“Thanksgiving and Peace” — Thanksgiving Day Sermon — Pastor Rolf Preus

“Thanksgiving and Peace”
Thanksgiving Day Sermon
November 22 81, 23, 2018
Philippians 4:6-7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

We ask. We pray, supplicate, make our requests known. We do so with thanksgiving. We don’t ask as if God won’t answer. We ask as if he will. We make our requests with thanksgiving because we know that he will give us what we ask. He said he would. He will. So we thank him for it.

I’ve heard it said that God gives us one of two answers to our prayers: yes or no. But that’s not so. He doesn’t say no. He may say not yet. He may make us wait. He may even have to reinterpret our prayer a bit because we don’t always know what we’re asking for. But God does not say no.

Why pray? God already knows what we need, does he not? God already has decided what to give us, has he not? So then prayer is a waste of time. What will be will be. God doesn’t respond to prayer. He does what he wills when he wills.

This is the argument of unbelief. God takes issue with this argument. He identifies himself as our Father. This is how his only begotten Son has taught us to address him. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.” Jesus invites us to call upon God as dear children call upon their dear father.

Praying and believing go together. Praying for what God has promised is to exercise our faith. We ask in faith. Sometimes this means that we ask in the face of evidence to the contrary. We face illness or death and we pray for health. We face shortage of what we need. We pray for what we lack. We pray in confidence that God will provide. And he does.

We are anxious because we choose to bear our own burdens instead of casting them on the one who cares for us. This is the choice of unbelief. History is littered with examples of Christians who have erred from the faith because they insisted on doing it their way, depending on their own ingenuity, relying on their own powers. What does the Bible say? “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Tell God what burdens you. Let him worry about it.

“Oh, he knows already.” Don’t tell God what he knows. He knows what he knows. But do you know enough to bring your troubles to him? If your troubles have come about because of your own sins and failings you might be afraid to go to God for help. Will he chide you for causing the trouble you want him to bail you out of? No, he will not. He will help you.

God knows far better than we how we are responsible for the troubles we bring to him. He knows he’s not. He can neither sin nor be tempted to do wrong. If life has dealt us a tough

hand to play, don’t blame God. He didn’t do it. He is the author of every good and perfect gift. He doesn’t do evil. He doesn’t bring us trouble. We do that all by ourselves. And if you think that he won’t listen to your cry for help because you’ve caused the trouble from which you are calling for help then you don’t know what prayer is all about. God doesn’t answer our prayers because we deserve his help. God helps us in our need because this is the way he is. He is our Father and we are his children.

This is only through Christ. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We pray. God gives us peace. It is a peace beyond our understanding. We could not achieve it. But we receive it. It guards us from all evil. It guards our hearts and our minds. It brings us to rest in the wounds of Jesus. Instead of fretting in our sins we relax in God’s mercy. We know Christ and in knowing him we know peace. We have genuine peace of mind.

Thanksgiving and prayer go together. This national holiday is a good idea. We thank God for blessing our nation. The United States of America has no special relationship with God that other nations don’t have. She will rise and fall as all nations do. Only the kingdom of God lasts forever. But it is precisely because America has protected us Christians that God has so richly blessed her. God said to Abraham:

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
(Genesis 12:3)

God has blessed America because America has blessed Abraham. America has protected the rights of Christians — the true children of Abraham — since the founding of this nation. Nowhere in the world have Christians enjoyed greater civil rights to preach, teach, confess, and practice our most holy religion. True, this has also required the protection of many false religions as well, for the civil authorities don’t have the wherewithal to discriminate between what is true and what is false in matters of religion. But in protecting God’s people, America has received God’s blessing.

Thank God for his blessings on our country! We pray for those in authority in government. Our Christian prayers are far more powerful than our American armies. God answers the humble prayers of his people. We thank God for the protecting our right to gather in his name, hear his holy word, and sing praises to him.

I am not so naive as to assume that the reason the United States protects the Holy Christian Church is because she as a nation loves the gospel that we believe, teach, and confess. You should not be so naive, either. The gospel remains a scandal to upright people everywhere. It is loved only by sinners in search of a gracious God. But for whatever reason America defends the Church, when she does so God blesses America on this account. When America defends the Church, God will bless America. If America persecutes Christ’s Church, God will punish America.

Regardless of what happens to the nation that established this day of national thanksgiving, we will gather together to thank God for the peace of mind that Christ alone can bring. That peace comes not from human politicking. It isn’t secured by military might. It came to this earth on Christmas as the angels sang to the shepherds of God’s peace and goodwill toward fallen humanity. The peace promised on Christmas was achieved on Good Friday where God in the flesh did battle against the devil and all the powers of darkness. God reckoned to his innocent Son the sin of us all. He bore it. He suffered for it. He received the punishment it called for. He washed all our sin away by shedding his most holy, precious blood. He thus established peace between God and man.

Think of this on this national day of Thanksgiving. Think of the peace of God that passes all understanding. The freedoms we enjoy as Americans can be lost. They likely will be lost. We see ominous developments on the horizon. The rights of Christians could easily be taken away.

But who can undo what Jesus achieved on Calvary? Who can break the peace between God and sinners that was won there? The holy God became our holy brother. In his holy flesh and blood he fulfilled the just demands of God’s law. He did what God demanded of us all. He did so for us. Christ for us. There our peace was won. That’s the peace that comes to our hearts and minds and guards us, keeps us, in the saving faith.

Long after the fall of America the Holy Christian Church will stand. Long after we have lost the political freedoms we so cherish we shall remain free. No human hatred, violence, or war can rob us of the peace we have in Christ. For it is the peace of sin forgiven. It is the peace of knowing that God sees us at our very worst and, for Christ’s sake, forgives us all our sins. Nothing can rob us of this peace because it was won by God himself. It is given by God himself. God secured it for us and in us.

We thank God today for the many blessings he has showered upon the land we love. This is, after all, a day of national thanksgiving. But more than anything else, we thank him for the peace we enjoy with him and with one another. It is ours through faith in Christ. Having peace with God we are bold to ask him for everything children of God need from their Father in heaven. We pray for our nation, for our church, and for the peace of God that passes all understanding. God graciously answers our prayers for Jesus sake. Amen

About Pastor Rolf Preus

Pastor Rolf David Preus grew up on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the fourth of ten children, where his father, Dr. Robert David Preus, taught for many years. Pastor Preus graduated from high school in 1971, from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1975 and from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1979. He was ordained on July 1, 1979, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Clear Lake, Minnesota. He served Trinity Lutheran Church in Clear Lake (1979-1982), First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1982-1989), St. John's Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin (1989-1997), River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1997-2006), and First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, North Dakota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota from (2006-2015). On February 15, 2015 he was installed as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John Lutheran Church, Fairview, Montana. Pastor Preus received his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1987. His thesis topic was, “An Evaluation of Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conversations on Justification." Pastor Preus has taught courses in theology for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Concordia University Wisconsin, and St. Sophia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Preus married Dorothy Jean Felts on May 27, 1975, in Coldwater, Michigan. God has blessed Pastor and Dort with twelve children: Daniel, David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, James, Mary, Samuel, and Peter. David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, and James are pastors in the LCMS. God has blessed Pastor and Mrs. Preus with forty-three grandchildren so far. Pastor Preus' mother is living in Minneapolis. Three of his brothers and two of his brothers-in-law have served as pastors in the LCMS.

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