Summary: Life’s meaning and purpose is intricately connected with giving thanks.
Sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday Yr B, 8/10/2006
Based on Joel 2:21-27; Ps 126 & 1 Tim 2:1-7
By Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Thanksgiving is Thanksliving”
Mrs. Avondale was walking an interior designer through the mansion, discussing renovations. The professional had many fine suggestions, and Mrs. Avondale accepted them all with the sweep of a hand.
“I only demand one thing,” she said, turning to the designer. “When my best friend Marguerite comes to visit after we’re finished, I want her to drop dead from envy.”
Contrary to Mrs. Avondale, may we not be so ungrateful for what we have been given in life and so mean-spirited towards our neighbours. In our Scripture passages from Joel, Psalm 126, and 1 Timothy today, we learn that Thanksgiving is Thanksliving.
After a period of drought and suffering from a locust plague, the prophet Joel in our first lesson reminds not only his people, but also the soil and the animals the thanksgiving is thanksliving. He speaks as if the soil and animals were personified, and gives them a message not to fear and to be glad and rejoice, for the LORD will provide plenty of green pastures, and there shall be an abundance of fruit on the fig trees and vines. Then, Joel goes on to remind his people that their prayers are answered; for God shall end the locust plague, provide early and later rains, and renew the earth by granting his people an abundant harvest. By delivering these promises, the people shall be reassured that the LORD is their God and they can praise and thank and trust in God for all things.
Speaking of abundant harvests, recently I had conversations with two farmers. They both were very thankful and pleasantly surprised by God’s abundance. They said their crops yielded way more than they had expected, in spite of the hot, dry summer and lack of rain. They were thankful and quite satisfied with the harvest. To give thanks means to be satisfied; we are often not satisfied—too much affluence in our society spoils us, and sadly many do not have grateful hearts and have forgotten how abundantly God has provided for us. They have forgotten that thanksgiving is thanksliving.
In Psalm 126 today, the opening verses are full of surprise, awe, wonder, and thanksgiving. The context is likely shortly after or at the end of Judah’s Babylonian captivity. For them, the hopeless situation of exile was turned around completely, God delivered them, even though it seemed like a dream, too good to be true, but it was true—and they responded by worshipping God: “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us and we rejoiced.” For those exiled people of Judah, thanksgiving was thanksliving.
Difficult circumstances need not prevent us from living the truth that thanksgiving is thanksliving. Here is one of my favourite stories of thanksgiving, which comes out of a situation of great hardship and suffering.