Thanksgiving Eve 2015
Fr. Phil Eberhart
So here's a question?
How many here say "Thank You" to your server, every time he or she fills your water glass, when you go out for dinner?
I know that sounds a little trite, and it probably is as an example, but what I want to talk about tonight is the Power of "THANKS!" And it seems pretty smart to set the bar low at the beginning. Even something that trite, that small, is an example of a mindset - can I call it a LIFE-SET - that begins with small things and moves through our whole lifestyle to the Big Things, like giving Thanks to God.
Paul urged the Thessalonian Church to "Give thanks in all circumstances [or for all things], for this is the will of God for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1 Thess 5:18
Tonight I want us to come away thinking about our lifestyle of thanks.
So let's start with Scripture:
The words "thank 29", thanks" 98, thanksgiving 35, thankful, etc occur an aggregate of 160 times throughout the Old and New Testament.
There are several that stand out!
David's song before the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Chron 16 is a great place to start:
1st of all I want you to note the setting: This is the song to be sung be the Levites and priests, along with the musicians, in front of the Ark of the Covenant. This is the OT sign of the very presence of God in the midst of His People. Where is that today?
Not the literal box, but the sign of God's Presence with us?
The Table of the Lord - and isn't it interesting that the Greek word for thanksgiving is... any guesses?
EUCHARISTIA ... Sound familiar?
Friends we are called to a place of thanksgiving - to an act of thanksgiving - each time we come to this table! God has already made His dwelling place among Men... and we have a foretaste at every Eucharist.
Now I've kind of jumped to the end of the sermon here, but I wanted to show you the root and branch to which we are attached, as Anglican Christians. Now the question is what happens when we go from this place? Does the attitude of thankfulness permeate, like the Elements, into our very blood stream - into our DNA - you know, the 18" drop? from our head to our heart?
Thanks giving is the response that God prescribes, both for the reception of the daily necessities of life (food, water, air, our heartbeat) - "give us this day our daily bread." - and the prescription continues when things aren't so hot in our lives... even have one of those days?
Even the world knows the Power of Thanks: Just ask people like Andrew Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, even Joel Osteen. Thanks forms the basis of an attitude about life that empowers our lives and the lives of others around us - it opens up doors of opportunity - pathways for light and joy and peace to flow in. It works as an agent of change for circumstances that are less that what we desire.
In his books, "From Prison to Praise" and "The Power of Praise" Merlin Carothers tells story after story, testimony after testimony, of the way that THANKS-giving works in our lives and in our circumstances. It reminds me of the advice that Paul gave to the Philippian church: "Be anxious for nothing - Don't worry about things, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with THANKSGIVING, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which passes our understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
You need to know that I'm not talking about a rose-colored glasses denial of reality, but an affirmation of God's sovereignty and love, even in the midst of the challenges of our life on planet Earth. It's no accident that the most often repeated phrase in the OT is the offering of Thanks, we find throughout the Psalms ... "Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good! His faithful love endures forever!" Over and over again in one form or another we are enjoined to Give thanks to the Lord. The reasons are frankly as endless as God Himself! No matter what our circumstances, God is and remains faithful to us. His love for us remains unchanged and unchanging.
If there is one message that rings through the whole of scripture it is the message of God's unchanging faithful love. Even the Lamentation of Jeremiah the weeping Prophet gives testimony to God's great faithfulness. In his third chapter, Jeremiah describes his woes for 20 verses, in very graphic terms, and then for the remaining verses, another 40 verses He tells of the faithful love of God. Even for Jeremiah, one of the most abandoned and persecuted prophets in the history of Israel, His praise outweighed his woes, 2 to 1!
How does your praise do on that scale? Is there twice as much thanksgiving as there is complaining to God? It's not that Jeremiah didn't have things to complain about, ya know. But he stopped before it went too far, and recalled the "Faithful love of the Lord that endures forever!"
Let's turn to our prayers and do just that ourselves, coming finally to the table of Thanksgiving - of Eucharist - as we turn our lives with our joys and our troubles over to Him who holds all things in His hands.