The wonderful impossibility of giving thanks

Posted by on Nov 20, 2018 in News | Comments Off on The wonderful impossibility of giving thanks

by Tom Eggebrecht

“What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the name of the Lord. I will take the cup of salvation, and will call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.” 
(LSB DS1 and DS2, drawn from Ps. 116)

It was Thanksgiving Day, and my wife and I had no family in town. We were in the midst of a very busy time and didn’t plan ahead for a traditional meal. In search of Thanksgiving lunch, we headed out to look for an open restaurant. The only nearby place we could find with its lights on, though, was Steak ‘n Shake.

“Why not?” we thought, and sat down for a burger and fries.

I felt such immense gratitude (and a little guilt, too) toward the waitress who gave up her own Thanksgiving to take care of us that I left her a very generous tip when the meal was over. It was a small token of my deep thanks to her.

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?”

We sing these words from Psalm 116 in church when we return thanks to God with our gifts and tithes. The psalm calls it “a sacrifice of thanksgiving,” but what does this mean? It’s impossible to thank God for all his benefits. Nonetheless, as Martin Luther indicates in his explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, we offer up thanksgiving, praise, service and obedience. These things are but a tiny token of thanks for the benefits the Lord sacrificed his Son to give to us. Here are three benefits that Psalm 116 mentions:

  1. His cup. In the Garden Jesus said: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). It was the Father’s will that Jesus drink of the cup of death. He spilled out His blood on the cross. By way of the Sacrament of the Altar his blood is given into your mouth to drink for the forgiveness of your sins. A cup of salvation, indeed! (See Psalm 116.) It’s wonderfully impossible to give thanks to the Lord for this eternal benefit. But we thank, praise, serve and obey Jesus because his salvation flows over the brim into our empty cup.
  2. His name. Psalm 116 urges us to “call on the name of the Lord.” That isn’t difficult to do when His name has been stamped on your forehead in Holy Baptism: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Wherever His name is, there He is. Now wherever you go, whatever you do, not only is His name upon you, but He is with you. Call upon His name, and He is right there to answer your prayer and to listen to your complaint. He is nearer than near to give you comfort and deliver peace. It’s wonderfully impossible to give thanks to the Lord for this temporal benefit. But we thank, praise, serve and obey Jesus because He has given us his holy name.
  3. His people. When we come to the Lord’s house we are “in the presence of all his people…” (Psalm 116:18). There is no such thing as solo Christianity. God always puts us together with His people. In the Old Testament, He took for Himself a people when he called Israel out of Egypt and led them into the Promised Land. Jesus called together a group of twelve individuals to learn together, lean on one another and change the world with the Word of God — and then He sent them out to bring more people into the story. The benefits of being in the presence of God’s people today includes “mutual conversation and consolation.” God’s people speak the truth in love, lend helping hands, encourage each other in the faith and pray for any and every need that arises. It’s wonderfully impossible to give thanks to the Lord for this incarnational benefit. But we thank, praise, serve and obey Jesus because he has gifted us with his people.

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?”

It’s wonderfully impossible to thank the Lord fully and completely for all his benefits. But by God’s grace, we thank, praise, serve and obey him. What a wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving every day.

Tom Eggebrecht is Senior Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Casselberry, Florida, where he enjoys preaching the salvation of Jesus, proclaiming His name and serving His people. Follow Tom’s personal blog at www.tomeggebrecht.com.

Source: LCMS News