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Praise, share and give

October 5, 2014

Thanksgiving for the HarvestCornucopia Pilgrim

In 1636, amid the darkness of the Thirty Years’ War, a German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five thousand of his parishioners in one year, and average of fifteen a day. His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster. In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his children: ‘Now thank we all our God / With heart and hands and voices;/ Who wondrous things had done,/ In whom His world rejoices. /Who, from our mother’s arms,/Hath led us on our way/ With countless gifts of love/ And still is ours today.’ “Here was a man who knew that thanksgiving comes from a love of God, not from outward circumstances.

Today we remember Thanksgiving Day for the harvest. It’s good to come to church at this time; as it is also good to come to church every Sunday for the same reason, that is, to say thank you because our reason to come to church is always a Thanksgiving. Thank you for everything we have because everything comes from God, and every church is the place we determined to be where we want to thank God in community.

Maybe, for many of us who don’t have direct contact with the fields or the country, the notion of giving thanks for the fruits of the field, as we have arranged them symbolically on the altar, may come across as being foreign or distant.

But we could imagine that a pumpkin could be the house we have or we are paying the mortgage for. One of the loaves might represent the salary we receive annually or the pension in retirement that we assume that we will have in our bank account every month. Other vegetables can represent the car or cars we have; other fruits can represent the fact that every day we have plenty to eat, actually more than we can eat. We have food so abundantly that we may even need to go on a diet or to eat less because we have plenty of food that tempts us to overeat. Still other fruits may be the health we do have. Or that we can walk, we can breathe or we can talk. Or that we have a comfortable house that is warm in the winter and cool in the summer; because we can go everywhere we want to whenever we want; because we live in an orderly country where almost no one goes hungry, where there are no wars, where there is no violence in the streets, where there is no widespread corruption that paralyzes progress and prosperity. Where there aren’t daily robberies and kidnappings without enough policing, it often happens in other countries. We live in a country where we have a free health care system for the entire population, where those who want to work honestly can prosper materially. And last, but not least, because we can have a place called church where we congregate and say thank you to our Lord.

And surely, every one of us can look at any of these fruits today and find out why we could be thankful when we think about our own life.

Today we are reminded to be thankful – to have thankful lips confessing the name of God. This is what we do when we come to church and meet in community. Logically, this is not done just once a year; we can do it once a week. And we are told that such praise is valid while accompanied by action. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” Gratitude is also expressed in acts such as giving and sharing of what we have received.

If we know that all we have comes from God, and that God is telling us to not forget to do good and to share what we have that comes from Him, then it means that, if we don’t do this, God won’t able to continue giving to us because we are not obeying him. On the contrary if we are obedient to God and grateful for what we receive from Him, then we can live with confidence that we will receive all we need for our lives. If we want to please God, then we have to share what we have; that’s the only way to show appreciation and to please God, besides doing it “with our lips” in a place we call church.

Last Sunday we read a Bible verse in preparation for the day of Thanksgiving that said:

“Without the help of the Lord it is useless to build a home or to guard a city. It is useless to get up early and stay up late in order to earn a living. God takes care of his own, even while they sleep. (Psa 127:1-2)”

If we receive God’s blessings, we must remember that everything we have comes from Him. And He’s the only one who deserves gratitude. How can we thank God? As the epistle reading for today reminds us: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Worshiping, sharing and giving. These are the key verbs to continue receiving blessings in our lives. We have spoken a lot, in many sermons, about what it means to have the blessing and favor of God. Of course, when we speak of God’s blessing, not only does it mean that all our material needs are met, it also means salvation and eternal life in the first place. But the life of a grateful Christian acquires quality on this earth when we recognize that all we have comes from God and we start obeying God when He asks us to be thankful.

Gratitude is a virtue that only a few possess. It is a noble virtue that must be learned, taught and cultivated throughout life. If no one taught us to give thanks, it is very difficult for us to be thankful. But God can transform us with His love and His Holy Spirit to live a life of true abundance if we give our lives to Him in obedience and gratitude.

Surely, many of us are now in the church because we seek God’s help and seek answers to problems in our life that don’t as of yet have visible solutions A quick way to start solving these problems is to allow the Spirit of God to enter into our lives. For this, obedience to the word of God is required on our part.

The other day I heard from afar, as someone commented on a leaflet that is here in the church entitled “Your life can be lighter.” And someone asked: “Yes, but how?” Today we have the answer. Every Sunday in church we receive the response: Start to walk on God’s path, not only with faith but also with trust and obedience to God. We must be determined to put into practice the things we do know that God is asking and we can do. Corrie Ten Boom said: “Do not worry about what you don’t understand in the Bible. Worry about what you understand and don’t apply in your life.” And I would add: don’t worry about things you cannot do to obey God. Begin to implement the things you can do to obey God, if you really want God to bless and change your life.

Today God is very clear on this day when we remember the annual Thanksgiving: “So let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

It is not enough to simply have faith, or to just say I’m a Christian or to say that I belong to one or another church. God asks us for proof, for acts of appreciation. God is asking us to act; if our actions are to be humble or modest acts, they should be done from the heart with the deepest conviction of wanting to please God. When we start to live our Christianity knowing that what we do we do for God, and that he very well sees how we are acting, the way we start living changes and, logically, the way God acts changes and He begins to bless our lives in a remarkable way.

We are looking for answers and solutions and today God gives us one: Let us begin to praise God and let us begin to practice being grateful to Him. And He will give us all the things we still need for our lives. Let us begin to thank for the things we do have and recognize that everything we have comes from God alone. Our lives will start to change fast.

Why did only one of the cleansed lepers return to thank Jesus?  The following are nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return:

“One waited to see if the cure was real.

One waited to see if it would last.

One said he would see Jesus later.

One decided that he had never had leprosy.

One said he would have gotten well anyway.

One gave the glory to the priests.

One said, “O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything.”

One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.”

One said, “I was already much improved.”

Gratitude comes together with faith and trust and surrender to God in praise and acts. May God bless us with many more material things and other things we still need for our lives according to our thanks to Him.

Amen.

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