given on Sunday, November 20, 2011
Genesis 1:31-2:3 (from the NIV)
1:30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
The seventh day, He rested. Today is that seventh day, a Sunday before Thanksgiving. Are you resting? The harvest season is over, the holiday season is racing toward us, too. Rest seems impossible. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, is losing its significance as a day to stop and thank God for all that he has given us, blessed us. Today you may rest, but remember God is the creator, the very source of our existence.
Consider this statement:
God is love, and love is best expressed toward something or someone else—so God created the world and people as an expression of his love. (from Life Application Bible’s study notes, p.5)
Traditionally today’s Americans usually can say that Thanksgiving is a time to honor the Pilgrims and their feast of thanksgiving. Yet the history of Thanksgiving is more complicated than one might think, and nowhere in a web article by Jennifer Rosenberg, an historian and author, does a reference to God appear:
The first Thanksgiving was held in the fall of 1621, sometime between September 21 and November 11, and was a three-day feast. The Pilgrims were joined by approximately 90 of the local Wampanoag tribe, including Chief Massasoit, in celebration. . . .
. . . It wasn’t until October 1777 that all 13 colonies celebrated a day of Thanksgiving. The very first national day of Thanksgiving was held in 1789, when President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26 to be “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer,” to especially give thanks for the opportunity to form a new nation and the establishment of a new constitution.
Yet even after a national day of Thanksgiving was declared in 1789, Thanksgiving was not an annual celebration. . . .
. . . when the United States was torn in half during the Civil War and Lincoln was searching for a way to bring the nation together, he discussed the matter with Sarah Joseph Hale, editor of the Godey’s Ladies Book and author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
On October 3, 1863, Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation that declared the last Thursday in November (based on Washington’s date) to be a day of “thanksgiving and praise.” . . . On December 26, 1941, Congress passed a law declaring that Thanksgiving would occur every year on the fourth Thursday of November. (Accessed on November 19, 2011, at http://history1900s.about.com/od/1930s/a/thanksgiving.htm.)
Despite the historical development of Thanksgiving, one must go back to Genesis and look at those first verses: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . .
Today, we eagerly wait for Thanksgiving Day. For many, the entire week is a break from the usual routine. Many travel, some cook, some make their Christmas lists, and some plan out the football schedule. Where in the week do we stop and say thank you, God, for all that you have created for us, for all the talents you have given us, for all the blessings of family, friends, and freedom that we have?
Granted, we do say thank you, but is it heartfelt? In fact, stop and consider the doxology we sing each week. The words keep surfacing in my mind: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Do we realize that we give thanks each time we sing this? Do we honestly believe God is the source for all that we have and that we are?
God is love. God is creator. God is in a relationship with us, or we in a relationship with God?
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John [the Baptist] testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
The gospel John was written by the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, a brother of James, and nicknamed “Son of Thunder.” His gospel differs from the other three, but the purpose is undeniable— “to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in him will have eternal life.” (from the Life Application Bible’s study notes. p. 1866). His audience are new Christians or those who still are not sure, but searching for answers.
Thanksgiving in the US may be a legal holiday honoring events in our history, but Thanksgiving is also faith-based. John refers back to the creation story in Genesis in the first verse of his gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. ‘He’ refers to Jesus as the scripture excerpt states.
We read the Bible, study the context, consider what life has historically been, and even what our own experiences are. We easily state that we believe God sent his own son, Jesus, to be with us. Yet, do we fully comprehend that Jesus is God? Do we stop to consider that God’s relationship with us was so important that he felt compelled to be physically with us to demonstrate his love?
Would the Pilgrims have had the faith, the strength, even the endurance to pick up their lives in England and board the ship for an extremely long, difficult journey to a land filled with unknowns. Their faith had to be absolute. Their trust that God was with them carried them through the Atlantic storms, through the landing on an unchartered shoreline, and into the wilds of an unknown land.
Would that faith have developed if God had not loved us so much that he joined us on earth as the human being Jesus Christ? The Old Covenant that God had with the faithful tribes of Israel was not working. God is love, and despite all the prophecies, despite all the warnings, despite all the blessings that God gave the people, they continued to miss His message.
This week, during all the activities of the Thanksgiving weekend, stop and consider whether love is the foundation of all that we do. God did not give up on us, he sent his son Jesus Christ to shake things up, to give us a New Law that was easy to follow: love one another.
Thanksgiving Day, when we gather with our family and friends, share in that blessing and thanks. Thank God for his enduring love. Thank God for caring enough to send His Son, the very best, to teach us how to love one another. Thank God for the love that carried the Pilgrims to an unknown world because they believed in that love.
Each week, we practice thanksgiving in the doxology:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, . . .
God is love. God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to demonstrate love so we can love one another.
Isn’t Thanksgiving just the right time for us to thank God and to praise him for all that he has given us?
5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
Ending the doxology with “Praise Father and Son” does not complete the prayer. Instead a third name is listed—Holy Ghost. Do we understand the importance of including the Holy Ghost in the doxology?
The story of Christ could have ended with his resurrection, but would God’s love have continued? The gospel of John provides insight into how God continues to demonstrate love even after Christ returns to God.
The subheading in John 15 is foreboding: “Jesus Warns about the World’s Hatred.” The world that was swirling around Jesus and the Apostles was very similar to any day along the timeline of history. Evil is always present just like love is always present. Still, the task of making sure that the disciples continued teaching Jesus’ message was a concern. Jesus assured them that they were capable of keeping and spreading the message of loving one another.
The subheading in John 16 is “Jesus Teaches about the Holy Spirit.” Living in any century always carries challenges, but the Apostles needed to know how they were going to manage without Jesus to lead them. In verses 5-16, Jesus identifies the Holy Ghost by explaining that only when he leaves will the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth–also known as the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit–come to them.
The Holy Spirit is God’s love within each and every one of us. Not only is the Holy Spirit the counselor for us, but also it is the Spirit of Truth. With the Holy Spirit we are given the heart and the knowledge to manage living in the earthly world. We are tasked to love one another and without the Holy Spirit we would be unable to determine right from wrong, from knowing what needs to be done to share God’s love with one another.
Look again at John 16:13: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. The Holy Spirit becomes God’s love transformed into service and love to one another. We are blessed by God’s love, and we are God’s love to one another.
Thanksgiving Day, 2011: a day to give thanks and praise for all that we have. Thanksgiving is a day of worship, a day filled with the joys in our lives. Thanksgiving is a day we, as Americans, can thank God for the Pilgrims and our ancestors who acted on faith so that we can meet together and worship. Thanksgiving is everything we share in the doxology:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. –Amen.
Dear God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
Hear our prayer today;
Thanks for this world you have provided us.
Thanks for the gift of your Son.
Thanks for empowering us with the Holy Spirit.
Through your love,
May we continue to serve one another
So they may know your blessings, too. –Amen