22 November 2007

Receiving Our Bread with Thanksgiving

The Holy Triune God is the Author and Giver of life, the Maker and Preserver of all things. Every good and perfect gift comes to us from Him. All of this is for the sake of Christ, the Son of God, the almighty and eternal Word by whom all things were made, by whom all of creation has been redeemed and is sanctified. Our bodies and life have meaning and significance, in this world and the next, in Him who is our Head, our Savior and our God. For all of this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him, at all times and in all places. Truly, we have nothing else to offer Him but thanks for all His gifts and benefits of body and soul; nor can we offer Him even that sacrifice of thanksgiving except through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

By the nature of the case, and paradoxically, we give thanks to God chiefly by receiving His good gifts. It is by faith that He is worshiped rightly, which is to love and trust in Him, to look to Him for all good things, and to receive what He so freely and generously bestows upon all of mankind. Even such faith is a gift, which we can only receive from Him. So do we pray that He would lead us to recognize all that He provides for us by grace, and receive our bread with thanksgiving.

We also give thanks to God by using His gifts, not only for our own benefit and enjoyment, but also for the loving care and support of our neighbors. We give thanks to God by serving our families, and also by feeding and clothing, visiting and tending orphans and widows in their distress, the hungry and thirsty, the ill-clothed and ill-treated. There is nothing we can render to the Lord but our thanks for all His benefits, but we serve the Lord in His poor and little ones, and so give thanks to Him also by caring for them.

There is yet the praise and thanksgiving that we offer unto God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by calling upon His Name and confessing His Word. In this we honor Him by speaking back to Him and all the world what He has first of all spoken to us by the Son. We do so in the Creed and the Our Father, and in the Catechism, and so also in the acknowledgment and appreciation of the particular gifts that the Lord has bestowed upon us within our stations in life. It is truly meet, right and salutary that we thus put into words the faith that God has worked in our hearts by His Word and Spirit. Sometimes this may be a case of stating the obvious, which should still not go unsaid, because it is not so much a case of providing information as it is a matter of confession, of prayer, praise and thanksgiving. All the more so when the truth that we speak may be in stark contrast and contradiction of outward appearances. In such a case, especially then, to confess the Word of God is to glorify His Name and to spite that great liar, the devil.

As a matter of thanksgiving, therefore, I am counting my blessings out loud on this day, because the Lord has not only given me these good gifts of daily bread, but by His Word and Holy Spirit He has also given me to realize this and opens my mouth (and my blog) to show forth His praise.

I thank God for my colleague and father confessor, the Reverend Gifford Grobien, for his friendship, his fellowship, his fraternal encouragement and support, and his faithful assistance in the Office of the Holy Ministry. I am particularly grateful, at this time, for the respite that Pastor Grobien has enabled me to have with my family as we have moved and settled into our new house and home.

I thank God for the many good friends with which He has surrounded me, both new and old, near and far, who support me and my family with love and affection, who bear with me and my idiosyncracies, and who care for me with gentle forgiveness even when I am persnickety and grumpy, tired and out of sorts. I am humbled but deeply appreciative of the tremendous assistance that we have received from a number of these dear friends in the past several weeks of packing and moving.

I thank God for the house that He has provided for us, and for all the myriad ways in which He has caused everything to work together so beautifully in this process. I'm thankful for the additional space that we now have to work with, for the larger basement, for the very nice hardwood floors upstairs, for the lovely new kitchen tile, for the furniture that has been given to us, for the new appliances, for the paint and the painting, and for lots of other help along the way, all of which has done so much to make this new house a delightful new home for my family.

I thank God for my dear wife, my beautiful bride of the past twenty-two-plus years, who has worked (and continues working) tirelessly and selflessly to serve our home and family. I am thankful for all that she has done in the process of moving, packing and unpacking, and for the most delicious feast that she prepared for this Thanksgiving Day. I also give thanks for the classical and Lutheran education that she provides for our children throughout each year, and for her loving support, her patience and forgiveness on my behalf.

I thank God for my children, each and every one of them, for all their similarities and differences, and for the marvelous opportunity He has given me to care for them and catechize them and simply to enjoy sharing their lives with them. I am thankful for DoRena's visit on Tuesday, and for her phone call and Zachary's on Thanksgiving Day. I am thankful for my little Gerhardt, who was born on Thanksgiving Day one year ago. And I am profoundly grateful for my six other "little people" in between: for growing-up-too-fast Nicholai, articulate Monica, inquisitive Ariksander, tender Oly'anna, mischievous Justinian, and affectionate Frederick.

