Preached: July 10, 2011
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit moves us to praise our Savior is Psalm 100.
A psalm for giving thanks.
Shout to the LORD, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness. Enter his presence with joyful song. Know that the LORD is God. He has made us. We are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. Give him thanks. Bless his name. For the LORD is good. His mercy lasts forever, his faithfulness from age to age. (Psalm 100:1-5)
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
My mother taught me to write thank-yous as I was growing up. She taught me to write more than: "Thanks a lot. Love, Gregg." I should tell what I'm thankful for and explain why I appreciate it. But as a young boy who doesn't want spend all day writing thank-yous, I soon figured out a generic template. "Thank you so much for the gift of ___________. I really appreciate it a lot. I'm sure it will come in handy." That's probably not what she was hoping for.
Now dear friends, how often don't our thank-yous to God become form letters? We go through the routine of prayers and praise. We give thanks at meals. We sing our thanks in the Sunday service. We give our thank offering as the plate is passed. All good things. But dear Christian, thanks is more than these outward motions. It's not simply filling in the blank with whatever the latest gift is. Thanksgiving to our God begins as we inwardly reflect on who he is and what he has done for us. Then that thanks expresses itself by loudly confessing the goodness of our Lord.
May the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds through the words of this Psalm, as he leads us on the path of thanksgiving. It's only five verses long, one of the shortest of the Psalms. You could easily keep these words treasured up in your heart to meditate on them when not busy with work or family. For these words lead us to see why we give thanks to the Lord, our God. And as that fills our heart and mind, it overflows into our voice. Such thanks loudly confesses the goodness of our Lord. That's the theme today. Our thanks loudly confesses the goodness of our Lord. Why? Because his love has made us his people and his faithfulness keeps us as his sheep.
Through the Scriptures the Lord declares, "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one" (Romans 9:25 NIV1984).
What does that mean that we were not his people? What were we? We were brutish, nasty creatures. I know a baby doesn't look like a brute, but remember what the Scriptures teach us. Psalm 14 declares: "All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:3 NIV1984). It's talking about what you and I were born as.
Do you see why so many of the best and brightest of our human race do not acknowledge God as their Creator? Look at where we all, even the best, started from: brutish, nasty creatures, who wanted nothing to do with God. "All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt." And it only got worse. So even if they admit to some sort of supernatural power, it's just some force that got things moving or a spirituality that we discover in ourselves. They certainly do not confess the loving Father who knit us together in our mother's womb and created all things out of nothing by his word alone in six regular days. You see, the natural inclination of our hearts wants to get as far away from God as possible. "All have turned aside." And the best and brightest have reasoned him out of existence. Now if that's where the best and brightest among us end up, how much worse off aren't the rest of us, if left to ourselves? We were certainly not God's people.
But how good his grace and mercy is! Marvel at his love. Recall how the Second Lesson held God's love before our eyes. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV1984). What love! While we were still not his people, the Father gave up his Son for you, dear sinner. How great the goodness of our God! What a reason to give thanks! "For the LORD is good, and his love endures forever"(Psalm 100:5 NIV1984), the Psalm declares. We know that love only through the Son, Jesus Christ and his sacrifice in our place.
And through the Son, you know the Father and his love that made you his people, his blood-bought, ransomed people. "Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people" (Psalm 100:3 NIV1984). You see, to know the Lord means much more than to know about him. Know him as your God who redeemed you to be his very own people.
As such knowledge fills your heart, it overflows in thanksgiving. Not some sort of form letter, but thanks that flows from a heart that cherishes and a mind that contemplates the goodness of our God. You, dear Christian, know the Lord as your Savior-God, for took us nasty, brutish creatures and made us his people. What love!
Now also make him known to others, so that all the earth can shout to the Lord and come before him in joyful song. "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs" (Psalm 100:1, 2 NIV1984), the Psalm calls out.
When our team wins, we want to shout out the victory. How much more so since your Savior-God has won the victory for you and me! While we were not his people, he died for you and me and all sinner, and he rose from the dead to give us the victory. Let others know his victory, so that they too believe and are saved. That's why Jesus sent his disciples as workers into the harvest field. As they confessed the victory God's love won for sinners, they brought in the harvest of God's people.
But that was work not just for those disciples. Thanksgiving confesses the victory of our God and Savior. It loudly confesses that victory so that others can hear and come to know the Lord, that he alone is God, their Savior. Let your words and actions shout out how important your God is for you. Let your words and actions shout out how good his love is, how it makes all the difference in your life. For his love has made you his people. Loudly confess his goodness so that all the earth can hear and know the victory of our God. How great his love that has made us his people!
But there is more for us to think about in our thanksgiving. "For the LORD is good ... his faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100:5 NIV1984), the Psalm says. He has made you and me "the sheep of his pasture" (Psalm 100:3 NIV1984).
He didn't simply pay the price to redeem us and then neglect us. He brought us into his pasture. He supplies our needs. He feeds our faith with his word and sacraments. What green pastures and quiet waters his Gospel is! How it restores our soul and brings us his righteousness!
What goodness our God has shown us and continues to show us! He is faithful. His love doesn't flicker. His compassion doesn't waver. His mercy never runs out. He is faithful from age to age, from generation to generation, forever and ever. For he is the Lord. His pastures do not dry out. His word does not fail. He is faithful.
So dear Christian, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name" (Psalm 100:4 NIV1984), as the Psalm says. Once our sin had locked the gate and shut us out from his court. Rather than green pastures only the burning sands of Satan's lies and the poisonous bramble of his empty promises lay around us. His fangs dripped ready to devour us.
But the Lord, your faithful God, made you the sheep of his pasture. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He found you and carried you on his shoulders. Your sin no longer barred the gate, for he nailed it to the cross when he laid down his life for you and took it up again. He has made you the sheep of his pasture. What a Shepherd he is! The Good Shepherd! So, "[e]nter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name" (Psalm 100:4 NIV1984).
And, dear Christian, as you worship your Shepherd in his house, feeding on his pastures and praising his name here, do you see how these actions loudly confess how good your Lord is? He is so important to you that you set this time apart for him each week. You don't care if others think you should be doing other things. You don't give in to the devil's whispers that there's no difference if you miss this week since you can always go next week. Rather you want others to see how good your God, your Lord, your Shepherd. He is worthy of praise. For he is faithful. Despite our unfaithfulness, he is faithful.
Fill your souls with the green pastures and quiet waters of his word. His faithfulness keeps you as a sheep of his pasture. How that feeds our thanksgivings, moving us to serve him with gladness and worship him with joy! For you know that no matter how you might feel on any given day, no matter what pain or hardship burdens you, no matter what cross you carry as a Christian, your Shepherd is with you. His rod and his staff, they comfort you. For he is faithful. He carries you in his arms. He holds you close to his heart. So you need not worry or tremble in terror, for you are in his steady hands. No one can snatch you from his loving grasp. For he is faithful. His faithfulness keeps you as a sheep of his pasture.
Now in my grownup years, my wife has tried to improve my thank-you writing. I certainly see how some thought about the gift helps improve the thank-you. But she is still much better at it than I am. I pray that you, dear friends, give thought to these words of Psalm 100 and the goodness of your Lord. How great his gifts! So great is his goodness, love, and faithfulness that an eternity of contemplation cannot exhaust them. To paraphrase another preacher: God's goodness is an inexhaustible spring that feeds the ever-flowing stream of his love filling the unfathomable ocean of his faithfulness and truth. O what depths! (W. Durban from Charles H. Spurgeon, "The Treasury of David, Vol. 2, Psalm 100)
Plummet those depths, dear Christians. Contemplate the goodness of our God. How fervent his love! How constant his faithfulness! He is the Lord. He has made us his people and the sheep of his pasture. The quiet time we spend in thinking about what he has done for us turns up the volume of our thanks, so that our words and action loudly confess the goodness of our Lord. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.