Thanksgiving Sermon on Genesis 8:14-22
True Thanksgiving Includes Worship
Text: Genesis 8:14-22
For a true Thanksgiving celebration, some things must never change. In my very German family, there must be a heaping, boiling pot of sauerkraut. My grandpa would have it no other way. In my immediate family, my mother always has to make two or three kinds of every side dish because she loves to experiment with new cooking styles. Growing up, I loved to study intently every page of the Black Friday ads to see exactly which toys I needed to ask for as Christmas presents. Even today I page through the Black Friday ads with bulging eyes as I study all the cool deals (Only now I know I can’t have any of that stuff!). For a true Thanksgiving celebration, some things must never change on Thanksgiving.
Some families go outside and have their annual family football game. Other families prefer the more lazy option of vegging out in front of the football games on TV. Most families eat too much. Most families end up passing out in the middle of the day because of their brimming bellies. Every year there are cranberries and yams and pies. Every year there are laughs and hugs and good times. Every year I make a joke in my sermon about how bad the Detroit Lions are (But I can’t do that this year since the Minnesota Vikings have the same record!). For a true Thanksgiving celebration, some things must never change on Thanksgiving.
There are many things we love about this day we call Thanksgiving. And there are many things that we just have to do to make it a true Thanksgiving celebration. Most important of all, as we are reminded by the story of Noah today, True Thanksgiving Includes Worship.
If anyone has ever had a good reason to be thankful, Noah would certainly be near the top of the list. Many people forget that they were not in the ark for only 40 days and 40 nights. That’s simply how long the rains lasted. They were stuck inside the ark for 375 days before they finally came out!
And granted, it was a big boat. It was one and a half football fields long and 75 feet wide (almost as wide as a basketball court is long) and it was about as tall as the steeple on our church. That’s big! But then again, they had at least two of every living creature and every bird on the ark. (An interesting side note is that some have done studies and found that on an ark that size if you divided it up properly, you could in fact fit all the animals of the time inside it.) With all of those animals, there wasn’t a lot of room to spare. And we all know what a zoo smells like. We can only imagine four or five zoos cramped under one enclosed roof for an entire year. It’s not like Noah had a lifetime supply of Febreze or Lysol sitting around.
And again, although the ark was quite large, there would not have been much space to walk around. There were only eight humans on the boat—Noah, his wife, his three sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives—but this wasn’t a Carnival cruise. They didn’t have water slides and shuffle board and dance clubs to go to. There was a lot of work to do to take care of all of those animals. And we all know what it’s like to be shacked up with your in-laws for a few days—try 375 days! There are only so many times the family can play Monopoly before you get sick of each other!
So after 375 days in a cramped and crowded boat packed to the rafters with stinky, filthy animals and little space to run around and little time to relax, Noah and the other seven finally get off the ark. I think it’s safe to say that Noah and his family were thankful.
What to do first? There were so many things to do! They needed to relocate and find a new place to live. They needed to build some shelter. They couldn’t stop at Sam’s Club. They had to scavenge and scrounge for some sort of food, and then replant all of their crops. They had to make some new clothes that didn’t reek like a boat full of animals. There were a lot of things to do!
What did Noah choose to do? Take a look at verse 18: “So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” The very first thing that Noah and his family did after exiting the ark—in fact the very first verse in the Bible after they exited the ark—they built an altar and worshiped. Noah sacrificed burnt offerings. These were the kind of offerings that were not only thank offerings for God’s mercy, but they were also dedicatory offerings that showed a recommitment to the Lord.
You see, Noah knew exactly how blessed he was. Genesis 6 tells us how bad things were in the world. There we hear: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” God had seen that every single person in his creation was filled with sinfulness. Wickedness and rebellion had only multiplied from the time of Adam to the time of Noah. This includes Noah too. He was a sinner just like everyone else. So Noah had no reason to expect that God would spare him. Yet in his mercy, God chose Noah and his family to be spared. Though Noah and his family were believers, God didn’t choose them because their faith was so great or because they were so special. God saved the eight of them because of his own grace and mercy. Noah knew this. So Noah and his family thanked the Lord by worshiping the Lord. You see, True Thanksgiving Includes Worship.
