11/23/97, Thanksgiving Sunday, Year B

Matthew 6: 24-33

is wife was still sick, her prognosis was uncertain, but his main concern was that I get his pledge 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."

Thankful to God--- to the God we know. I suppose our basic act of gratitude is to be grateful that we have someone to thank. Were there no God we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts and no one to thank.

No wonder that the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony felt it a natural thing to declare a festival of thanksgiving to God for the harvest. Although it had been a terrible first winter and many had died without food and adequate shelter, now they could survive because of God’s bounty.

In this same spirit President Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the great Civil War, in 1863, proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be, "a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father." Amid the hard times we thank him anyway, because we always have, you know thankful like, to God you know. And every President since has done the same each year.

F.D.R. tried to move it one week earlier in 1939, "to help business by lengthening the shopping period before Christmas." However, in 1941 the Congress ruled that the fourth Thursday in November would be the legal federal holiday.

Even amid the bad times we have celebrated Thanksgiving Day anyway 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. In 1997 we still, "can not serve God and money."

But 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. And this is why my parishioner, in the midst of sickness, wanted to get in his pledge to the church. Somehow a thankful heart naturally leads to giving, sharing, reaching out to others. Giving is from God, through us, and is only completed when it reaches others. The gift is not entirely ours to keep, but a portion is for sharing.

Through giving we become his hands and feet. His instruments of grace. Our words of grace and forgiveness, our help to others along the way, our giving money through his Church is the basic way we serve God.

Even our time around the bountiful Thanksgiving Day table is not wasted for it is a celebration with our own family, our most precious group of others. These are the folks we know best, and that know us best. We celebrate victories together, we share pain as one. Indeed, we can’t call a victory won until it is a story told to our family. We can’t imagine making it through the dark times of hardship and pain without these intimates. We give ourselves without question to our family and we have to be home for Thanksgiving.

The year that Candi was born we decided not to make the long trip to be with family at Thanksgiving, so the four of us went out to Shoney’s, which was usually a good place to eat; but, not on Thanksgiving because we were stuffed in there with all the other sad lonely folks apart from the hearth. Several escaped convicts, or they looked that way. A few reprobates who probably thought they could never go home again, or thought they couldn’t. A much younger wife who had temporarily checked her much older husband out of the nursing home, and fussed at him for a solid hour. Since then we have made the journey home for Thanksgiving Day.

But Thanksgiving can’t really be shut up into just one day: It becomes a way of life every day of your life. I learned as a Boy Scout to continue to do good deeds every day forever because God had granted me that ability.

Thanks and giving, always leads to a grateful way of living. "Because we always have, thankful like..."

Thanks-giving-living invites God to bestow further blessings, as we have shown our willingness to be faithful servants. He seems to give his blessings, and sometimes his challenges to those who have served him most gracefully.

As a young pastor I could not comprehend it when wheel chair bound Betty Beavers would say that God had been so good to her by trusting her with polio. I confess an inability to fully identify with her situation; but, it must have had something to do with her total trust in him to see her through the pain and hardship, and to use her sense of victory to teach folks like her young pastor. Last year I caught her obituary in paper, and then I knew that her victory had finally come--- she had so longed for that freeing from the limitations of life, and her disease, and her wheel chair. And now she can soar, if she wants to, or maybe she is still enjoying walking at last: But I know one thing she is doing, she is thanking God for his blessings, and she is still doing it with gusto.

Thanks-Giving-Living leads to a life that lasts through all that happens along the way in this world, and blessings in the next.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

11/23/97, Thanksgiving Sunday, Year B