This is the radio devotional for Thursday, November 28, 2019. Thank you to KCNI for inviting the Custer County Ministerial Association to record devotions.
The grocery stores are closing soon. Do you have everything ready for your Thanksgiving Day festivities?
Today’s the day, the day of Thanksgiving. Perhaps it’s been a busy week, and today may be the culmination of our preparations, travels, and expectations. In case you’re feeling a little stressed, worried, or overwhelmed, here’s another tool box devotion to help us live with joy and peace, and thanksgiving, today.
To start, let’s breathe: God, let we who have breath praise you. Amen (Ps 150:6).
Our various Christian traditions may differ on many things, but being a people filled with thanksgiving is one thing we can all agree upon. The epistles of the New Testament include many instructions for Christian communities to “give thanks to God,” often encouraging thanksgiving even in the midst of struggle and strife. But, followers of Jesus in the years after his death and resurrection didn’t invent thanksgiving. Instead, we give thanks because we follow Jesus, whom we regularly see giving thanks, especially in the form of table blessings. We read in multiple gospel accounts about Jesus taking bread and wine, giving thanks to God in an act of Jewish prayer, and sharing a meal that he says will reveal and fill them with God’s presence.
When it comes to the holiday of Thanksgiving, we often think about thanks as a response to God’s past-tense presence and activity: God did this, and so I’m thankful. But in Jesus’ table fellowship, thanksgiving precedes a special experience of God. In traditions that celebrate Holy Communion or Eucharist, thanksgiving precedes the sharing in our worship services.
The ordering or timing of experiencing God and thanksgiving is blurry, at best. We do give thanks in response to experiences of God, but there’s something in Jesus and scripture that also suggests that thanksgiving prepares us to experience God even more fully. This is how the psalmist sees it when he writes, inspired by the Spirit, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God” (Ps 50:23, NIV 1984). Today, Thanksgiving Day, this is important: the act of thanksgiving prepares us to see the salvation – the wholeness, the healing, and the fullness of life – of God.
In her 2010 book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says it this way: “Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever [God] gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to [God’s] grace. Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience; thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life” (One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, 39). Then, Voskamp continues, quoting Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann who says, “If the church is in Christ, its initial act is always an act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God” (39).
So, today is a special day of thanksgiving. But here’s the invitation. Make your list of things, people, and experiences for which you give God thanks. Share them around the table with whomever you’re feasting. But, let’s not look at this act of thanksgiving as merely a past-focused exercise. Instead, let our thanksgiving today be an act that prepares us to see, receive, and experience God’s fullest salvation in Christ. Our thanksgiving is our declaration, our Yes! to God’s work and grace. And, our thanksgiving is a way of returning the world to God. May our thanksgiving prepare us to receive Christ today, tomorrow, in all things, so that we might share in the fullness of his life.
“Thanksgiving – giving thanks in everything – prepares the way that God might show us His fullest salvation in Christ” (Voskamp, Thousand Gifts, 39).
Luke 17:15-16 – faith, represented in thanksgiving, is the pathway to salvation (wholeness, wellness, completeness).