I thank God for DoRena's fiance, Sam, and for Zachary's girlfriend, Rebekah. Along with that, I thank God every day and night for the way in which both of my older children have honored their Mother and me in making decisions about their future, for the wisdom and maturity they have demonstrated along the way, and for the faith and piety in which they have proceeded.

I thank God for my Father and Mother, for their love and support and forgiveness and care. I am so grateful that they are still able to be a part of my life and a part of my family's life. Most especially, I give thanks that they brought me to Holy Baptism and continued to bring me to Church, that they taught me the Word of God in our home and family as I was growing up, and saw to it that I was catechized in the Christian faith and life at every step of the way.

I thank God for my brother and sisters, for Paul and his family, for Dorisa and her family (including her little Logan on the way), and for Dawn and her husband. I am glad for the years that we shared growing up together, and for the good relationship that we now enjoy as adults, even though too many miles separate us. I appreciate the things we have in common, but also admire the different sorts of gifts and talents, vocations and stations in life that God has given to my siblings.

I thank God for His gift of Holy Baptism, which I received on Thanksgiving Day forty-two years ago. Dr. Luther is surely correct, in his Large Catechism, when he says that we could spend our entire lives exploring and praising the benefits of Holy Baptism and never exhaust that treasure. In the washing of water with His Word, the Holy Triune God brought me out of Egypt and into the Promised Land through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, my Lord. All my sins were freely and fully forgiven, and I was given life and light in place of darkness and death. The Father made me His own dear child, united me with His beloved and well-pleasing Son, and anointed me with His Holy Spirit. It is not possible to thank Him too much for this benediction of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.

Finally, I thank God for the profound privilege of being a pastor and serving His people in this place with His Gospel, His means of grace, His forgiveness of sins, His life and salvation. I thank Him for the fact that this divine vocation forces me always back into His Word, day by day and week by week, so that my own faith and life are constantly fed and sustained. I thank Him for the joy I am given to baptize the children of God, to catechize the lambs and sheep, to visit the homebound and hospitalized, to pray with and for the people of the congregation, and to speak the sweet Word of Holy Absolution to those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ. I thank Him for the constant grace and blessing to celebrate the Church Year, to rejoice in the Lord's Day and the festivals of Christ throughout the year, and both to administer and receive His very Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. Surely, this is Paradise on earth.


Cindy R. said...

That's a fine Thanksgiving meditation, Pastor Stuckwisch. Thank you for sharing it. Your blog is like a little window that lets us look in and observe the thinking of a Christian. Your blog is actually a form of catechesis, I believe.

I am thankful for the confessional Lutheran blogosphere, where I have learned so much in recent months. On this blog and others, I have encountered authors and commenters who keep Jesus at the center. Nothing is more important or salutary than the gospel of Christ crucified!

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thank you, Cindy, for your very nice comments. I am gratified to come across in the nice way that you describe, and I thank God for that.

You are quite right that there is nothing more important than the Gospel, which is the forgiveness of sins by Christ. I hope and pray that His Gospel is ever at the heart and center of my faith and life, and that it would ever predominate all my words and actions.

In your comments on an earlier blog post, you wondered whether I might be willing and able to share the work that I have done on an LSB Kernlieder. I am happy to do so. To begin with, you may be able to find what you are interested in right here on my blog. If you look under the category of "Hymnody" along the left-hand side, you'll find links to the hymns that I've identified for various portions of the Church Year. In the case of each Sunday, you'll see the catechetical hymn of the week indicated. Over the course of the three-year series, using the hymns I've identified for the Sundays and Feasts will cover the LSB Kernlieder in the way that I've described. This is still a work in progress, but I do plan to stick with it, and over time it will all be in place.

There may be other things I could share with you that might be of interest, as well. If you go to the Emmaus home page, included among the links "on the other hand" (on the left), you should be able to contact me from there. If you go to that page and link on "contact pastor," I should get an e-mail from you and be able to reply.

Thanks again for your interest, and for your kind and encouraging words. God bless you and yours.