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Thankfulness in Thanksgiving
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” - Psalm 103:1-4
Reviewing the calendar of upcoming dates recently, it became clear that the year is rapidly drawing to a close. It is already November and on the 26th of this month, we celebrate the holiday called Thanks-giving. What is thanksgiving? In years past, we have spent a great deal of time and effort understanding thanksgiving as not just being “Thanksgiving” - a holiday once a year. As 2020 was not like any other year we have experienced perhaps we need to start, once again, with the basics. In a very stressful and uncertain time, do we find thankfulness as part of our outlook and practice? Are we thankful in a time of “less?” These are hard questions; but in difficult times we are reminded that we must be thankful always.
Recently I received a copy from a devotional reminder from K. Jones, who pastors a church in south Florida. Pastor Jones summed up thanksgiving in an easy to remember four point plan, complete with explanations for us all to ponder and embrace.
The focus of the issue begins with one of our historic creeds—the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, which is simple and direct in three parts, making it easy for us to understand. In an easy three part format, this simple, yet direct, Question/Answer stye format gives one and all ease to understand why we are thankful.
To be thankful, we must start with our condition before we embrace Christ; what Jesus Christ does for us; and why this leads to thanksgiving. An easy to remember summary of these three parts is: Guilt, Grace and Gratitude. It is gratitude that forms our discussion of thanksgiving. Here are the parts on grati-tude from the Catechism:
1. Gratitude is initiated by an act of kindness and the act of kindness that initiates Christian grati-tude is God’s gracious blessings in the person and work of [Jesus] Christ.
2. Receiving God’s grace in Christ breeds thanksgiving in the heart of the recipient. This is reflect-ed in Psalm 103 as noted above.
3. But the grace we receive does not end with us; we do not hoard it like a miser. Instead it elevates thanksgiving to others as an act of kindness. The Psalmist declares this in Psalm 63:
“Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
Can you see how freeing it is to give grace to others that their hearts may also be gracious and thankful?
Thankfulness in Thanksgiving Continued >>>>>>>>>
Thankfulness in Thanksgiving , continued
So to summarize Pastor Jones’ four points: we are thankful because of what Christ did for us—freed us from our sins. With that act of kindness—grace—we open ourselves up to godly change. We freely, warmly and genuinely extend thanksgiving; we pay it forward; we share that same graciousness we receive with others. The grace God offers we receive warmly, totally, and thankfully.
This simple directive has deep potential for the world. Do you desire change, healing and restoration within our nation; within your family; or within your community? Abounding and abiding in the thanksgiving and gratitude found in the grace of Jesus Christ, is the biblical tool we need to use to heal wounds, rifts and discord.
This has been a difficult, emotionally charged year. We need to jettison the anger, tension, and the moral posturing seen; and be more willing to share the good news that is thanksgiving. When we extend that grace to others, our hearts are changed to be genuinely loving to others. In Ephesians 5:2, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to “walk in love, as Christ loves us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Can you do this based on who you are in Christ and then extend this to someone in the need of grace? This is not an easy task, but this is the call of the gospel. Thankfully we are not alone; we rely on the Holy Spirit. This Thanksgiving be renewed by the gospel of salvation through and in Jesus Christ. Give thanks while we look forward to the celebration of his birth. What hope!
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Harry