This is the text of the sermon I preached for Thanksgiving
Grace mercy and peace be to your from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
An almost universal favorite out of all the thanksgiving hymns is the hymn Come You Thankful People Come. It is a thanksgiving classic. From its harvest theme to its familiar tune, it is well loved and enjoyed especially this time of year. While this hymn is thoughtful and meaningful in it presentation of the harvest of earthly goods that we celebrate on Thanksgiving, there is a more profound message in this hymn. We will explore those themes this evening as our meditation is guided by the text of the hymn. We will sing the first stanza now:
Come you thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home
All be safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin
God our maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied
Come to Gods own temple come raise the song of harvest home
Come You Thankful People Come is a harvest hymn. And harvest is a time of celebration. You who are farmers know just how much planning and preparation went in to those fields. There is the plowing and planting, pre-planting prep work that is done in the fields before the seeds can be sewn. The seed is purchased and then planted in the soil for what you hope will be an abundant year. But you never know. You do the best you can to buy the best seed, make the fields the most hospitable for that seed, you put it in the ground, pray that the weather doesn’t too anything too extreme and then hope for the best. Some might say farming is a gamble. Others might say it’s an exercise of faith. But then, when the work is done, the crops have grown and ripened, all the work of harvest is complete and the grain is in the barn, there is joy and relief. There is money in the bank and bread on the table for another year. It’s a time to thanks God for his goodness and to be glad for the blessings of the year.
All of this is evident in the first stanza of our hymn. Come you thankful people. Raise the song of harvest! It’s done. And It’s time to celebrate. God has provided for our needs, he has supplied our wants. He has given us reason to sing.
All the world is God’s own field, fruit onto his praise to yield
wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown
first the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear
Lord of harvest grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be
There is a solidarity that the farmer shares with the Lord; both after all are farmers. Both have gone out into the world to sew seeds hoping for a fruitful harvest but all the while fully acknowledging that where the seeds have been sewn there are also weeds that will grow. While you sew your seed into the ground, our Lord sews the seeds of his Word of life into the hearts of men, so that the seeds will produce a yield of faith – so that Christians will grow up from these seeds who will mature and ripen and produce fruit. Some seeds will produce a yield. But some will not. Jesus tells us that Satan sews weeds in the Lord’s field. Fruitless stalks that mimic the wheat, but that have no faith and produce no fruit. Lord may we be those stalks that carry the grain! May we be counted among the faithful and the fruitful. May we hear your Word, take it to heart, believe it and live it so that on the last day we might be considered wholesome and pure.
For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take his harvest home,
From his field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Give his angels charge at last, in the fire the tares to cast
But the fruitful ears to store, in his garner evermore.
These past weeks you have been out in the fields. And to your joy, from what I have been told ,the Lord has blessed you with an abundant harvest. In spite of the wet spring and the late planting, God provided the conditions that were just right for your crops to grow and be fruitful. God knows what he is doing.The days are coming when our Lord will go out into his harvest field. Jesus even said to his disciples that the harvest is plentiful. The workers are few. Who will go out into the fields? Just like the Lord has provided heat and light and moisture for the corn and soybeans to grow, the Lord has provided just the right amounts of the necessary things for faith to mature and grow. Luther taught that faith matures from meditation, prayer and testing (or temptation).
Just like the plants require moisture and sunshine for their growth, Christians require the Word of God and prayer for their refreshing and growth. Christians receive the Word as it is given by God just like the soil soaks up the rain. But then, after the crops have received that refreshing, they require heat, some nice warm days to really get those seed to germinate and to push those seedlings into mature corn or wheat or beans. And so do we. We need just the right amount of heat, we need our faith to be tested through temptations and trials. To accomplish this our Lord turns up the heat, he sends trials and temptations to us that make us grow, that help us to mature in faith by teaching us just how desperate we are for Jesus, so that we receive his gifts and are thirsty for more. And then, when the Lord sends out his angels on the last day to bring in his harvest he will find you mature and ready and fruitful.
Even so Lord quickly come to your final harvest home.
Gather now your people in, free from sorrow free from sin
There forever purified, in your garner to abide
Come with all your angels comes raise the glorious harvest home.
Driving around earlier today I could see a good number of fields that have been harvested. The crops have been brought in, the grain has been stored away or sold and the field is lying there waiting for the winter to come. But not all. There are a few still to be harvested before the winter comes. Until that time there is work to be done.Likewise with our Lord’s fields. He has brought in his harvest from the seeds that have been planted, but not all. There are still fields with crops standing waiting to be brought in out of the cold of the world and in protection from the winter to come. The cold winter of the Lord’s judgment is coming. It will be here soon. May we work while there is still time so that no one is lost and no grain is wasted.Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration. Tomorrow as we are gathered around our tables we will be giving thanks to God for all that he has provided throughout the year, he has blessed us greatly and abundantly. Our thanksgiving feast, as good and rich as it will be, is only a poor comparison to the feast that we will enjoy on the last day, when the Lord of the harvest has brought in his harvest from his fields, where we will celebrate with him forever.Amen.And now may the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen