Is your life characterized by thanksgiving, or better yet, thanks-living? Have you learned to receive everything – the good and the bad, the joyful and the sorrowful – with thanksgiving? Our redemption is manifest chiefly in a grateful heart. What does your life declare of thankfulness to God? Listen as we examine Psalm 107 and consider the promptings, the pattern, and the practice of giving thanks and living thankfully.
Thanksgiving and the Super Bowl perennially vie with one another as the “Black Friday” of the grocery world. All week my sorties to the local Kroger have evoked the imagery of a slow drain – where too much water is being pushed through too little pipe. Say what you like, “the meal” is the heart of an American thanksgiving. But is that really a problem?
In Scripture, thanksgiving is often accompanied by a feast. All of God’s mighty acts of redemption are pictured in the feasts of Israel. Jesus’ first sign, the turning of water into wine in Cana, was central to a protracted wedding feast. The only miracle recorded in all four gospels, apart from the resurrection, was the feeding of five thousand families on a Galilean hillside. We don’t know all Jesus taught them that day, but we know how he fed them. So much of Jesus’ ministry was centered around meals that the Pharisees accused him of being a glutton and a wine-bibber. The great Passover meal was the annual celebration of thanksgiving and remembrance for God’s mighty deliverance. And the Passover pointed to the greater deliverance through the blood of the Lamb of God – a deliverance pictured in the Last Supper. Thanksgiving is well celebrated “at table.”
For Christians, there is no greater illustration of this than the Lord’s Supper, called in Scripture and in the lingo of the Church, “the eucharist” – a Greek word for ‘thanksgiving.’ One theologian has rightly noted that how we approach every table in our lives should be instructed by our approach to that table. A table which reminds us that God is merciful, kind, gracious, holy and just and like Mephibosheth, we who are unworthy to come, are worthily able to come through the worthiness of another. This table is the great thanksgiving meal which celebrates the incomparable and incomprehensible goodness of God toward ruined sinners. This table celebrates our adoption as God’s children by faith in the finished work of the Only Begotten Son. This table teaches us to celebrate the goodness of God, not merely our feelings about ourselves. This table teaches us how to come to our family thanksgiving tables today.
Enjoy the meal. Enjoy the day. Celebrate the goodness of God. Celebrate with thankfulness that He joyfully calls us to be His. Celebrate the gifts he has given, even though a great many of them seemed hardly like gifts at the time. Celebrate His mercies which are new every morning and His faithfulness which is great. Celebrate the families He has given you along with the opportunities for self-sacrifice and sanctification that come with them. Give Thanks. The word eucharisto, which we translate thanksgiving means, quite literally, ‘good grace.’ Our thanksgiving may be celebrated in many ways, alone or with others, by a variety of activities, with certain foods that are required to “fulfill all righteousness.” But let all your thanksgiving “say grace,” declaring what scripture teaches us to proclaim whether in joy, sorrow, in peace and in conflict.
For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:6
Grace and Gratitude
The trajectory of the Christian life is one of grace and gratitude. God speaks His grace to us in the gospel and we express our gratitude to Him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. This trajectory defines every aspect of our lives. As Christians we are to be characterized by gratitude. Yet, Mark Mitchell in his article, Ingratitude and the Death of Freedom, makes a stinging indictment about the loss of gratitude in modern culture and a dire prediction of the consequences. He writes,
Any serious discussion of gratitude must at the same time consider its opposite, ingratitude, for—and I am not the first to observe this—we tend to be an ungrateful lot. In 1930 the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset observed that modern people are, among other things, characterized by their “radical ingratitude.”
When we speak of gratitude, there will be those who think primarily of etiquette: “I taught my children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and they usually do.” There will be those who think in personal terms: “I have a nice house, a new car, and a boat. Sure, I’m grateful.” Or there will be those who think in terms of the nation: “We live in the greatest nation on earth! Darn right, I’m grateful.” But, although the language of gratitude is not dead—far from it—something is amiss. Our modern, affluent, technological, well-fed society seems to oscillate between smug self-satisfaction and hand-wringing despair, the latter coming on the wave of each new economic, political, social, or natural disaster.
Gratitude though means more than good manners; it means more than the pleasure associated with possessing plenty of nice things; and it surely means more than mere relief that we’ve managed to escape, or at least survive, the latest crisis. These are perhaps shadowy reminders of gratitude, but they are not the heart of the issue.
Mitchell goes on to observe that four cultural shifts that have left moderns characteristically ungrateful.
- First is the loss of God along with an acknowledgment of a moral law that exists prior to human will.
- Second, we have lost contact with the natural world.
- Third, we have too often lost a sense of place.
- Finally, we have experienced a loss of the past.
But this is not really a modern or even a new problem. Solomon once wrote, there is nothing new under the sun — nothing that is that has not been before. Despite many examples in the Psalms of God’s gracious care for those in distress, the Psalmist must still instruct the people, time and time again, to “Give thanks to the Lord.”
As we approach a day on the calendar marked, Thanksgiving, are we thankful? Do we even know how to give thanks or cultivate a life of gratitude? Matthew Henry once wrote, “thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better.”
Join us this Lord’s Day, November 19, as we examine Psalm 107 and consider what it looks like to practice “thanks-living.” We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions.
Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.