The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
Thanksgiving – November 23, 2023
The Bible identifies Psalm 92 as “a song for the Sabbath Day”.
This Psalm for the Sabbath begins by saying, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” While it is always good to do that, it helps to devote one particular day each week (that is, the Sabbath) to do it with special intention. The wise then do at least 52 times a year what many Americans do but one time a year, at Thanksgiving
The truth is: God’s people, when glad, are grateful; and, when grateful, are all the gladder. Everything they enjoy moves them to thank God, and thanking God moves them to a higher level of joy.
Consider how this works. First, glad people of faith are grateful. For, if they are thinking straight theologically, they realize that no good thing is theirs by right but theirs as a gift of grace not to be taken for granted. They count nothing as their due; they are free of any sense of entitlement. They gratefully receive every good thing as a gratuitous kindness of unwarranted love, and thus they relish every good thing all the more. Their happiness over each blessing of their life is doubled by being coupled with a sense of grateful wonder over God’s unmerited goodness when God might well have not bothered about them at all. Even a small blessing – a pretty flower in a sidewalk crack, a cup of cocoa, a genuine “How are you?” from a grocery clerk, the musical whisper of wind through pine needles –becomes an astonishing and precious surprise to be savored and cherished with humble awe.
So glad people of God are grateful!
But it is also true that grateful people of God are very glad. Enjoying anything with gratitude increases the pleasure it brings.
Grateful people of faith take their blessings personally as coming from the hand of a loving God who cares about them in particular – and that turns their blessings into something more than they’d otherwise be. It makes a simple meal a hand-crafted feast; a modest house, a home; a mere co-worker, a prized friend.
In fact, receiving everything as a gift of God’s grace encourages people of faith to view “bad” things as blessings in disguise for which they’ll eventually give thanks. For, in His goodness God turns setbacks into resets; trials, into character training; closed doors, into signs directing folks to the right door.
There is also this: The more grateful God’s people become, the more they see all there is to be grateful for! The practice of giving thanks gives them eyes to see blessings they’d otherwise miss. It enables them to notice delights that are near, commonplace and obvious – but all the harder to notice for that reason: things such as the feel of the sun warming cold skin, the sound of water running from a shower, the treat of having certain people every day in our life, the 24/7 availability and accessibility of God.
Finally, grateful people of faith have an advantage for developing gladness of heart that those without faith don’t. For they discern everyday glories and joys as foretastes of greater glories and joys to come. They see a suggestion of heavenly magnificence in ordinary mountains; an adumbration of sainthood in a simple little victory over a character defect; a reflection of God’s everlasting peace in the shining eyes of an elderly worshipper. What people of faith see with their eyes prompts them to give thanks to the God they can’t see; and to hold on tighter to the hope of an eternity of joy.
To inculcate an attitude of gratitude, I of course want to encourage you to give weekly thanks to God in worship at church and to give daily thanks to God in your “prayer closet” at home. But I’d also like to urge you to keep a gratitude journal to regularly record God’s blessings. You can do that in whatever way works for you, whether it be a part of a spiritual journal or diary you’re already keeping or a new list you make at the start or end of each day. Any of these ways will make you grateful for, as this Psalm puts it, God’s “steadfast love in the morning” and His “faithfulness by night”. It will, I’ll bet, do wonders for you as it does for me.
I just wish for you what God wishes for you: that, this Thanksgiving and always, you’ll be glad and thus grateful, and also grateful and thus all the gladder – and that you’ll often feel the truth of this Psalm: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord!”