Thanksgiving Day (USA)
November 24, 2011
The Lord be with you
First, let me say that I hope everyone is having a blessed Thanksgiving Day. While I’m writing this early and will post it on Thanksgiving Day, Kitty and I plan to spend the day with my daughter and her family. At Lamb of God we have an Eve of Thanksgiving Day worship service so I get the day of Thanksgiving off. In my childhood, at Holy Cross Lutheran in San Diego, CA, we always had a worship service on Thanksgiving Day. While I always did, and still do, think that is most appropriate, in retrospective I have to wonder how that impacted the family gatherings of my pastor. Pastor Koenig was a dedicated servant of the Lord with a real heart for his people. It is not surprising to me that at least four men in our congregation (those are the ones I know) went on to become pastors themselves.
This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. This marks the beginning of a new Church Year (happy New Years!). For those who use a three-year lectionary series, this means that this Sunday we will be moving to the next set of assigned readings. For us it is series B. Series B uses Mark heavily in its Gospel lessons.
Another feature of Advent is the dropping of the hymn of praise and all “Alleluias.” That is because Advent is a penitential season. The hymn of praise is either the “Gloria in Excelsis” or the much more contemporary “This is the Feast.” These features of praise will return with Christmas.
One last “Advent” note; You may have wondered how the date for the First Sunday is Advent is determined. Well, it is always the Sunday closest to the Feast Day of St. Andrew, Apostle, which is November 30. This year this feast day is a Wednesday and therefore the First Sunday in Advent is the Sunday before the Feast of St. Andrew.
For the upcoming year Lamb of God will also be accenting the “communion of saints” in our worship services. This will be done in a number of different ways. One of those ways will be in our prayers. We will be remembering all our partner churches and their leaders around the world. We will also be remembering various missionaries and missions. In addition, we will be remembering Christians in areas where persecution because of the Faith is common. We will also continue to remember the churches in the Southeastern District of the LC-MS.
So, this coming Sunday, we will be remembering Rev. Matthew Harrison, who is the president of our denomination, and Rev. Jon Diefenthaler, who is the president of the Southeaster District. We will pray for the Concordia International School Hanoi and Steven Winkelman, who is the head of that school. We will remember the Christians in Afghanistan, who face all kinds of problems for the sake of Christ. Finally, we will bring before the Lord St. Paul’s in Kingsville, MD; Grace in La Plate, MD; Ascension in Landover Hills, MD; Our Savior in Laurel, MD; and Bethlehem in Aiken, SC.
Let us now turn to more typical information fond on this blog in the worship notes. The appointed lessons for Advent 1 are Isaiah 64:1-9, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, and Mark 13:24-37. The sermon will be based on our reading from Isaiah and is titled “A Scary God.” The text will be Isaiah 64:1-2. We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper, using the first setting of the morning service beginning on page 151 of our hymnal. Our opening hymn will be “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding,” (LSB 345). Our sermon hymn will be “The Day Is Surely Drawing Near” (LSB 508). Our closing hymn will be “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” (LSB 524). Our distribution hymns will be “The Night Will Soon Be Ending” (LSB 337), “O Lord, We Praise Thee” LSB (617), and “The Advent of Our King” (LSB 331).
The video below is of Christ Church Bronxville singing our opening hymn, “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding.” It includes an excellent brass section. The hymn was written in 1868 by Daniel March, a Congregational pastor in Philadelphia. He had been asked to preach a sermon to the Philadelphia Christian Association and, at a late hour, he learned that one of the hymns selected was not suitable. He wrote the hymn in “great haste,” and it was sung from the manuscript. It has since become an Advent favorite in many denominations.
Our adult Bible class this coming Sunday will pick up at Matthew 11:20. Class begins at 9:00 AM. As always, everyone is invited to come.
Preview of the Lessons
Isaiah 64:1-9: Isaiah received his call in 740 BC and was active until 681. This means he lived through the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrian Empire. There is so much Gospel in Isaiah that he is sometimes called the Old Testament Evangelist. That doesn’t mean that there is no Law. However the general purpose of the book is to comfort God’s people with the good news of Zion’s redemption. The Lutheran Study Bible identifies the following “Law Themes”: Judgment on false worship; Judgment Day, selfishness; woes against Israel and the nations; defeat by Assyria and Babylon; idolatry condemned. The same study Bible identifies the following “Gospel Themes:” The remnant preserved; Immanuel; the Messiah’s just reign, salvation promised to Ethiopia, Assyria, and the nations; the feast; mercy for Hezekiah; God’s comfort for Zion; the Lord’s Servant; Zion’s deliverance; new heavens and a new earth.
In this reading Isaiah speaks of Judgment Day with images drawn from Israel’s days in the wilderness. He recognizes that Israel deserves judgment for their sins. (Verses 6 & 7 are quoted in the New Testament as evidence that we are all sinners.) Still Isaiah pleads for mercy. Therefore the reading ends on a Gospel note, asking the Lord to “remember not iniquity forever.” While calling God “Father” is not common in the Old Testament, this is one of those places where he is. Those who believe in him can come to him as children of a loving Father.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9: In these opening words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Paul lists numerous reasons he gives thanks to God for the Corinthians. However he makes it abundantly clear that these blessings are not something they have done, but are gifts from Jesus. The last of the blessings mentioned, and therefore the apex of the blessings, is that Jesus will sustain them to the end, guiltless as they stand before the Judgment Throne. God’s grace doesn’t last just a lifetime, but is good for all eternity. Verse nine wraps this up with a reminder that God is faithful, meaning he will keep all his promises, and those promise are all grounded in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Mark 13:24-37: This lesson is taken from the last week of the earthly life of Jesus. He is speaking of the Last Day. The fundamental message is to “stay awake,” meaning always be looking for the Second Coming. How do we do this? We attend to the word (verse 31)! For example, Jesus says in 32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Every generation produces false prophets who claim to know when the Last Day will be, or at least to know that they are living in the last generation. Jesus calls them frauds. You can’t circle the Last Day on your calendars. You must be ready at all times, for we do not know when this current age will end.
• Well, as this will be posted on Thanksgiving Day, let me once again say Happy Thanksgiving!
• The December newsletter is already posted on the blog and paper copies will be available Sunday.
• The office will be closed this coming Thursday as Pastor will be attending class.
• Advent services begin next week. The theme is “The Saints of Advent.” Our first saint will be the Apostle Andrew. It seems appropriate as November 30 is his Feast Day. Services will be at 12:15 and 7:00 PM. We will also have a soup supper beginning at 6:15 PM.
• Choir practice has resumed. We meet after the Wednesday worship services. New voices are welcome.
Well, I pray I’ll see you Sunday.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert