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“Your Calling from God”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after PentecostNovember 9, 2008

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

On the cover of this morning’s bulletin is a beautiful illustration of a familiar verse from Psalm 145, which we often recite at Thanksgiving time.  “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” 

In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther lists some of the things for which we have to be thankful: “clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods.”  But, really, when we give thanks for all these blessings, we are actually giving thanks for the PEOPLE through whom God provides us with such blessings.

In the Old Testament, God did often provide DIRECTLY for his people.  Genesis tells us that after the fall into sin, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”

The nakedness of Adam and Eve after the Fall into sin symbolizes how we sinful humans stand now before God.  All our sins are exposed to him.  As the Lord says in Jeremiah, “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.”  And Adam and Eve’s nakedness before God also symbolizes that we have nothing we can bring to God, to earn his favor and forgiveness.  Isaiah says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  But, in reality, we haven’t even got filthy rags.  Like Adam and Eve we stand before God naked, helpless, guilty.

The garments God clothes them with in the very first chapters of the Bible also have a deep symbolic significance.  They point forward to the very last chapters of the Bible, in Revelation, where John sees a vision of the blessed in heaven and they are wearing robes, white robes, “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Just as God bestowed as a gift garments which he himself made to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, he bestows upon you as a gift another robe of his own making: the righteousness of Christ, to cover over your sin.  That is God’s greatest blessing for which you have to be thankful.

While the ancient Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God miraculously gave them manna and quail from heaven, and water flowing from the rock, as represented in the waterfall in our new Prayer Garden.  That, too, is symbolic, pointing forward to the ultimate meat and drink which comes down from heaven, the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and the waters of Baptism, which flow forth to refresh us as we wander in the wilderness of this world.

In the New Testament also, Christ’s first miracle was changing water into wine, and he miraculously fed the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish.  Christ performed these miracles like those in the Old Testament in order to prove that he is the God of the Old Testament, come down to earth and made man.  As he said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”  It is important to remember that despite these miracles of God’s providence recorded for us in the Bible, even back in the Biblical era God did not normally provide for his people in such a supernatural way.  All these events were considered miracles because they did NOT happen routinely. 

Both back in the Biblical era, and for us today, the normal way God provides for the needs of humankind is through our labor, and the labor of our fellow humans. As Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” But, what do the hands of God look like?  They look like the hands of my father, which I remember so well from my childhood, big, rough, calloused, dirty hands, from his work operating heavy earthmoving machinery.  God’s hands were working through my father’s hands, to build roads, to level fields so crops could grow, to create waterways and terraces for soil conservation, to lay the groundwork for homes and factories and businesses. 

What do the hands of God look like?  They look like the hands of my mother.  Tender hands, which for over 20 years God used in a nursing home, where she worked as an aide.  God used her hands to give baths and change clothes, to cleanse wounds and administer medications, to help the weak to stand and to feed the helpless.

What do the hands of God look like?  They look like YOUR hands.  God is working through YOU to pour our his blessings upon humankind.  Peter put it this way, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

It was no accident that Christ our Lord came into the world as a carpenter.  In fact, he spent only about three years as a rabbi, but perhaps over 20 years of his life with us in this world were as a carpenter.  You see, even as a carpenter, he was teaching.  He was teaching us the importance and value and dignity of human labor.  He was teaching us with HIS LIFE what his Apostle Paul later put into words, in today’s Epistle Reading: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”  As you give thanks for all your blessings, you are actually giving thanks for the PEOPLE through whom God provides you with such blessings.

What do the hands of God look like?  They look like the hands of the farmer or cook, through whom God gives you food.  They look like the hands of the nurse or doctor, through whom God gives you healing.  They look like the hands of the policeman or fireman or soldier, through whom God gives you protection.

They look like the hands of YOU, through whom God blesses humanity, by your gifts and talents and abilities, your contribution to our world and society, you own particular “manifestation of the Spirit  . . . for the common good.” 

That is, “Your Calling from God.”

Amen.

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