Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Thanksgiving Day, Cycle A

What thankfulness does to us. The texts push the issue of thankfulness on us (Sanctification) as we explore the things to be thankful about (Creation, Providence, and Justification by Grace).

Psalm 65
The Psalm is a thanksgiving for good harvest. It is traditionally attributed to David and addressed to the leader (a worship leader in the Jerusalem Temple). We should be reminded that many scholars have concluded that references to David in the Psalms may have been a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects and so of all the faithful (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 521). In that sense this song is about the praise and thanksgiving the faithful offer.

The psalm begins with a reference to Elohim deserving praise for answering prayer. Reference to praise due in Zion refers to God’s presence on Mount Zion in the Jerusalem Temple (vv. 1-2). He is said to forgive sin (v. 3). Those whom he chooses to bring near are happy/blessed [ashere]. In keeping with the song’s purpose of calling for a gathering at the temple, it is proclaimed that those giving thanks will be satisfied with the goodness of the temple [hekal] (v. 4). As the psalm is addressed to one said to be the God of salvation, the psalmist expresses confidence in receiving an answer from God in righteousness [tsedeq]. Although in its original Hebraic context this reference to God’s righteousness could connote legal, judgmental actions or a legalism on the Lord’s part, most Old Testament scholars note that this attribute of God is not in any way punitive, but more about relationship. Indeed, it has to do with God’s loyalty to his covenant in saving us and even at times later in the Old Testament era the righteousness of God is construed as something bestowed on the faithful (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 373, 376ff) in a manner not unlike what Paul teaches happens to Christians in Christ (Romans 3:21-26).

As the text proceeds, God is identified as the hope/confidence [mitbach] of all the earth (v. 5). He is praised as Creator and the one who administers the earth (vv. 6-7). We are awed by his signs (v. 8). God is said to provide rain and water. Reference to the “river of God” is just a way of referring to God’s protection (v. 9; cf. 46:4), crowning the year with bounty. Reference in this verse to God’s “wagon tracks” is imagery referring to God riding clouds in a chariot or a poetic way of speaking of his providential presence (v. 11; cf. 68:4). Pastures then overflow with good crops. The meadows and valley should shout and sing for joy (vv. 12-13). God is said here to be the one who makes the earth fertile.

Application: The text invites sermons celebrating God’s role in making the earth fertile (Creation and Providence). But this can be related to or the focus of the sermon might merely be on God’s commitment to honoring his promises (what it means to say that he is righteous) (Justification by Grace). With either or both themes, there is much for which to give thanks (Sanctification).

Deuteronomy 8:7-18
We note again that this book is the product of writings that emerged during the sweeping religious reform under King Josiah in the late seventh century BC. This literary strand also influenced the histories of the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, as well as 1 and 2 Kings. The basic theme of this piece of literature is evidenced by the meaning of its title (“Second Law”). Portrayed in the form of Moses’ farewell address, it is the reaffirmation of the covenant between God and Israel.

Our lesson is a report of Moses warning the people that success in Canaan will tempt them to pride and to forget the wilderness lesson of complete dependence on God. Moses begins by speaking of Yahweh Elohim bringing the people into a good land, one with flowing springs, a land of wheat and barley, or olive trees and honey, a land where bread might be eaten without scarcity and nothing is lacking (vv. 7-10). He urges the people not to forget the Lord by failing to keep his commandments [mitsvah] and ordinances (v. 11). When they have eaten their fill and have fine houses with many herds, then they must not exalt themselves forgetting the Lord God who brought them out of slavery (vv. 12-14). The people are reminded that God has brought them through the wilderness with all its hazards, making water flow from flint rock and giving them manna in the wilderness (vv. 15-16). Moses warns against the people thinking they have gotten what they have through their own power (v. 17). For it is Yahweh Elohim who gives the power to get wealth [hon], so that he confirms his covenant [berith] which he swore to the ancestors (v. 18).

Application: This text invites reflection on our sinful preoccupation with self and forgetfulness of God’s covenant with us, and how thankfulness and appreciation that all we have is of God sets us free from such self-centeredness (Sin and Justification by Grace).

2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Probably written by Saint Paul, the epistle was written to address relations with the church in Corinth which he had established (Acts 18:1-11). The context for the letter was that relations between the church and the apostle had further deteriorated during the period after 1 Corinthians had been written. Chapters 10-13 are so different in style and tone from the first chapters (including this lesson) as to lead scholars to conclude that those chapters are the “severe letter” mentioned in 2:4. The lesson is part of Paul’s discourse on the collection he was raising for Christians in Jerusalem, leading him to offer exhortations on helping the poor.

Paul claims that one who sows sparingly reaps sparingly, but one who sows bountifully reaps bountifully (v. 6). Each must give as he/she has made up his/her mind to do so, not reluctantly. God loves a cheerful giver (v. 7). God is said to be able to provide every blessing in abundance so that we might share abundantly in every good work (v. 8). Paul does not seem to be negative about possessions at this point, seeing them as blessings. The great evangelist then quotes Isaiah 55:10 and its statement that God gives to the poor [penasen] and his righteousness [dikaiosune] endures forever (v. 9). No matter how one interprets God’s righteousness in this verse, the point seems clear that God will not change his behavior toward human beings, whether that means he will continue to be faithful to his covenant, will not change his commitment to maintaining our relationship with him, or will continue to make the faithful righteous. As God supplies the seed for the sower and bread for food, Paul states, he will also increase the harvest of righteousness (v. 10). The faithful will be changed, it seems, by God’s righteousness. The Corinthians, it is said, will be enriched in every way for their generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God (v. 11). The rendering of this ministry [leitourgia, a term used to describe free public service], Paul notes, not only supplies the needs of saints, but also overflows with many thanksgivings [eucharistia] to God (v. 12). Through the rendering of this ministry God is glorified by their obedience to the confession of the gospel [euaggelion] and by the generosity of their sharing with others, who in turn pray for the Corinthians because of the grace [charis] given to them (vv. 13-14). Thanks are given to God for his indescribable gift [presumably a reference to Christ] (v. 15).

Application: A sermon on this text can readily proclaim that the more thankful and focused on God we are, the more likely it is that good (including care for the poor) will happen spontaneously as God’s grace and righteousness come to manifest in our lives. Justification by Grace, Sanctification as Spontaneous Good Works, and Social Ethics are the main emphases of the lesson.

Luke 17:11-19
This is one of the Synoptic gospels, the first installment of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile associate of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). Along with Acts, the author’s intention was to stress the universal mission of the church (Acts 1:8). Addressed to Theophilus (1:1), it is not clear if this means that the work was written for a recent convert or for a Roman official from whom the church sought tolerance. But since Theophilus means “lover of God” it is possible that the author addressed all the faithful.

This is the story of Jesus’ cleansing of the ten lepers, an account unique to Luke perhaps because of the universal thrust of his message, making clear that Jews are not the only faithful people. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus is reported to have wandered through the region between Samaria and Galilee (v. 11). Ten lepers [lepros] approach him, keep their distance, and they plead for mercy (vv. 12-13). In keeping their distance from Jesus they observe the sanitary regulations of Leviticus 13:45-46. Jesus instructs the lepers to show themselves to the priests, and as they went they were made clean (v. 14). One returns to Jesus to thank him. He was a Samaritan [whom the Jews of Judah regarded as lapsed and impure followers of Yahweh] (vv. 15-16). Jesus asks about the other nine [presumably Jews] and whether they were made clean, noting that none returned to praise him save the foreigner (vv. 17-18). Then Jesus tells the thankful healed leper to rise and go on his way, because his faith [pistis] has made him well (v. 19). The Greek word (the perfect active indicative form of sodzo) translated “made well” in this verse might also be translated “saved.”

Application: Several sermon options present themselves in this text. We have an opportunity to condemn our ingratitude and lack of thanksgiving (Sin), to remind us of all the reasons to give God thanks (Grace and Providence), but also entailing a healthy cynicism about the lack of gratitude we can expect to receive from those to whom we do favors (Sanctification). Another possibility is to highlight that often the most faithful among us are those who are outside the mainstream and removed from the social classes of churchgoers (Social Ethics).

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen