Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day - 2011

Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

As I thought about what I wanted to say about Thanksgiving day this year, several things came to mind for which I am thankful. For example, my wife heads my list. She has been the greatest blessing in my life — right after the blessing of my redemption in Jesus Christ. I could write a book about how much Gloria means to me, but I will refrain from that today. Next are my children, each of the three of them have blessed me, and continue to bless me, in their own unique, individual ways. And the list goes on and on and on. When we sit down to list those things for which have reason to be thankful, we are often surprised at how many items are on that list.

Most of us in the US stop our usual activities to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a feast of turkey, dressing, and all the rest. We eat too much. We share time with family. We take naps after the meal. We don’t engage in the activities that occupy our lives the rest of the time. And that is all a good thing. We should take time out to celebrate our thankfulness. For some it is a rare occasion when they actually say a prayer of thanksgiving to God.

Then comes the day after. Someone has labeled the Friday after Thanksgiving Day "Black Friday." It wasn’t always called by that name. It seems to me that it has only been in recent years that Black Friday showed up in our vocabulary. Of course, most of us know by now that it refers to the biggest shopping day of the year and the day on which merchants make a lot of money — when their profit and loss column goes into the black of profit instead of the red of loss.

It seems to me that we Americans have become enslaved so much to the activity of chasing after profit that we have forgotten that the source of our bounty lies not in our commercial activity but in our spiritual activity. In thinking about this, the following scripture came to mind:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

Clearly, our devotion cannot be divided if we wish to be successful at any endeavor. We must firmly decide our priorities and focus our energies on those priorities. Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside to focus on the priorities in our lives for which we are thankful — which are the real reason for what we do and who we are. But is it only for that one day alone that we are willing to set aside the commerce of our lives to focus on the source of our bounty, on the source of the goodness in our lives?

God clearly spoke to his children about the source of their wealth when he spoke to them as they were entering the promised land:

You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

Thanksgiving Day is not about "wealth" in the ususal sense. It is, however, about bounty in a sense we rarely acknowledge. God’s blessings are new every morning, just as he provided the children with manna during their time in the wilderness. Every day brought more than enough for that day. And it still does. Each day, God provides from His endless bounty to supply all of our needs. In this way, God confirms and establishes His covenant with us. We will never run out of what we need because God never runs out of supply for those needs.

Those of us who live in the United States of America have a special blessing. This country was founded on the principles and values handed down to us through a long line of Christian patriots who preserved for us the written Word of God along with the wonderful traditions and sacraments of the Christian faith. We are a blessed nation. But, just as God’s children often rebelled against Him in the Old Testament, America is rebelling against God today, turning away from Him and His ways, and doing what is right in his or her own eyes rather than what it right in God’s eyes and abandoning His ways. So, while we are giving thanks for all of our blessings, let us also be vigilant in being good stewards of those blessings so that we remain faithful to the Source of all Blessing and thus continue to walk in the bounty of God’s paths of righteousness.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I pray that all of my family and all of my friends will stop long enough to give God thanks for His endless bounty and gracious mercy to them. As we sit down to our feast today, we will be saying a special "Thank You" to God.

For those who would like to have a pattern for such a prayer, here is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.
For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea,
For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
For minds to think, and heart to love, and hands to serve,
For health and strength to work, ans leisure to rest and play,
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
For all valiant seekers of truth, liberty, and justice,
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

And then may we all join in the words of that song:

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the holy one
Give thanks for he's given
Jesus Christ, his son
And now let the weak say I am strong
Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the lord has done for us
Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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