Thanksgiving

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget what the Lord has done for you.

Who forgives all your sins;
who heals all your diseases;
who keeps you from the grave,
who blesses you with love and mercy;
who crowns your life with steadfast love and mercy;
who fills your life with good things, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The Lord gives justice to all who are treated unfairly.
The Lord revealed his plan to Moses,
and the Lord’s power was revealed to all Israel.

The Lord is merciful and tender towards those who don’t deserve it;
the Lord is slow to anger, and full of steadfast love.
The Lord will not always accuse, or be angry forever.
The Lord does not deal with us according to our sins,
or repay us according to what we have done wrong.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does the Lord take away our sins from us.
Like a father, like a mother, the Lord is compassionate to us, the Lord’s children.

For the Lord remembers how we are made;
the Lord remembers that we are dust.
Our days are like the grass, which flowers, then the wind passes over us;
and then we are gone, and no one remembers we were here.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting to those who respect the Lord;
The Lord’s love never fails, from generation to generation,
to those who live the promise,
to those who remember the commandments.

The throne of the Lord is heaven around us;
the power of the Lord is over all.

Praise the Lord, O you angels,
you mighty ones who fulfill the Lord’s commands,
who hear every word which the Lord speaks.
Praise the Lord, you uncountable hosts,
all you who serve in countless ways.
Praise the Lord, all creation,
in every place where the Lord has power.
Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Everybody knows that this week is supposed to be a time for giving thanks. Somehow or other, a lot of other things have been added on to the holiday – football games, parades, dog shows, a gigantic national shopping spree. But we all know what the real reason for the holiday is supposed to be: it’s a time for all of us, together, to give thanks to God.

I wonder what it would be like if instead, on our national holiday of Thanksgiving, we celebrated not having more, but simply having enough? Wouldn’t that be different?

We have a roof over our head, clothes to wear, food to eat. We’ve got eyes to see and ears to hear. Most of us can stand up and walk. That’s enough, isn’t it? Surely we can be deeply thankful for those basic things?

What if we celebrated sharing? Somebody told me once that the definition of being truly poor is when you have nothing at all to share. Most of us aren’t poor. We may be broke at times, but we can always share something. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate that we still have something to share.

What if we celebrated generosity and justice? What if we celebrated, not competition, but cooperation? What if the whole point of the holiday were to remember and honor all the times during the year that we worked together, to lift each other up and strengthen each other in times of difficulty?

What if all the special events this week on TV weren’t about defeating a rival, but about reaching out and lifting up those who have fallen behind?

What if all the sexy cheerleaders put on their show to honor people who are trying really hard, with a lot of help, to straighten out their lives?

What if all the advertisers promised to donate a major part of their profits this week to support troubled kids and rebuilding education? That would be something for us to give thanks about.

The Bible talks a lot about giving thanks. But it talks about giving honor and thanks, not to ourselves, but to God. And the Bible talks about giving heart-felt thanks, thanks to God from the very bottom of our hearts.

Giving thanks, in the Bible, isn’t something casual. Giving thanks is literally a life-changing experience. It means recognizing that God has helped us, and that things will never be the same, ever again.

God has helped us. God has rescued us from illness and death. God has provided for us. God has healed us. God has taken away a burden that was crushing the life out of us.

God has restored us to the community. God has walked with us, through depression and despair. God has brought us safely through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

Our lives have been redeemed and transformed forever by what God has done for us. God has blessed us, and we are fundamentally different people now as a result. For the rest of our lives, we will be people who know the love and mercy and tender care of God. We are people who bear witness to God’s steadfast love. That’s what Thanksgiving means.

We are just starting to recover from a bitter and divisive election that tore our nation apart. Here in our meeting, I saw a lot of posts and messages on both sides that I was ashamed of.

Well, I hate to break the bad news to both sides, but neither of the parties really deserves much credit. If they had worked together, a lot of bad stuff might not have happened, and things might get better a lot sooner.

Hatred and fear don’t get the job done. They don’t get anything done.

Over and over, the Bible keeps telling us, “The one who does all the building, the one who deserves all the credit, is God.”

“Get that through your thick heads, won’t you, people?” says the Bible. “It is the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. It’s the Lord who put all these good things here, who calls us to care for the world, and not destroy it.”

God is the ultimate source of all wisdom. God is where we get our sense of justice and fairness, our understanding of right and wrong. God is the author of all good things. We need to give thanks for them.

We need to recover our sense of blessing – of giving thanks, many times a day, for all the good things we need and enjoy.

We also need to recover a sense of grace. Grace doesn’t mean getting what we earn or what we deserve. So much of what we receive in our lives is a gift. Grace means things that are undeserved, unexpected, and unbelieved in. We experience grace, every day that we’re here. Grace is about everyday miracles.

Survey after survey shows that the non-Christian part of this country believes that Christians are sour-faced, mean-spirited, disapproving, patronizing, judgmental, materialistic, divisive, and self-righteous. That’s what a lot of people think of us. If that perception is going to change, we are the ones who need to show people something different.

What we are called to be, by Jesus, are people who are humble, peaceful, simple, truthful, welcoming, forgiving, joyful, and loving.

We need to give thanks, because we know how much God has given us.
We need to forgive, because we ourselves have been forgiven so much.
We need to help set other people free, because God has set us free.
We need to be deeply generous, because God has been greatly generous to us.
We need to stand with other people, because God has stood with us.

We need to walk with each other, because God has walked with us through pain, loneliness, sorrow, and death.

I want us to spend some time in open worship giving thanks for all the good we have received, for all that God has done.

I encourage you all to give thanks for whatever has changed your life, for whatever has lifted you up, for whatever has turned you around or made you whole.
Let’s thank God together.

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