This is a time of year that is set aside for giving thanks. When it’s a national holiday and you don’t have to work, it’s easy to remember to give thanks. When you have piles of yummy food and family and friends around, it’s easy to remember to give thanks. So at this time we are thankful for our friends and our families. We are thankful for all the possessions that we have. No matter how rich or poor, we all have so much more than most people in this world. We have freedom in our country. We have protection through our great military.
At Christ the King we have plenty of reason to give thanks. As we have just celebrated our three year anniversary, we look around and see our beautiful new church building, our growing membership, our exploding school and we know that we have many blessings.
Whether individually or together as a church family, we know we have plenty to give thanks for. Just like Noah who had every reason and great occasion to give thanks when he left the ark, so we also have every reason and the right occasion to give thanks on this Thanksgiving. We might not have been cramped up in an ark with a zoo and our in-laws for over a year, but we also have plenty of great reasons to give thanks.
Yet we are reminded by Noah what true thanksgiving includes—worship. You see, we also understand God’s incredible grace and mercy. Even though it has been several thousand years since the Flood, things haven’t changed a whole lot. God could easily look at our world today and see the exact same thing: “How great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” This world is definitely filled with sinfulness. The immorality, adultery, and idolatry of this time could certainly rival the sinful filth of any time in history.
And as with Noah, we are not exempt from that accusation. We too are every bit as sinful as the rest. We might point an accusatory finger at others and look with disdain at the murderers and rapists and child molesters of this world. Yet Satan points his accusatory finger at us to show God that we have hated, we have been angry, we have taken revenge. That makes us murderers. Satan is quick to show God that we have lusted, that we have secret passions, that we have read about or heard songs about or watched things that make us guilty of adultery. As if the evidence isn’t great enough, then Satan reminds God that we are idolaters, too. We put our lives first. We put our children first. We put our jobs first. We put our possessions first. Wherever God fits into the picture after all that is fine. That’s idolatry.
We might be Christians. We might have faith. But that doesn’t mean that we have done anything special at all. We are just as sinful as the rest of the world. We may have committed different sins than murderers and rapists and child molesters, but we are every bit as guilty as they are. We all are sinners in God’s sight.
So just like with Noah, God has chosen us to be his own only because of his great mercy. He sent Jesus to wash us clean of our wrongs only because of his great grace. He forgives us only because of his great compassion. He will give us everlasting life only because of his great love.
It is much the same as with Noah’s sacrifice. Verse 21 says, “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Even though mankind would continue to be terribly sinful—even sinful from birth and childhood—God memorably promised with a rainbow that he would never send a flood like that again to destroy the earth.
In the same way, the sacrifice of Lamb of God was a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Even though mankind would continue to be terribly sinful, God would continue to offer the forgiveness of sins through his Son Jesus. Peter reminds us of this parallel. In 1 Peter 3 he makes a comparison between Noah’s life and ours. He says that just as Noah was mercifully spared through the water of the Flood, so also are we mercifully spared and saved through the waters of baptism, through which God forgives us and adopts us into his family.
Thanksgiving is one of those neat times of the year because every family has its own special little tradition. Families and friends get together. Great food is devoured. Football is watched. Naps are had. Black Friday is planned and plotted. It’s a great time to give thanks.
But True Thanksgiving Also Includes Worship. On Thanksgiving, on Sundays, and on every day, we give thanks to our God who has mercifully and miraculously saved us. In much the same way that God saved Noah from disaster and death, so has God saved us from death and hell. Through Jesus we have forgiveness and eternal life in heaven. So in grateful worship, like Noah, offer your sacrifices of thanks today and every day. As we heard in Psalm 100 this evening: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age.” Give thanks to the Lord. Worship the Lord.
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Posted on November 24, 2010, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Genesis, Genesis 6, Noah, Noah and the Ark, Noah and the Flood, Sermons, Thanksgiving, The Flood, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.