“Giving Thanks In Uncertain Times”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News,
Thursday is Thanksgiving....boy it’s hard to believe how fast time flys!
It seems like yesterday that my family and I were spending the Thanksgiving holidays at
my mother-in-laws house...I can’t believe it’s been a year!
A year since they were still trying to figure-out who had won the Presidential election....a
year since all that we heard on the news was talk of chads and hanging chads....
Now a year later, the world has gone through a drastic change.
Since the planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, and the Pentagon....it’s
become more and more difficult to remember or even care what a chad or a hanging chad is.....as
our nation has become gripped with fear as our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers have
gone off to fight America’s New War.
Most of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving again this Thursday, but this year our
outlook is a bit different.....this year our world is a bit different.
We have all witnessed evil at work....right on our television screens....and for some
people...in our mailboxes....as twisted minds have been delusioned to think that God is a God
who calls on people to terrorize and kill other people.
But this is not what God is about....not even close!
And this is one thing...the greatest thing that we have to be thankful for....
God has not changed, as the Psalmist declares in our Scripture lesson for today: “Give
thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
And that certainly is a reason to be thankful!
Because our world is so full of so many things that are not good.
The events of September 11th were not good.....some crazy person spreading the disease
of Anthrax throughout the country is not good.
The murder of innocent human beings is not good.....
The fact that many children, wives, and husbands will spend this thanksgiving mourning
over the loss of their loved ones is not good.
The fact that so many people have lost their jobs is not good.
The fact that many of us have begun to feel a new fear....a feeling that we have never felt
before....that maybe we aren’t as safe as we once thought...is not good!
But God is good!
And His love endures forever!
“Let Israel say: His love endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say: His love endures forever.”
And let’s not forget America....and let’s not forget Newport News, and let’s not forget
Parkview United Methodist Church....
“Let those who fear the Lord say: His love endures forever.”
In verse 5, the Psalmist declares, “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by
setting me free.”
And I think that many of us can relate to this....
For at one time, all of us were dead in our transgressions and sins.
At one time all of us were lost and confused.
At one time, all of us were living lives without hope....without any reason to be thankful.
Because when we were dead in our transgressions and sins...when we were literally
slaves to sin...in bondage to sin...chained up by sin...
There was nothing but anguish and pain within our souls.
And sin comes in all kinds of forms:
It can come in the form of not being able to control our tempers...and thus hurting
ourselves and those around us....
It can come in the form of disobeying our parents, or treating others as if they were not
worth the time of day.
It can come in the form of being angry at the world!
I can remember as a teenager actually being angry at my parents for having brought me
into this world in the first place.
I was mad because I didn’t fit in.
I was mad because, when I tried to do things my way...according to my play-book I
would inevitably fall on my face.
What a painful way to live....what anguish.
And then so many of us turn to drugs and alcohol in order to try and shut the pain of the
world out, but this only leads to more pain as we become more and more entreanched by the
slavery of sin.
The more we try to fix things according to the rules of the world, and according to the
ruler of this world...the more anguish we experience.
But when we call out to the Lord in the midst of our anguish....when we honestly call out
to Him....and hand Him the reigns.....the Lord answers by setting us free!
Setting us free and adopting us as sons and daughters.
And when this happens, we no longer have to get caught up in so many of the things
which cause us anguish.
We no longer have to worry about keeping up with the Jone’s because now we are
praying for the Jone’s...routing for the Jone’s....doing everything in our power to try and
get he Jone’s to cry out to the Lord....and expereince the liberating freedom that comes
through giving one’s life to God.
Yes, the whole world changed on September 11th, but that change pales in comparison
to the change that takes place in a person’s life when they cry out to the Lord for salvation.
In Macon Georgia, where I was associate pastor of Forest Hills United Methodist Church,
Jeanne and I knew a young man who was dying of AIDS.
His name is John.
And one day, John entered the hospital.
