Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
As I write this, the first flakes of snow are falling outside my office window. It’s a certain sign that the seasons are changing, and, while I’m not quiet ready for the winter season (see the patio furniture still adorned for the 4th of July in my backyard), I am ready for the season of thanksgiving that kicks off our long winter months.
While the world is setting its eye on Christmas, I hope you may find ways in the next several weeks to dwell in gratitude. And if you are looking for a little direction into the best ways to express your thanksgiving, I thought I’d share two examples from the Bible on how best to give thanks and live graciously.
Inheritance Into Offering: The Israelites
After God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt he promised to settle them in a land of milk and honey. For 40 years they wandered through the wilderness waiting for God to deliver on that promise, and then one day, God did. Imagine their joy. They were enslaved. They survived the Egyptians’ attempted genocide. They were chased through the Red Sea. They lived for an entire generation as nomads. Then it happened. God gave them the land he promised, and they settled it. I suppose for many it would have been easy to forget the road that led them there. After all, most of the people didn’t personally experience the worst of it. They could have simply carried on with their new lives. But that is not what they did. Instead, after inheriting the land they didn’t act entitled. Instead they took the first fruits of their harvest—the best stuff they had, and they gave it back to God saying, “Now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” Then they celebrated God’s bounty. They reminded them themselves where good things come from, and then they gave them back.
One of the best ways to express gratitude is to turn the blessings God has given us into offerings that bless others. And do not simply give what’s left over. Don’t just round up your change at the check out line. All that stuff is fine, but the best way to express gratitude isn’t giving what you can’t or didn’t use, but off the top. Give your first fruits. Your best stuff. And while that may seem hard, what makes it possible is remembering where that blessing came from. It’s from God, and God is not through blessing you yet.
Worship: The Essential Thank You Note
My mother instilled in me as a child the necessity of sending Thank You Notes. Birthdays, Christmas, Graduations… every occasion that potentially meant gifts, meant I was already out stocking up on stationary.
Thankfulness was complete only when it was expressed. But how do we express our gratitude for all that God gives us? For the roofs over our heads and the food on our plates? How do we say thanks for our families, for walking with us through illness, for forgiving us when we fail? I suppose a thank you note would be appropriate, but figuring out precisely where to send it would probably be an issue.
The good news for us is that we can save the postage. God isn’t looking for a hand-written thank you note so much as grateful hearts and tongues of praise. Psalm 100 (stop everything you are doing and read the whole thing. It’s short and it’s a beautiful reminder of the shape of our worship) says, “…Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.” The way we say thank you to God is through our worship.
As we journey into this season of blessing, my prayer for us is that we respond with our gratitude. As we do, may it take shape beyond #hashtags and instagram posts. If you’re happy and you know it, you clap your hands. If you’re grateful and you know it, you give, you worship, and you respond. And as you do, remind yourself that expressions of gratitude are not for the attention you might get, but because of the blessings God continues to give. And may God bless you with a very Happy Thanksgiving.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.