“Give Thanks to God”
I want to start with something funny. I read this story on an internet site: An old man in Chicago called his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and said, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough. The son screamed, “Pop, what are you talking about?” The father said, “We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer. We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Dallas and tell her.”
Frantic, the son called his sister, who exploded on the phone. “Like heck, they’re getting divorced,” she shouted, “I’ll take care of this.” She called Chicago immediately and screamed at her father, “you are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing. DO YOU HEAR ME?” and, she hung up the phone. That old man hung up his phone and turned to his wife, and he said, “Okay, they’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”
What a joy it is when we can have a family gathering for Thanksgiving! Last year on Thanksgiving Day, many of you weren’t able to have a family gathering due to the COVID 19 pandemic. How many of you plan to have a family gathering this Thanksgiving? I know some of you can’t gathering again this year. However, don’t call your children and pull a prank like the old man in the story. I hope that you give “thanks” to God whether you can gather with your family for Thanksgiving or not.
Today, I want to talk about how we should “Give Thanks to God.” According to the Christian calendar, today is the last Sunday, and starting next week, we have a new lectionary year, beginning with the advent season. It is a little shocking to me about how time is running so fast! Especially while we have been experiencing the COVID 19 pandemic, I feel like we’ve lost a year. There were many things that happened this year. As some of you have seen in our parish photo album, we didn’t lose a year. We have lived it well. Even though we closed the church for a while due to the COVID 19, we still had an out-door service in Atlas Park, using an FM transmitter, and we offered tablet PC ministry, Zoom service, sermon by phone, and video service, and still do offer them to our parishioners. In addition, we do mail out weekly service materials. We had a Lenten Bible Study, Holy Saturday event, Holy Baptism services, and new members through our new membership class. Our church still functioned while we were closed. As we see throughout the photo album, there were many things that happened. We lived well this year. Let us say, “we did good works.” One of the grateful things I’m grateful to God for is that we were able to make our parish photo album. It is a collection of photos of activities since I was appointed to our parish, August of 2019 to July of 2021.
I wonder how often you give “thanks” to yourself. How often do you praise to yourself, such as, “I am doing well.” “I did a good job.” “I lived well this year.” “I’m good enough.” And, I wonder how often you express your gratitude to others. How many of you wrote “thank you cards” more than thirty times this year? Okay, how about more than twenty times? We have twelve months, fifty-two weeks, and three hundred sixty-five days in a year. We experience many moments of gratitude, but we rarely express how grateful we are.
What about showing our gratitude to God? I know you might express your “thanks” to God in your daily prayers. But, I wonder how many of you have written “thanks” to God like in a daily journal or prayer notes. My guess is that most of you have never done it. The Apostle Paul says, “so then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7). As we receive grace and love from God, let us express our gratitude overflowing from our hearts. Even though we sometimes face difficulties, we have enough reason to give thanks to God. It is because of Jesus Christ. It is because of God’s love and grace. It is because of who I am. It is because we have loved ones. It is because we have many things in our life. I’m glad we have a chance to write a thank you card to God today, reflecting on our lives this year. What a joy to share our grateful minds! They are overflowing with thankfulness!
In today’s scripture, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Honestly, it is true that we are concerned about what we wear every morning, right? It is not because we don’t have enough clothes, but because we have too many clothes. We indeed are concerned about what we eat at every meal because we have an abundance of food. Be thankful for God’s grace and ow he provides us with what we need. We often forget God’s provident grace. And then, we often worry about food, clothes, and livelihood rather than give thanks for what we already have. If we attempt to see the lack of things, we might always feel we are lacking. But, if you keep tending a grateful mind, you might always feel you are good enough in everything.
Think of something you are grateful for this year! If you don’t remember what happened, that’s also God’s grace. You may say, “Thank you, God, because I forgot all things.” The Prophet Isaiah says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18). If you don’t remember, you may say, “I obey God and forget former things.” So, I may say, “You did a good job. You are a good servant of God.” Therefore, whether we remember what happened or not, all are because of God’s grace, and then we give thanks to God.
Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” I couldn’t make much sense of these verses before because I had never seen many birds. But, since I came to Grantsburg, WI, I now understand what those verses mean. I saw vast numbers of Sandhill Cranes every fall season around my parsonage. Wow, when I saw them first, it took my breath away because it was such an amazing scene that I’d never seen before. Imagine that God feeds such a huge flock of Sandhill Cranes, takes care of them on their flight journey, and then sends back them the next year. It’s amazing that God does that! Jesus says, “Are you not of more value than they?” Yes, we are valued more than the Sandhill Cranes. So, God will take care of us more than Sandhill Cranes. We know even though we worry, we cannot make things happen. But, if we give thanks to God, God makes things happen. Therefore, do not worry at all, but give thanks to God so that God will make things happen for us. We may say to each other, “You did well this year!” Thanks be to God. Amen!
Pastor Jenny Lee