Summary: Relying on God's gifts instead of the giver is a house of sand.
Oct 9, 2011 Based on Ps 65
Intro into time of Corporate Thanksgiving:
As we allow Ps 65 to guide our Thanksgiving service today, we have ascribed praise (vs 1), proclaimed our promise of steadfastness (vs 1), confessed (vs 3), and celebrated our welcome by God our Father (vs 4) – isn’t that a great picture: what festivities await us inside your holy Temple!
This second section of the Psalm sends us into our time of Corporate Praise – Pastor Sue sent an email this week asking us to come prepared with something to share as a praise, including the challenge to even think of our prayer requests as an opportunity to express thanks to God even in the midst of a challenging or difficult situation. For example I have been dealing with our facility disaster on an almost-daily basis, and so in the spirit of Thanksgiving I can choose to say thanks to God that we have great people working on solutions, that we have finally begun the repair phase, that I am learning a lot, and that the disaster was not as bad as it could have been.
Or as another example, I recall quite a few people facing serious illness who have been thankful for their suffering because it brought them closer to God and to others.
At the very least, we might recall Father Francis John Mulcahey, from the T.V. show MASH who was once caught in the mess tent saying grace. Other characters were shocked – Father, they said, what on earth can you find to be thankful about in this horrible slop? The insightful priest replied, Well, I try my best, and when it gets really bad, well then I can be thankful that at least it is not always as bad as it is that day.
In just a moment I’m going to invite your expressions of thanksgiving. But first, let’s take some instruction from Scripture.
This passage re-focuses us on to whom we are giving thanks. See, sometimes the very act of thanksgiving undermines the intent behind it. What I mean is that sometimes when we reflect on the things for which we are thankful, we shift our focus onto those things for which we are thankful rather than the One who provides those things. Onto ourselves – how good our lives are, how we appreciate our family and our homes and our freedom and our material blessings and all the rest. And that is a good starting place. But sometimes that focuses us on the gifts rather than the giver. Sometimes that focuses us on ourselves, rather than our God who has provided all these incredible things.
The Psalm, if we allow it to lead us in worship, prevents that. Take a look: whom does it describe? It is not focusing on the benefits of our relationship with God, it is focusing us on God Himself – His faithfulness (vs 5), His awesome deeds (vs 5), God as savior (vs 5), as hope (vs 5). And that is only in the first verse! Then it goes on to describe the mountains, the oceans, and the shouting nations (vs 6-7). And then we hear an appropriate response: stand in awe of (His) wonders… shouts of joy.