Pastor Rike’s Message – November 2018
November 03, 2018
The celebration of our national day of Thanksgiving attracts a lot of attention during the month of November. Already in late October the New York Times was publishing articles and recipes to help people prepare for that celebration. Giving thanks is an important part of the Christian faith, too. And, much of what we will do in the church throughout the month of November shapes how we understanding the civic holiday celebrated at the end of November.
For a Christian, Thanksgiving is not limited to just one day. For example, every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask that God “cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with thanksgiving.” (Luther’s Small Catechism). Further, “Eucharist” is one name given for what we do when we gather for the service on Sunday. Eucharist is a biblical Greek word that literally means “Thanksgiving.” Every time we celebrate Holy Communion we are thanking God for the life to which we have been joined through Jesus Christ, his death and Resurrection.
The grace of God given through Christ Jesus and at work in believers by the power of the Holy Spirit is something for which we will give thanks the first Sunday in November. On All Saints Sunday we remember those Christians – dear to us – who have died during the past year. There is some sadness created by death. But, our hope is that the grace that was active in the lives of those believers who have now died, will also keep us united with them through the fellowship of the risen Christ Jesus.
The following Sunday, November 11, is when the church remembers St. Martin of Tours and, Americans remember our veterans. Interestingly enough, St. Martin, who was born in the year 316, became a Roman soldier and fought in Germany. He remained a soldier while preparing to be baptized into the Christ. One day, while riding on horseback, Martin encountered a poor beggar. Supposedly Martin cut his own cloak in half, giving the other half to the beggar. In the beggar Martin believed he had encountered Christ Jesus much the way described in Matthew 25:37-40. Martin Luther received his first name because he was baptized on November 11 of the year 1483, the commemoration of that old, 4th century, Roman soldier: St. Martin of Tours.
We wouldn’t normally recognize Veterans’ Day in church but, this year happens to be the 100th anniversary of the armistice, ending World War I. Since President Woodrow Wilson issued the first Armistice Day proclamation, the observance has been dedicated toward efforts at world peace. It was not until 1954 that an official Act of Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans’ Day. “President Eisenhower called on the nation to remember the sacrifices of those who fought in all our nation’s wars, to celebrate the contributions of all veterans of military service, and to rededicate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace.”
So, as we give thanks on November 11, we will also remember veterans – both ancient and modern. In the prayers we will give thanks for those who have fought to defend others and, we will pray for an enduring peace. The season of Advent does not begin until December 2, but the readings from the Bible heard in church will focus much more on the end of time beginning November 18. In fact, the passage of Mark to be read on November 18 has sometimes been called “the Little Apocalypse.” In that passage the disciples asked, “…what will be the sign that all things are about to be finished?” (Mark 13:4) Later in that same chapter of Mark, Jesus made clear that the world as we know it will not end with wars and destruction – such things are but the beginning of the birth pangs, bringing something new. The world will end with the unambiguous, visible coming of Christ Jesus in glory. For this, we also give thanks!
In order to be ready to greet Jesus with joy on that last day rather than with sorrow, the church teaches us how to recognize his hidden presence in our midst even now. Beginning November 11 we will switch from using the Gloria as the Hymn of Praise at the beginning of the service and instead use the Kyrie through December 23. Although the Kyrie or “Lord, have mercy” has often been understood as a penitential element of worship, it is not exclusively so. The Kyrie comes directly from the Bible (Matthew 17:5 and elsewhere). Almost every time the words, “Lord, have mercy” appear in the New Testament they are both a recognition of Jesus’ power and a prayer for help. As we use those words in worship we recognize that the crucified Jesus – whose risen Presence comes to us through the Bible readings, bread and wine – is also the one who will come with power at the end of all things. With the words, “Lord, have mercy” we greet him now, asking him to make us ready for that last, great encounter at the end of time.
In all of these things, we give thanks to God through Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit.