Most of us have heard the phrase, “Every Sunday is like a little Easter.” Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning, so every Sunday in church is like a little Easter. But how about Thanksgiving? Is it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving every time we come together as God’s people as well?
Perhaps we could begin with an entrance hymn such as “Now Thank We All Our God,” written by Martin Rinkart, a Lutheran pastor in Germany who lived in the 1600’s during the 30 Years War. In the midst of sorrow, suffering, pain, and death, he was able to put pen to paper and write these poignant words:
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms, has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
An appropriate psalm for the day could be Psalm 100.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
The Prayer of the Day could be Luther’s Morning Prayer:
I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
The sermon would speak of the many abundant blessings we have given by our gracious God, and the dangers of thanklessness that have plagued some who have gone before us. As Martin Luther wrote,
Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s word as it is hearing today; certainly we read nothing of it in history. If we let it just slip by without thanks and honor, I fear we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague. O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. You need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore seize it and hold it fast (LW 45).
As we near the end of the worship service, it comes time for the greatest thanksgiving of all. The Eucharist. Today we know it as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper, but originally it was simply known as the Eucharist. The greek word eucharistia means thanksgiving, and is found fifteen times in the New Testament. It is the word used in the Gospels on Thursday of Holy Week when Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and in so doing, instituted the Lord’s Supper.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:26-28).
We eat and drink the body and blood of Christ for our forgiveness and salvation, believing that he is truly present in the Sacrament in and with the bread and the wine. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.
Thank the Lord and sing his praise, tell everyone what he has done. Let all who seek the Lord rejoice and proudly bear his name. He recalls his promises and leads his people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia! (Lutheran Service Book, p. 164)
We give all glory, honor, thanks, and praise to God the Father for the gift of his Son, as we rejoice and receive and revel in the fruits of his cross which come to us in the Eucharist.