In his small catechism Luther gives a long—but nowhere near exhaustive—list of all the things God gives us out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. Things like clothing and shoes, food and drink, body and soul, eyes and ears, and all that I need to support this body and life. For all of these things, Luther says, “it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” We have come together tonight in partial fulfillment of that duty. We have come together to thank and praise God for the blessings He has given without any merit or worthiness on our part. He has given us innumerable blessings, riches greater than any can fathom, and a beautiful land as our inheritance. So, it is only right that we as a nation pause to thank God for what He so richly provides.
Though politicians don’t often make for good theologians, and perhaps vice versa, there is something to Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863. The United States is in the middle of the Civil War. The Union is divided. In not a few instances families are torn apart as people with the same relatives shoot at one another, fighting for their side. In October 1863 it didn’t seem like there was much to be thankful for. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln called for a day of national thanksgiving. He was onto something. Consider his words: “No human council hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” Though we rightly deserve God’s wrath, He still shows us His mercy. We do not deserve anything we have, but through His fatherly, divine Goodness, God the Father still graciously provides for all our needs of body and soul.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.