T h i s _W e e k ' s _S e r m o n
n 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to God. Since then each president has issues a Thanksgiving Day proclamation for the fourth Thursday of November. Giving thanks assumes that there is a God whom we thank.
Our Great American Thanksgiving Day traces its origins to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Bay Colony. Less than 50 of the original 110 survived their first cold winter of 1620. Two Indians befriended the Pilgrims and taught them to plant corn seeds with decaying fish for fertilizer in small mounds. Samoset had learned some English from fishermen and Squanto had accompanied sailors to England where he had learned to speak English. In October of 1621 Pilgrim Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all colonists and their neighboring Native Americans. The Pilgrims continued the annual feast day to thank God for His mercy and blessings. Their thanksgiving was not for something but in something.
The custom of an annual day of gratitude, held after the harvest, continued in different forms in the states and regions. During the Revolutionary War a day of national Thanksgiving we suggested to the colonies by the Continental Congress. This Thursday we gather together to ask the Lord’s continued blessings on our families and our nation. Most Americans are a grateful people and understand that we have prospered because the majority has honored God with their prayers of gratitude, and with lives that honor God. Perhaps the expressing that God wants most is our living out lives of thankfulness.
The Thanksgiving season is a time when we reflect upon and remember the many blessings we have in our lives. We are grateful for our family, our friends, our church, our health and our many provisions. The Bible says that every good and perfect gift is from above. When we have grateful hearts we are able to recognize from where our blessings have come. God is the Giver of all our resources.
“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11, NRSV)
Stewardship is a Christian discipline that enables spiritual growth. As we count our blessings and name them one by one, let us use our blessings to honor God and bless others. Our willingness to give is a reflection of a grateful heart. Giving is an expression of Thanks-Living as we connect a tangible response of sharing with our inner feelings of gratitude for God’s blessings.
However, we learn from the Pilgrims that the spirit of Thanksgiving is not dependant upon our having received overflowing bounty. They, like us, still have a desire to express our gratitude to God because we are really most thankful for His spiritual blessings to us. We could have joyful gratitude even if we did not live in the most prosperous nation in the world because we would still be the recipients of the assurance of salvation, of heaven, and of God’s providence in our lives. Christian Thanks-Living is not dependant upon outward circumstances.
I read a story recently about a clergy meeting in 1929, during the Great Depression, in which the subject of Thanksgiving Sunday’s sermon was brought up. One pastor suggested that they should just touch lightly on Thanksgiving that year because of the fall of the stock market, the long bread lines, and so many people out of work. However, another pastor reminded them that they were still the recipient of great spiritual blessings and that eventually God would bring about a financial recovery. He said that they needed to focus more on gratitude than ever before because their spiritual blessings were growing through their physical adversity.
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt. 6:33, NRSV)
We could add that even without great physical blessings we would still have God’s kingdom, His Church, and His Grace which produces any sense of righteousness and any small degree of Christian holiness that we might have gained through His Grace. True Christian character is built upon the foundational truth that God is the power that has produced in us the kind of person who has been able to achieve any worthy goals in life and that our lives are a gift to others and building blocks of His Kingdom. Christ’s Church is made visible through His Disciples, and only secondarily through its steepled buildings.
The thing that I am most grateful for in this Thanksgiving Season is the high honor of being your pastor at this great church. I owe it all to God and my prayer is that I might be made worthy of the great honor and opportunity. We will celebrate a great Thanksgiving because of you.
Our great hope is not for something but in something. Our hope is in a Sovereign who has promised to bless us if we will serve Him. Our God is not a mortal King or Queen who is mortal and limited by human flaws; but, we serve the Omnipotent God who flung the stars into perfect order throughout the endlessness of space, and who seeks entry into our little lives. We can count on Him. We can trust that He will continue to bless us through all of the Thanksgiving Days of our lives, and beyond the veil we will sing His praises in Glory.
Thanks be unto Him!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor