Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving Reminder

     Friday I had a wonderful reminder of the fact that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. Truly no one can measure the mercy of the Lord our God, except by looking to the cross of Christ. There we see His mercy in its fullness, and we can measure its infinite splendor, in the broken and bloody body of Jesus.

     Friday I had a bit of a reminder of this as the final stroke of my pruning saw ended in my wrist. At first I could not tell how severe the cut was. I saw the flow of crimson ebbing across the white string fabric of my climbing glove, rather quickly advancing from my wrist to my knuckles. As I peeled back the glove's cuff, I could see the opened veins and the blood pouring forth. I quickly applied pressure and saw that I could control the bleeding. Next I lowered myself from the tree to the ground, unbuckled the latches of my tree saddle, and again applied pressure to the wound.

     In less than a second I was reduced from a big, strong tree climber to a man dripping blood on his customers' porch, ringing the doorbell, hoping for help to clean the wound and to wrap the wound so as to stop the flow of blood. Before going to the porch I stopped to consider any possible way to care for this matter myself, so that I would not have to frighten the dear old couple in the house. But alas, my frailty was revealed beyond any hope of subterfuge. I needed to ask for help. I needed to inconvenience others by showing them my helplessness.

     This is a wonderful reminder of the fallen state of every man. No matter how strong one may think himself to be, no matter how highly others may hold him and his reliability, he remains someone completely dependent upon someone stronger. In the Our Father our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." Luther explains this wonderfully saying,

     What does this mean?

      God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer, also to all the wicked; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

     What is meant by daily bread?
      Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

     As a trained and experienced arborist I follow various safety procedures quite religiously. I also am in quite good physical condition. I lift myself and 25 to 50 pounds of gear into the trees all day long. Yet I could not stop the teeth of my saw from biting into my flesh and puncturing my blood vessels and tendons. The Lord, however, provided for my well-being. He quickened my reflexes so that I did not follow through with the stroke of the saw. He gave me the strength to lower myself to the ground. He designed my body with blood clotting factors. He provided that my customers were kindly and caring people and that they were home to help. He provided a ride to the clinic and an experienced doctor who could diagnose my injury. Three days later the swelling is nearly gone, the wounds are beginning to close, and tomorrow I will resume my daily work. All of these the Lord graciously and mercifully provided without my asking for any of them, except in my continual prayer for my daily bread. Of course He provided even more that I have not mentioned. Even the things that I mentioned are only a fraction of what God provided in this one incident. Yet the reminder is clear. I am God’s dependent little child, who is richly and daily provided with all that I need to support this body and life.

     My prayers certainly are not the reason that God provides me my needs. He is good and His mercy endures forever. Purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy He provides even more than I know how to ask. Yet He commands me to ask that I may recognize both my need and His goodness and love.

     My pruning saw is very high quality, which means it is very sharp and a very effective cutting instrument. The teeth are about 1/4 of an inch deep and 3/16 of an inch wide. It truly is a miracle that those dimensions are clearly discernable in my flesh rather than an arc of continuously torn flesh. I will bear these marks of blessing for many years, and perhaps the rest of my earthly days. They will serve as a lifelong reminder of God’s goodness and my frailty. They will be a cause for continual thanksgiving for my daily bread.

     There are another set of marks that serve for daily thanksgiving as well. Jesus continues to bear those marks in His body so that we all may rejoice continually in the goodness and mercy of the Lord our God. Moreover the sign of the cross was marked upon us in our baptism. Daily this sign is renewed as we begin our prayers with that blessed sign.

     Truly we should give continual thanks to the Lord our God, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all.