Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that your Thanksgiving Day was filled with family, friends, food and a time to ponder those things for which you are thankful.
By Pastor Scott Keihn
American Lutheran Church
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that your Thanksgiving Day was filled with family, friends, food and a time to ponder those things for which you are thankful. Thanksgiving is not necessarily a religious Holiday. Anyone can take time to think about the things for which they are thankful. However, once you have identified those things, to whom or where do you give thanks? For people of faith the obvious answer is God. Because for us it is God who created all things including our bodies and intellect and ability to provide for ourselves and others.
Over the past three weeks here at American Lutheran Church during our Thursday evening worship services we have been focusing on Psalm 103 and looking at a different verse each week. We also looked to Martin Luther’s Small Catechism to help us explain and get a better understanding of each topic. We started out with God’s Holy name in verse 1. The next week we looked at the benefits that we receive from God. The third week we focused on forgiveness. Wednesday evening at our Thanksgiving Eve Service we put all of them together and we also identified the specific things that we are thankful for.
Once you start listing the things that you are thankful for you begin to analyze your life differently. You begin to realize that you are not the one in control of your life, but that it is God. We so often want to think that our ability and effort has gotten us all that we have.
Mark Allen Powell writes in his book “Giving to God”: Someone will say, “I went to school and worked hard to learn certain skills. I got a job and now I work long hours, using those skills. For this I receive a paycheck and I should be allowed to use that money in whatever manner I please. It’s mine. I earned it.” Believing in God as Creator prompts us to think again. I owe my physical body and my mental health to God. I have studied hard in school, but God gave me the brains and the capacity to learn. I may work long hours, but God provides me with the strength and stamina to do so. Moses told the Israelites long ago, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). So, I might have good reason to be proud of my accomplishments, but this pride must be tempered by the knowledge that I am a creation – and a creation is quite literally nothing without its Creator.”
So, If God owns it all, including each one of us, how then do we respond to this reading? With nothing but pure Thanksgiving for all that God has provided for us and continues to provide.
In these verses like most of scripture we want to put ourselves at the center, we want to think it is all about us. The truth is that scripture is all about God; God is at the center of scripture. God is the one who provides. God is the one who gives abundantly. God is the one who gives the gifts. Because we live in a prosperous nation and have so much we can sometimes forget the gift-giver and think, I did it all by myself. But Deuteronomy 8 won’t let us do that “Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth”. When we remember that it is God alone who is the source of all of life and the good things that we have, then we can be truly thankful for all that we have been given.
So far, I have been discussing what God provides for us, the things that we can think of that we are thankful for. However, on one of our Thursday worship services we focused on God’s forgiveness. This is truly where we should give thanks the most because it is in the forgiveness of our sins that we are set free, it is in the forgiveness of our sins that we are given new life. The only way that we receive the forgiveness of our sins is from God, we cannot do it ourselves.
Forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are all tied together and are all gifts of God for which we should be thankful. God forgives us – God heals us – God makes us perfectly whole – God provides all that we need in this life and for all this we give God thanks.