Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2-3

What a God we have!  Today we celebrate the fact that He has so richly blessed us in a great variety of ways.  In a sense it is sad that we need a day each year to force thanksgiving into our consciousness.  All too often we pass by the great bulk of these blessings as if they are simply to be expected, simply normal, simply deserved by us.

Therefore it is very good that we have this break in our routine of week-upon-week to think again on the blessings of — in the words of Martin Luther: “body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses,… also clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle and all my goods, that He richly and daily provides for me with all I need…; that He defends me…, and guards and protects me…; all this out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy….”

One of the problems that sidetracks us from thanksgiving is that life isn’t always so pleasant.  There are times when it can really seem as though everything is going wrong, not merely on a particular day, but in a more wide and major way.  Yes, it is true that when things do go wrong that we discover just how much a blessing it is when they go right; still, when you are hurting, it is hard to be filled with thanksgiving.

The fires of the summer, the dryness that was a big concern, the jobs lost in the oilpatch, and you probably could include the election rhetoric, as well as other stresses in family and friends can so often suck the life out of our spirits.  To try to act as if these things didn’t exist, or that people aren’t really hurting does not make these things go away.  In fact, celebrating Thanksgiving by ignoring these things can add a heavier burden to those who are suffering.

Yet St Paul tells the Thessalonians and us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” [I Thessalonians 5:18].  So how should we celebrate Thanksgiving when things don’t go well?  Perhaps we should take another look at the lessons.  Very often we jump right to the thanksgiving elements in the lessons, but that doesn’t do them proper justice.

For instance, look at the Gospel [Luke 17:11-19].  It is the story of ten lepers being healed: look at their healing, as well at the ingratitude of the nine.  At least, that’s what we usually do with the lesson.  But we’ve just stepped past something essential!  We forget that we had to start with ten lepers: for the ten men to get to this place, they first had to travel the road of leprosy – and that is a terrible road of disfigurement and abandonment.

It is like the man born blind in John 9.  Here was a man who had to travel the road of being born blind, growing up blind, perhaps being the butt of practical jokes, likely unable to go to school, and ending up as his only option in an agricultural society a beggar, all before Jesus could heal Him.  Yet, as Jesus pointed out, that road ultimately was to make manifest the Glory of God.

That’s the same story in the Old Testament Lesson [Deuteronomy 8:1-10].  So often we jump to how God fed the Israelites in their wandering, how He took care of them, and how they now stood at the edge of a wonderful new land filled with all sorts of blessings.  But how often has our approaches accented ALL that the Lord had done: how He first humbled them and made them understand what slavery was, how they became very hungry and thirsty, how they had to walk a long seemingly aimless journey — how they had to travel this road before they could even get to the thanksgiving of receiving what God had promised?

Did they have thanksgiving celebrations along the way, when they were hungry and thirsty and tired of walking?  Did they have thanksgiving celebrations after they were disciplined by the Lord, and those involved with rebellion lay dead?  We don’t pick those stories for Thanksgiving; we pick the end products – the end of the wandering, the success stories to read on Thanksgiving. Perhaps we should read the stories of the people still enroute.

I’m not saying that we should make Thanksgiving a “downer”, but rather to realize that for most of us, we aren’t often at the end product, the end of the wandering – we’re still very much in the middle – that’s where we spend our lives.  And if we were to choose passages which emphasize that in our daily lives we are still enroute, maybe this may give a special benefit in regard to Thanksgiving.

You see, rather than an idealism for the basis of Thanksgiving, we might be driven to a different basis for the celebration.  It would be the same basis as to what the Book of Revelation is all about.

If a man normally experiences relatively weak erections, he would want strong and healthy erections, which would mean frequent use of the buy cheap viagra supplements. Even those scanning search results can only view those early words. Contact: Colin MartinTexas, United States.http:// Americans have begun buying their prescription drugs online from internet pharmacies based in Canada. levitra without prescription Your are already some of the commonest buy generic levitra signs behind depression. John’s main point in the Book of Revelation is to insist over and over, that as bad as things may get, as bad as persecution may get, as bad as the judgment of the world may get, above it all was the fact that God is indeed in control.  There is a definite plan and direction to everything that is happening, and nothing will catch God by surprise.

