Let Us Give Thanks

With Thanksgiving Day just a few days from now, it is appropriate for us to stop and give thanks. That was the theme of my sermon yesterday. It was the theme of the Troy Interfaith Group service last night at the Ahmadiyyah Muslim Community's mosque. And it is a theme we should keep alive throughout the week and beyond. With that in mind, I'm reposting a piece I wrote for the Lompoc Record two years ago. I think the perspective fits today as it did then.


Faith in the Public Square

Lompoc Record
November 22, 2007

It's an old hymn, but it says it well:

“Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom the world rejoices,
Who, from our mothers' arms, has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”
(Martin Rinkart, 1636).

For people of most faith traditions, giving thanks is a foundational spiritual practice. Our songs and hymns and prayers are full of acknowledgments of God's gracious provision. We see this sentiment displayed in the 67th Psalm:

“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
For you judge the peoples with equity
And guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
Let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
Let all the ends of the earth revere him.” (Ps. 67:5-7, NRSV)

Indeed, the invitation is there for all to give thanks, in their own way, to the one who is the creator and the provider of all that is good.

Our own national observance of a day of Thanksgiving is linked to harvest festivals of the past (even if many of us who celebrate the day have done little harvesting ourselves). We celebrate the bringing in of the harvest by giving thanks to the one who has blessed us with such a bounty. It's a connection that links our observance with the Pilgrim story, for according to the story they gathered to celebrate not only a harvest, but their survival as a community. And so if as we gather we see beyond our own circumstances we see that when we stand together, differences and all, good things happen.

Days of Thanksgiving, however they're observed, are usually linked to the practice of worship. Worship is by its very nature filled with awe and gratitude to the one we consider holy. Standing just days before our national day of Thanksgiving, it's good to consider how we might observe it. Our observances are a mixture of national, personal, and religious elements. It includes food, family, and possibly services of worship. For many it even involves a bit of football. But worship is an important component to our celebration.

The first official American Thanksgiving was declared in 1789 by President George Washington, not long after the founding of the nation. He invited the citizens of this new nation, which was still getting its bearings, to “acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly implore his protection and favor.” Without making too much of the theology present (or possibly lacking) in this statement, Washington recognized as did many, though not all of his successors, that it is good to express gratitude for the freedoms and the benefits of living in this nation - warts and all. In issuing this proclamation he did not prescribe a manner of celebrating, but instead offered an invitation for the people to give thanks in their own way and manner.

In the spirit of this invitation, people from across the nation will find ways of observing this thanksgiving opportunity. It might be as simple as stopping during dinner - whether elaborate or not - to share something that one is grateful for. It might also involve attending one of many services of thanksgiving that will take place over the next several days. There will be congregational celebrations and there will be community ones. Some will be expressions of a particular religious tradition, while others will take on a more interfaith character.

Dr. Bob Cornwall is pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Lompoc.

November 22, 2007


Anonymous said…
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite Holidays. It's nice to have a day to reflect on the many blessings we receive in our lives. It's nice to have a holiday where the only real commercialism is Turkey and Pumpkin pie. I've always enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with family, it's a day to put aside differences and reflect on the simple fact they we are blessed to have family to share the day with. The tradition while I was growing up was we would sit around the table before diner was served and each of us would share one thing we were grateful for. We would also invite people who had no family around to share and become part of our family for the day.
I also find the worship around Thanksgiving to be especially meaningful. What better time of the year to be reminded of all of the blessings God has given to all of us.
I hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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