11/21/04, Thanksgiving Sunday
is wife was very sick, her prognosis was uncertain, but his main concern was that I hand deliver his pledge card to the church on time for the fall campaign to be completed. "Why?" I asked, knowing the answer already--- "Because we always have, we're grateful, you know thankful like, to God you know!"
The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony felt it a natural thing to declare a festival of thanksgiving to God for their harvest. Although they had landed at Plymouth Rock too late in the Fall to plant gardens, and it had been a terrible first winter and half of their people had died without food and adequate shelter, now they could survive because of God's bounty. The friendly Native American Indians, several of whom could speak English, had taught them to fish and hunt and to plant gardens using the fish scraps as fertilizer. The Pilgrims, or Puritans, seeking religious freedom from State Churches, found the natives open to hear their Christian witness.
An American tradition is that our President proclaims a day of prayer to express Thanksgiving to God for the many blessings bestowed upon this, “One Nation Under God.” Thanksgiving Day is a super long four day weekend and is the most traveled time of the year. We lose a few from worship, but we pick up a few visitors too.
Even amid the bad times in our history we Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving Day because we are basically a grateful people. Helen Keller said, "I thank God for my handicaps; for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God."
The person who does not thank God for a little would not thank him for a lot. If thankfulness only arises out of prosperity, what would we do if we lost it? But when the Spirit of the living Christ has entered our life and turned us into a grateful person, then money in the bank, however useful, does not have us at its slave, for even if we lose it we can still offer thanks. Thanksgiving to be truly Thanksgiving is first thanks and then giving. Giving gives us freedom over enslavement to mammon. This is why the Pilgrims called in their Indian friends.
This is why my parishioner, in the midst of his beloved wife's sickness, wanted to get in his pledge into the church. Giving had become a vital part of their life commitment. “ Thanks Giving Living ,” A lifestyle of giving is a byproduct of what the Apostle John is explaining in our Gospel Text: “Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (6:35, NRSV) He will give us more than enough!
“ Thanks Giving Living ,” invites God to bestow further blessings, as we have shown our willingness to be faithful servants in the Trusteeship of the blessings given to us to supervise. God seems to give his blessings, and sometimes his challenges to those who have served him most gracefully.
Would any responsible parent entrust a new '04 Mustang, Super V-8, to a wild rebellious teenage driver who has wrecked his grandfather's 1968 Crown Victoria ? No, yet we pray to God asking for more than we have shown the history of being able to deal with responsibly.
Jesus taught that God expects us to invest the Father's Blessings responsibly; yet, many mishandle the little bit that they have been given. The Prodigal Son wasted his inheritance on riotous living, but came to himself and learned his lesson. Since the Father gave him a robe and a ring and prepared a celebration dinner, it is assumed that the boy was forgiven and given a new chance. The Unfaithful Steward buried his master's money in the ground so that it would be safe, but Jesus described the Faithful Steward as the one who invested his master's funds wisely and showed a profit. It was profit that could be spent on responsible things such as a home, a family, an education for the kids, and the extras that one's living can responsibly afford.
However, some Christians act more like Lotto Winners with any blessings that they may stumble upon. They get a raise at work and blow it, and more, on a Cruise. Living out The American Dream we get caught in the cycle of paying for lawn care and maids and then pay to play tennis and golf to get some exercise. Another great thing about living in wonderful Carrollton is that young couples do not seem to have the same high pressure upon them to go into debt over their heads to keep up the showy things required to keep ahead of the neighbors, as they would in Atlanta . I advise young couples to never go in debt for anything except a house. And the only way to deal with a credit card is to pay it off every month. Peace with God comes as a result of our faithful stewardship and we become the kind of persons that God can entrust with more.
Over the years I have learned that God actually gives some folks their biggest hand up by allowing them to find victory amid great problems. As a young pastor I could not understand it when a poor widow remarked that God had been so good to her by trusting her with so little. I could not understand her statement; but, it must have had something to do with her total trust in God to see her through the hardship, and to use her spiritual of victory to teach folks like her young pastor a great lesson. “ Thanks Giving Living ” leads to a life that is full whether or not our bank account is full. Its not how much we have that proves God's blessings, but it is how we deal with the blessings and banes that we have that are the true fruit of faithfulness.
I glanced through the current Beth Moore Bible Study Series that many of our ladies are involved in on Friday mornings. The new theme emphasizes that the point of the Christian Life is not so much just “Believing in God,” but “Believing God.” Think about it, even the Devil believes that God exists. In fact, the Devil has seen and talked to God but still became a Fallen Angel. However, through faith in Christ we can begin to Believe God's means of reconciliation and new life.
By Believing God's plan for our lives we become Pilgrims on a journey toward God's perfect picture of what our lives can become. Or, we might say that Believing God leads to a new life of “ Thanks Giving Living. ”
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor