Summary: Do you think you are to give thanks for your blessings? What about when things don’t go the way you want? What role does thanks have then?
Community Thanksgiving Sermon – Thanksgiving is an act of Faith
Story to open
If you had been a Pilgrim, would you have given thanks?
Consider what they had been through, the men and women who broke bread together on that first Thanksgiving in 1621. They had uprooted themselves and sailed for America, an endeavor so hazardous that published guides advised travelers to the New World, "First, make thy will." The crossing was very rough and the Mayflower was blown off course. Instead of reaching Virginia, where Englishmen had settled 13 years earlier, the Pilgrims ended up in the wilds of Massachusetts. By the time they found a place to make their new home - Plymouth, they called it - winter had set in. The storms were frightful. Shelter was rudimentary. There was little food. Within weeks, nearly all the settlers were sick.
"That which was most sad and lamentable," Governor William Bradford later recalled, "was that in two or three months’ time, half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases.... There died sometimes two or three of a day."
When spring came, Indians showed them how to plant corn, but their first crops were dismal. Supplies ran out, but their sponsors in London refused to send more. The first time the Pilgrims sent a shipment of goods to England, it was stolen by pirates.
If you had been there in 1621 - if you had seen half your friends die, if you had suffered through famine, malnutrition, and sickness, if you had endured a year of heartbreak and tragedy - would you have felt grateful?
But feelings and faith are not the same.
As I read through my bible, especially in the Old Testament, I found something unusual. It was a “Thanksgiving Offering.” Prescribed as an optional offering, one would offer an animal along with some of the fruit of the harvest as an act of Thanksgiving to God. It was not a required offering. It was totally at the discretion and free will of the worshipper.
David said in Psalm 107:21-22 "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing."
This is where it gets interesting…at least to me.
Nowhere in the Old Testament is a word translated grateful or gratitude. But over 114 uses are found for the word Thanksgiving.
So I looked at the Hebrew for the word “thanksgiving” and found something very surprising.
The word actually has a dual meaning: “to give thanks” and “to confess.”
The translation “to confess” is insightful because biblical confession doesn’t mean to tell your pastor your sins.
It means to “speak out of your mouth the same thing that is in your heart.”
To speak words of thanksgiving would be pour out of your mouth that which is in your heart what you believe to be true about God and His character and His love and provision for you.
2 Cor 4:13 "Having the same spirit of faith we believe, and therefore we speak also."
The outward vocal utterance expresses the inward thought.
The verses I read from Psalm 107 combined giving thanks, giving sacrifices of thanks and DECLARING His works with rejoicing.
There you have it.
The core concept of Giving Thanks- Something that comes from the heart through the mouth.
Unlike the tithe, which was required “giving”, the thanksgiving offering was an offering that was given from the heart by faith.
Many of you from the Catholic and Anglican backgrounds have a grasp of what the word Eucharist means. I hope so at least. Most of you equate it with communion.
The meaning of the word Eucharist is “thanksgiving.”
The context for giving thanks is the offering of the Son of God on our behalf for our sins!
There is one more subtlety you should know.
The root of the word Eucharist is charis, which means grace (something we do not deserve).
God’s grace elicits a heart response of giving thanks.
Why are we told to give thanks? Let me share with you three reasons.
Because Thanksgiving is an act of faith.
Most of us tend to give thanks after we are blessed, not beforehand. Unfortunately, that is a self-centered approach to thanksgiving and not a God centered one.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;
Philippians 4:4-7 where Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”