He had grown so weak, and so frail....and when I would go to visit him he was
We all thought that he had gone into a comma, and that he was about to die any day.
But there was a woman in our church who had taken a special liking to John.
She treated him like her son...
And since his family had abandoned him....this was exactly what John needed.
This woman would go up to that hospital every day....several times a day....in order to sit
with John, talk with John, and read to John from the Bible.
One afternoon, this woman came running up to me--her face filled with joy-- “John
spoke to me today, I think he might be getting better!”
And she was right, John was getting better.
John hadn’t been in a coma at all....he had just been so depressed that he had simply
But something changed him....something gave him a new hope, and a reason to live.....
The next time I visited John in the hospital, he told me that he had decided that he
wanted to give his life to the Lord...
He had tryed in the past, but those attempts had only been half-hearted empty
words....this time John meant it for real!
So in his anguish, John cried out to the Lord, and the Lord answered him.
Soon John was up and around again, he was eating, and best of all he was smiling!
It only took a month or so for John to gain his weight and his strength back....
And it took even less time than that for John to join Forest Hills United Methodist
Church by profession of faith!
John got involved in Sunday school, I bought him a Bible that he would read insesantly,
and his attendance at church was impeccable.
John had been set free, and had been given a real reason to be thankful to the Lord.
Have you been set free, do you have a real reason to be thankful to the Lord?
In verse 6, the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man
do to me?”
When we are assured-- through the experience of faith that the Lord is with us we no
longer have any reason to be afraid.
In these turbulent and uncertain times, this is truly something to cherish, and something
to be thankful for.
God has called us to be free from the chains of fear....he has called us to live lives of
hope and joy with the knowledge that we are not alone....that the Master Craftsman who
created this Universe is with us, lives inside of us, and that no one, no person, no terrorist,
no disease can take that away!
As the Lord has declared in Hebrews chapter 13, “Never will I leave you; never will I
This is what gives us the confidence to keep on keeping on in the face of all kinds of
horrible situations and events.
This is what gives us reason to be Thankful even though we are living in a world which
is being ripped apart at the seams.
As the Psalmist declares in verse 13, “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord
My friend John was pushed back and about to fall, but now he is the radiant and beaming
picture of health....yes he still has that dreaded disease, but for now, you wouldn’t know it.
Because as the Lord declares in Jeremiah....He has plans for John, plans to prosper him
and not to harm him, plans to give him a hope and a future.
And has great plans for all of us....if we would only trust in Him with our all.
If we would only cry out to Him when our backs are pushed against the wall.
Teh Lord may not always heal us of our diseases...or miracluoly end the war....but
he is our helper...he gives us a way to deal with these troubles so that we will not fall.
In verse 14, the Psalmist continues, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has
become my salvation.”
Can we say this about our own lives? Has the Lord become our salvation?
Has he given us strength? Strength to make it through the days...no matter what faces
Whether it be tauntings from other children in the school yard, the pain in our backs
and our necks, or the misery that other people send our way.
Verses 15 and 16 declare, “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done great things!”
The Lord’s right hand has turned sinners into saints, the Lord’s right hand has reached
out to the last and the least and given them hope and joy!
The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
And this Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for!
Despite the attacks of September 11th, despite the Anthrax, despite the horror: we who
believe should have shouts of joy within our homes this Thanksgiving because the Lord has won
the victory within our souls!
And for we who have cried to the Lord in our anguish, we “will not die but live.”
No, as Jesus promises, those of us who believe in Him will never even taste death...
because while we were dead in our transgressions and sins....Christ did an amazing
thing....Christ died for us so that we may live!
And becasue of this....as the Psalmist says, we “will proclaim what the Lord has done.”
We will proclaim what the Lord has done by having a reason to give thanks even during
What a testimony....
What a witness....
This may very well be the best thanksgiving ever....for those of us who believe....simply
because we will be giving “thanks to the Lord, for He is good; his love endures forever.”