Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Thankful People

November.  Giving Thanks.  November seems to require a focus on thankfulness, on gratitude.  We celebrate Thanksgiving soon, which gives us an excellent opportunity to gratefully count our blessings before we head into the Christmas rush.  

There is a lot to be said in favor of giving thanks.  Many of the Psalms reveal that King David, the man after God’s own heart, was a man of praise.  In I Chronicles 15 and 16, we read about David bringing the ark of the covenant of the LORD into Jerusalem amid great celebration: David leapt as the ark was brought into the city, and he appointed some of the Levites to specifically thank and praise the LORD God of Israel as the ark was established in its new location. A few chapters later, in I Chronicles 23, we read that of the 38,000 male Levites, David appointed 4,000 to praise the LORD with instruments that David had made specifically for giving praise.

The giving of thanks and praise continues in the New Testament.  The Gospels record Jesus giving thanks to the Father as a matter of practice.  Those who are touched by Jesus in some way almost always respond with thanks and praise. The Apostle Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi to dwell on those things worthy of praise, and he encourages those in Thessalonica to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.  Thanksgiving is more than a holiday for God’s people.  It is a way of life.

In the 1940 Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church, a responsive acknowledgement of thanks is part of the weekly communion service.  The priest says: “Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.”  The congregants respond: “It is meet and right so to do.”  The priest continues: “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.”  These words ring as true today as when they were written generations ago.  But it seems to me that it would be very dangerous to our spiritual health if we stop there.  If giving thanks was nothing more than duty, a fulfillment of an obligation, a practice of a tradition, we miss the point, badly.

Giving thanks is not about meeting an expectation or fulfilling a duty.  It is the fruit of a genuine relationship with our Lord and our Redeemer.  It isn’t something we haveto do.  It is something we get to do.  Giving thanks is not just about what we do, but about who we are, and who we are becoming. To be sure, it isn’t always easy. We are fallen people in a fallen world. Jesus said that we would have tribulation in the world.  The writers of the New Testament did not shy away from the reality of suffering.  But we can give thanks that Christ has overcome the world and that He will redeem our suffering and transform it into glory.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and enter the holiday season, may we, like King David and the Apostle Paul, give thanks as thankful people.