Orphans, Widows and Giving Thanks

by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick

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Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Giving thanks is not just for Thanksgiving. As we say in our Communion liturgy, “It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to You, holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord . . . .”

And yet, I think it’s a good and godly thing that we celebrate Thanksgiving Day every year to focus our attention on giving thanks and to remind ourselves and others of the manifold blessings showered upon us by our gracious and loving Father in heaven.

Speaking of blessings, just off the top of my head, I think of faith, forgiveness, freedom, home, health, happiness, life, love, and livelihood. I thank God also for our wonderful church body and for its congregations, where the Gospel is proclaimed, the Sacraments are administered, and faith is nurtured.

The topics addressed by two of the articles in this issue of The Lutheran Witness remind me, too, that life can be challenging and that our gratitude for God’s blessings motivates us as Christians to reach out in loving care to others. The articles of which I speak are those addressing care for orphans in Kenya and for American servicemen and women and their families.

Orphans, of course, face a multitude of challenges, beginning with safety, security, and the provision of basic needs for sustaining life. Sadly, there are many orphans— especially in Third World countries—who go without those basic needs. One estimate I’ve seen says that there may be as many as 35 million homeless orphans worldwide.

So, thank God for the care provided by individuals and ministries who take seriously these words of James: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress . . .” (James 1:27a).

We thank the Lord also for our Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces and particularly for Operation Barnabas, which aims to help military families.

Operation Barnabas was developed out of a need to support chaplains, congregations, and individuals before, during, and after active duty and deployment. One of its initiatives is to help congregations whose pastors are called up for active duty as chaplains. A second is to help military families during deployment, especially those who live far from services provided by the military. This can include ministering to families who suffer the death of a loved one in service to our country.

Orphans and widows (and widowers) are not only overseas or in military families, of course. My dear wife, Terry, and I have our own family experience of adopting our son more than 30 years ago. We know firsthand the joys, challenges, and blessings of providing a Christ-filled home for a small child who lived his first two years without those blessings. Also, like many of you, my mother has been without my father for quite some time. For 26 years now, I’ve seen some of the challenges of life that she and other widows experience, particularly including loneliness, especially during nights, weekends, and holidays. As Christian people, we have many opportunities to reach out in love and concern to those with these and other special needs.

Many LCMS congregations take seriously such needs and other circumstances of those who have lost spouses. And through Lutheran social service agencies, orphans are cared for and connected with adoptive parents. For example, the Web site of Lutheran Services in America—members include agencies related to the LCMS, to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or to both church bodies—lists 171 locations throughout the United States that offer adoption services.

In fact, we all are adopted—adopted children of God. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem those under Law, that we might receive the full rights of [adoption as] sons” (Gal. 4:4–5).

Through Christ, God has adopted us into His family. This is the greatest reason of all for us to give Him thanks “at all times and in all places” and to be mindful of orphans, widows, and all who are in need of any kind. A blessed Thanksgiving to each of you!

Lives Transformed through Christ, in Time . . . for Eternity!
John 3:16 –17
e-mail: president@lcms.org
Web page: www.lcms.org/president

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