Come, rejoice and give thanksPublished 9:18am Thursday, November 21, 2013
By Rev. Bob Henderson
For thousands of years, humans spent most of our time and energy simply trying to gather and grow enough food to survive through the next winter. As a result, when the harvest was done, almost every culture assembled for some type of harvest festival to give thanks to their God for the blessings of the harvest and to give thanks that they probably wouldn’t starve that year.
Cerelia (ancient Roman), Min (ancient Egyptian), Samhain (Celtic), Sukkot or ‘Feast of Ingathering’ or ‘the ‘Feast of Tabernacles’ (Jewish), Lammas (British Christian) are just a few of these ancient festivals of thanksgiving.
For Christians, giving thanks to God is an integral and important part of our spirituality and practice. Meister Eckhart is quoted as saying: “If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” While that may be slightly simplistic, the basic fact remains that giving thanks to God for the blessings we receive is an important and necessary part of our religious life.
Equally important is the need to give thanks at all times, in all circumstances – “… always and for everything [give] thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Ephesians 3:30; “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
No doubt, in sickness, tragedy, when it seems that our would is falling apart, it is difficult to give thanks. But often, if we simply look and can find one thing, one small thing, one seemingly insignificant thing in the midst of our pain to give thanks for, that thanksgiving can change our entire outlook and spirit, enabling us to endure. Giving thanks can change our lives.
Here in these United States, we are no long a rural, agrarian society, struggling to grow enough food to survive the coming winter. Yes, there are many hungry people among us, but the problem is getting existing food to them, not having enough food for them. We live in a country of astounding abundance, not just abundant food, but abundant riches of all kinds. We are lavishly blessed.
When we begin living such abundant, lavish lives; when our circumstance provide us with more than what we need and most of what we want; it is easy to forget that these riches are blessings bestowed upon us from a loving God. It’s even easier to decide that we have what we have because of who we are, what we have done or just because we deserve it.
This attitude is nothing new. Abraham Lincoln addressed it in his 1863 Thanksgiving address:
We [in this country] have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us. And we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace – too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.
I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our benevolent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
For some years now, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church and Trinity Episcopal Church have sponsored a Community Thanksgiving Service here in Wetumpka to remember and acknowledge with thanksgiving the blessings God has given to all of us in this land.
This year’s service will be held Nov. 24 at Trinity Episcopal Church on U.S. Highway 231, across from McDonald’s in Wetumpka, beginning at 6 p.m.
We will come together as a community to praise God in song, in prayer and to hear Jonathan Yarboro, pastor from the First Presbyterian Church preach. Rev. James Troglan (First Baptist), Rev. Kevin Kelly (First United Methodist Church) and Rev. Bob Henderson (Trinity) will also participate. A reception will follow. Everyone is invited and encouraged to join us this Sunday to give thanks.
The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.