Thankfully standing firm - Thanksgiving Sunday / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Sunday October 9th, 2022 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Theme: Thankfully standing firm
Intr – Thanksgiving, a day to say thank you. It is common for us to say a thanksgiving prayer including gratitude for our house, food, family, harvest, nature, our job, health, etc… Those are great reasons for us to thank the Lord, especially when we see from the Gospel reading that 90% of the lepers didn’t take the time to come back and thank Jesus. Ingratitude hurts.
Now, we receive from God’s hands gifts that are the most important gifts of all – spiritual gifts, that God has given us, and the opportunity of putting our faith into action. What about them? Do we take time on a regular basis in our prayer to be thankful for those gifts as well? Mentioning the Gospel again, Jesus says to the healed man who comes back to thank him: “Your faith has made you well.” Focus on the spiritual gift.
The hymn our Choir sang today “We stand firm in our faith” brings to our memory the essence of what we receive from God, what we believe, confess and teach. It has good content to conduct our reflection today, as we consider God’s gifts to us through faith.
1. Jesus Christ, our Lord, called as Your flock, we delight in hearing Your Voice
teaching to our hearts what Your Word imparts. Law and Gospel, unchanging Light.
We stand firm in our faith in You, our Saviour, our Truth!
You’re the Way, the Door, Brother, Vine and more; Shepherd in whom we delight.
In the first Verse of the hymn, we are reminded of the Gift of God’s Word. His TEACHING that brings the essential news for our spiritual life – in Christ we have forgiveness –all the teachings derived from it.
1 – It refers to Jesus as our Good Shepherd. His sheep listen to his voice. We are thankful for having spiritual ears givens by the Holy Spirit to listen to God’s Word.
2 – Law and Gospel – that is a treasure that Lutheran Theology gives to the Christian World. When you approach the Bible with this key in hands, many things become clearer to our understanding.
3 – We stand firm – thankfully standing firm. For He is our Saviour and our Truth - the Truth for the whole world.
4 – The hymn evokes other ways in which Jesus referred to Himself, such as the Bread, The Way, the Door, and others.
In the second verse, our eyes are directed towards the privilege we have of SERVING our neighbour:
2. Father, move our hearts, move our hands and feet, send us to our neighbour attend,
for right by our side there is need of help, hope and peace that come from your Hand
We stand firm in our faith which acts out of your Love.
As we serve we share, as we tend we care - as we live our life from above.
1 - Faith active in love. St James says that if your faith is not shown in works of love, you should question where it is and if it is still in your heart. Faith saves alone, but faith is never alone.
2 – Help, hope and peace. We are thankful for having the opportunity to share real Help, real Hope and real Peace coming from his Hand.
3 – We stand firm. Thankfully firm. Living our life from above – that is, grounded in Christ, we serve and care.
Our Third Verse highlights God’s gifts of the Holy Sacraments.
3. Holy Spirit, we have been baptized, grafted in the kingdom of God
Then with bread and wine, beyond reason’s line we have Jesus’ body and blood.
We stand firm in our faith; fed by your means of Grace
Joy and thankfulness, body and soul redeemed, we adore Your Holy name!
There is a lot of talk about identity these days. There are many different options of spirituality to feed our soul.
1 – Baptism – In Holy Baptism we receive our identity for life: children of God. We were grafted into the Vine and listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
2 – With bread and wine we receive Jesus in us. Real Presence, and Real Food for our Soul.
3 - Means of Grace - the means through which God brings His Grace to our hearts.
4 – Joy and Thankfulness. There is no other response to such marvelous gifts. We adore His Holy Name, “now thank we all our God!”
Finally, the fourth verse remembers us that God never ceases to be with us, grounding us in His Word and leading us to our eternal home:
4. Triune God, we ask never cease your task, ground Your children in faithfulness.
Grant your precious gifts, in which we all live in this fellowship; we are bless’d.
We stand firm in our faith! We know we’re not alone!
Lead our walk on Earth with our eyes in You as we yearn our Eternal Home.
Meaning and purpose. We live our daily life in Christ (meaning) as we have our eyes in our eternal home (Purpose)
1 – God is present in and with us every day. Thanks be to God
2 – We are blessed. Thanks be to God!
3 – We stand firm in our faith. Thanks be to God!
4 – We walk towards our Eternal Home, New Earth and New Heavens, in which justice dwell and in which we will be, body and soul, in eternal joy and perfection
A Christian song or hymn has it essence in the lyrics which convey the message. But here are some compositional ingredients of this hymn which underline, emphasize and enhance our reasons of thankfulness.
The main theme of the hymn is “to stand firm”, therefore this phrase appears once in each stanza of the song, giving this identity of steadfastness and solid foundation throughout the entire song. That’s the reason also why it appears in the same line, underlining how constant and solid God’s love is to keep us firm, steadfast in Him. Also, this phrase is placed where it is because the third line of each stanza expresses the high point of the melody.
In each stanza there are different verbal tenses. For example, in the first stanza we see the present continuous(teaching); in the second, the present (share, care). In the third, the perfect tense (have been). In the last verse, imperatives (grant, lead). They all indicate constancy, action, movement, willingness to learn, to serve, to adore. Also indicating the dynamics of the Christian life, full of different moments, problems, joys, challenges – and, in all of them, Christ keeps us firm in His Word and Sacraments.
The 3 persons of the TRINITY appear separately in the first 3 stanzas - God the Father, Jesus Lord and the Holy Spirit – Comforter; and the 4th stanza alludes to the TRINITY.
In the third line of each stanza, using “We stand”, using “we” highlights the plurality of the body of Christ, the Church, the children of God, singing, praying, communicating the Gospel as a Church that stand firms in our faith in Christ.
As a final note, a comment about the rhymes in the original song (which didn’t translate as precisely in English). When you zoom in the verses, the hymn appears to have no much rhyming, as you would expect from poetry. But when you zoom out and see the bigger picture, you realize that the rhymes of the song happen from outside to inside, this way: the first line of the first stanza rhymes with the last line of the fourth stanza; the second line of the first stanza with the penultimate line of the fourth stanza, and so on, reaching the center of the last line of the 2nd stanza with the first line of the 3rd stanza. That technique forms rhyming arcs. At first glance, it sounds like a rhyme-less hymn, with no obvious rhyme at first sight. However, looking at the whole of the song and seeing those arcs the rhymes appear with precision.
This poetic choice aims to portray the Christian life in this world, with its ups and downs, its moments of clarity, in the Word, and others of uncertainty, anguish and pain, because of sin, where many things seem to make no sense. Standing Firm in the Word of God and looking, in faith, at the whole of our lives, we can see the "Arcs" of God's love joining the ends with clarity and certainty - in faith, in Word, in Sacraments - propelling us to a life where justification rhymes with sanctification – faith and works. God perfectly unites the “ends” of our life, strengthens our faith and gives meaning to the whole. By His Grace, through faith, He traces the arcs that connect our lives to Him and to others, in faith and love.
Cc - Should we be thankful for housing, clothing, jobs, health, and everything our eyes see? Absolutely, please, keep including those in your daily prayers. Just don’t forget to include also you’re your heart sees in Christ: He is the giver of all gifts. We thankfully stand firm in Him, our Redeemer. Ingratitude hurts. But Christ heals our ungrateful hearts and floods them with all that is good (Phil 4), so that we can stand firm each and every day. Our faith makes us well,
As a closing, let us sing the hymn again:
Thanks be to God! Amen.