Everything that has been created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should be rejected (1 Timothy 4:4, Common English Bible).
Several years ago I wrote one of my all-time favorite sermon series. I titled it “Pass the…” and I based the series around the Thanksgiving table. Since there are only four Sundays in the month of November, there were only four sermons in the series. They were “Pass the…Bread,” “Pass the…Cranberry Sauce,” “Pass the…Cornbread Dressing,”and “Pass the Pecan Pie.” I got a lot of questions about how I could leave certain things, particularly the turkey out of the series.
A few years later, at a different church, I pulled the old series out and dusted it off for a complete re-write. Remembering how folks asked about leaving off the turkey last time, I wrote my newsletter article to go along with the series and it was “Pass the…Turkey.” That article now seems forever lost.
When I moved to Sweeny earlier this year I thought I would have the opportunity to do something again with my favorite Thanksgiving series. This time I thought I would give the series a whole new re-write. I had been toying with the idea of turning the whole idea into a book for sometime and this would give me the opportunity to add say, four more chapters. Then I found out my shoulder was going to require surgery and I was going to lose a Sunday right off the bat.
At the same time, I started giving thought to the relatively new Facebook tradition of “Thirty Days of Thankfulness.” That made me think, “OK. why not turn “Pass the…” into a blog series for the month of November. And that is where we are.
Today is November 1st. Today is the day we move rather quickly from thoughts of the ghoulish, costumes and probably way too much candy with Halloween to thoughts of Thanksgiving. Even if we are a bit more liturgical in our calendar thoughts, that means moving from Reformation Day on October 31 to All Saints Day on November 1 (we will talk about All Saints Day this Sunday).
To me, those more liturgical days all fit in well with November’s theme. As a Protestant (though historically the argument can be made that United Methodists are not Protestant in its most traditional sense) I am thankful for the changes that came in the Church with the Protestant Reformation. I am thankful for those who came to the table before us, thankful for those who built the Thanksgiving traditions we now celebrate and remember.
So, there is more to it than simply turning another page on the calendar. I did do some of that today (and still have a few left to turn) and each time I did, the thought entered my mind, “Thanksgiving is coming.”
For me, Thanksgiving, and by extension this whole month we seem to set aside for being thankful is a bit of a conundrum. After all, God gave us all we have. God gives us each day we live and breathe. Should we not be thankful every day? I think there is a pretty obvious answer to my question. Of course we should. We are more richly blessed than just about any of us think. We have more than we will ever recognize and God deserves our thanks for all we have and all we are. Further, those thoughts of Thanksgiving shouldn’t just come on the fourth Thursday of November or even the month of November.
As I read Paul’s words to Timothy I have to also take a moment and pause in my thinking. Nothing I said above is untrue but at the same time, I need to think about something more. Yes we should be thankful all the time. It is always my hope that many of us are. But, having a thankful heart is something that just doesn’t happen in all our lives.
That’s too bad. I read somewhere a few years ago that Thanksgiving should be the quintessential American holiday. That is because no matter who we are, no matter what our faith belief (or lack there of) may be, we all have reason to be thankful to someone or something. None of us goes through life all on our own. None of us go through life without getting help from someone along the way. Even if we are not thankful to God (presumably because we don’t believe in God) there are people in our lives whom deserve our thanks.
Let’s all remember, while we should be thankful during more than just November, this month serves a good purpose, to remind us to be thankful, not only to God but to all those God places in our lives. We can be thankful for the difference they make for us.
So, would you pass me that calendar. I need to rip the October page off to help us to set our hearts on what is right, giving our thanks to God.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
This is part 1 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.