A Musing about all the time Gratitude 11-9-2
Every year my wife Laura spends the month of November posting things on Facebook for which she is thankful/grateful for. Every day a new post. Over the years they have included me and the children (cue the awwws), the cats, Walt Disney World, the students she teaches, naps, LaFayette Presbyterian Church, and even cheese grits. She remembers both big and little things. It is a great reminder to me of the fact that we should give thanks not just on Sundays, or the 4th Thursday of November, but every day.
On Sunday in worship, we are going to look at the topic of gratitude and Thanksgiving. I am doing this in part because I will not be in the pulpit the next Sunday, which is the one closest to Thanksgiving. Instead, I will be with many members of my family (sadly not all) on a Thanksgiving week trip. It will be a joyful time of relaxation and renewal and I am looking forward to it.
When I return to the pulpit it will be Advent, so if I want to do a Thanksgiving Day kind of sermon this Sunday is my best shot. (Shameless plug here - if you cannot be with us in person, we stream all our services on Facebook at 11 AM—join us.)
Of course, no single sermon can cover the topic of gratitude and thanksgiving, and I hope in all our worship services we have an element of remembering all that we must be grateful for because of the grace and generosity of God.
Because my sermon will not cover everything there is to say about giving thanks and, because one of the things I have been thinking about didn’t quite fit the sermon I am writing or the parameters that my sermons be less than 45 minutes, I thought I would include it here.
Now on our nation’s special day of thanks, we often remember the pleasures and good memories from our lives, both those in recent days and those from long ago.
Yet the Apostle Paul says we should remember to “give thanks to God for all things.” And all things means we even give thanks for the difficulties of life and not just the good things.
As Priscilla Maurice has said, “This is indeed a very difficult duty; for it includes giving thanks for trials of all kinds; for suffering and pain; for langour and weariness; for the crossing of our wills, for contradiction; for reproaches; for loneliness; for privations. Yet they who have learned submission will not find it a hard duty, for they will so entirely love all that God wills that they will see it is the very best thing for them. This belief enables them to praise him and give thanks now for each thing, assured that as it has been, so it will be, that the God of love will do all things well.”
When Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:20 “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” he did so from inside the horrors of a Roman prison cell. And yet Paul still says give thanks.
It is a testimony that should both inspire us and give us encouragement. That said, it is not easy to do. I am certainly not expecting Laura to post a thanks to God for the awful boss she had a few years back, even though her being miserable led her to a job she now loves and to people who are now her friends.
If at the time of Laura’s wicked witch of a boss, I had tried to say “hey honey remember to give thanks even for so and so” I might have gotten hit.
In fact, I don’t actually feel we are supposed to be thankful for hardships and struggles and illness and the like. Instead, we are to be thankful that we have a living God who walks with us through them. A God who helps carry us when we cannot seem to get up. And who assures us we will someday return to our home in what I have come to call the “promised day of God.”
Because of this promise of God, we too can remember the words of Paul in the book of Romans when he reminded the church as it was being persecuted:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written
“For your sake, we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thanks be to God for such a gift of love given to us all.