and will answer everyone of them for our benefit. This privilege is ours because Jesus has torn down the wall of sin that stood between us. We thank God for the ability and the opportunity to pray.

We are reminded of another blessing in verse 4, “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!” God chose you and me to be his own before the creation of the world. He wanted you and me to be with him for all eternity, so he did everything necessary so that it would happen. It also reminds us that God knows whom we are. We are not some number on a page somewhere. We are God’s dearly loved children, chosen by him from before the creation of the world.

There is one other blessing that we can point to from this psalm, “We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.” Think of all of the good things that we receive in his house. We have the Means of Grace. God speaks to us in his holy Word. He tells us what he has done for us. He instructs us in what is pleasing to him. We have Holy Baptism, where we are brought into the family of God. Faith is created in the heart, even when we were too little to know what was going on. We have Holy Communion where we receive the forgiveness of sins through the reception of Christ’s body and blood with the bread and the wine. We also receive the strengthening of our faith, so that we can continue to fight the battles that rage against us. We are “filled with the good things.” God does not skimp on these blessings. He heaps our plates full with them. Blessing upon blessing is ours from the hand of our loving God.

Often in a “thank you” note, the recipient will tell the giver what he is going to do with his gift. The graduate may say that they will use the gift to help pay for college. The child may say that they are saving up to buy something that has caught their eye. So also, we, as we look at the gifts that God has given us, tell him what we are going to do with them. We are going to use these gifts to live for him.

It says in verse 1, “Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.” We want our lives to be filled with praise for all that God has done for us. Truly our mouths are filled with praise as we thank God for all that he has done. We praise him, when we tell others what he has done for us and what he has done for them. We do not want to praise him only with our mouths. We want our lives to praise him, as well.

There are many ways in which we can do this. One of the ways mentioned in verse 1 is “to you our vows will be fulfilled.” A vow is a promise that we make to God. There are several times when we make our vows. One of them is when we are confirmed. In our confirmation vows, we promise that we will remain faithful to the teachings that we have learned. We promise that we will be regular in church attendance and the reception of the Lord’s Supper. We promise that our lives will be in line with what God’s Word says. When we do these things, we keep our vows and we thank God in doing so.

Another place where vows are made is when we get married. We promise to be faithful to each other. We promise to love and care for each other. Husbands and wives, when we do all that we can to promote a loving home, when we do all that we can so that our spouse feels loved and honored, when we build up the friendship in our marriages, we are keeping our vows and we thank God in doing so. Taking it a step further, when we train our children in the truths of God’s Word, we are not only doing a service for them. We are also thanking God for these gifts that he has given to us.

There may be other vows that we have taken, perhaps as a part of the Church Council or as a Called worker or in some other capacity. When we do our very best in these various tasks, we are thanking God for all that he has done for us.

Obviously, there are other ways that we can thank God, as well. We thank him with our offerings. We thank him as we are good citizens in our community and country. The list goes on and on of the many ways that we can thank God by living for him.

When we pause and think what God has done for us and given to us, we realize that we have much to be thankful for. May God help us to reflect that thanksgiving not on just one day a year. Rather, may our entire lives thank God. In essence, we want our entire lives to be “thank you” notes that are carefully and thoughtfully written to our God.