This is the same message behind all the lessons this morning: the ten lepers weren’t lepers by accident, who had just “happened” to meet Jesus.  The leprosy was part of the road that would bring them face-to-face with Jesus and to the choice of either worshiping at His feet or running off, ignoring Him.

The wandering in the desert, even the hunger and thirst, were all of God’s plan to prepare and to confront Israel with its need for God, before they could enter into yet another difficult period in their lives – after all, what still awaited them in the new land was not to sit back and relax; but rather even under the most ideal conditions, were more battles, and more hardships and difficulties and tests – and more choices whether to rebel or follow the Lord.

The point of what we celebrate today is that God is in control, things are progressing, His plan is unfolding, His People are going into the future hand-in-hand with the Lord Himself.  That is the basis of Thanksgiving, not the completed blessings, because there are times we do not experience the completed blessings; instead, we are still on the road, still not always quite understanding the hunger, the thirst, the wandering, the “leprosy”, the droughts, the layoffs and the other things that affect our lives.

So perhaps the basis of our thanksgiving should be to realize that God is indeed in control and all things are straight-lining their way to the triumph of God.  But because we are somewhere in the middle, it still is hard to find ourselves always ready to have the stereotype of thanksgiving.  Not always do we have the joy, the satisfaction, the sense of completed blessings that we feel this day demands – to have no anxiety like the Epistle [Philippians 4:6-20] demands.  Sometimes in response to Paul’s admonition, we give thanks in spite of a bewilderment as to what is happening and where it all is going – we give thanks solely in faith.

What we do have is what the lepers had – they had Jesus; their road of leprosy led them face-to-face with Jesus.  This also is the basis of our Thanksgiving.  Life can be very hard at times, and we encounter some grave disappointments; grief can wend its way through our days, and there are times when we can have an extreme hunger – physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional.

But these paths lead us to Jesus.  We are confronted with His reality, we are confronted with His control, we are confronted with His self-giving, steadfast love.  We are confronted with God Who Himself faced extreme hunger, pain, disappointment, grief, and the harshness of life, even the hardness of death.

As the Gospel story of Jesus unfolds, we are pointed time and again to the prophecies and the promises, reminded that all things are indeed under control, following His plan and His will, and Jesus ultimately is triumphant.  But there is more, because we see Him more than merely among humans, we see Him come to us – the One Who is in control of all things, the One Who is making my life and your life go according to plan; but especially One Who does not deal with us from a distance but rather stands right here among us.

And He does this from inside you.  There in Bread and Wine, His Body and Blood, He enters you; there He emphasizes His individual dealings with you; there you go face-to-face with Jesus Himself; His very self touching your lips, your heart, your mind. Your road takes you here to Jesus, just like it did for the lepers.

Oh, yes, you have the right and the ability to go off after meeting Him, after seeing His absolute control and individual involvement in your life, you can ignore Him like the nine lepers did.  Or you can stop and fall at His feet, not because of one or two blessings given, but because all of this, both the road that got you to this place, and everything else that happens from now on, the happy and the sad, are indeed under the control of this Jesus Who gives of Himself in such a special and total way.

So with St Paul, you and I can thank God, even in the midst of misery and sorrow, grief and hardship, as well as for blessings received and joys experienced – not because we are so grateful for the hardships, but because we understand that God is in control and even these things are part of the road that makes us come face-to-face with Jesus, our Lord and King.  And the Jesus we find is not remote and uncaring, not even merely “with us,” but Somebody so totally involved in our eternal welfare that He did die for each one of us and lives inside of you and me.

The reason then for our thanksgiving is not merely on the basis of a few individual blessings here and there, but on the basis of the God Who stands above both the bad and the good in our lives, the God Who most vividly demonstrated His love and care for us, the God Who brings us to Him by the road of our lives, and the God Who has come here today to live with us and in us.

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