Summary: Being thankful is more than simple a self-centered "Thank God for what he has done for ME." It is gratitude to God for his character and faithfulness.

The story is told of two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.

Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!"

John answered, "I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life."

"But your daddy was a preacher – surely he taught you some sort of prayer! So pray John, pray! The bull is catching up to us."

"All right," panted John, "I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ’O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’"

We are here today to give thanks. And hopefully, not only to give thanks, but to feel thankful.

Some of us don’t feel thankful. We feel worried. We feel like the bulls are catching up with us.

We feel anxious, concerned, lonely, distressed, or just plain bored.

On Sunday evening, I sat down to email Thanksgiving greetings to a lot of friends and family.

Now, you know how that goes. You write a generic letter, and you copy it over and over, adding something personal at the beginning or end of the letter. But most letters say the same thing –

For me that meant saying to everyone things like, “Have a good thanksgiving,

“Be grateful to God…

“Hope you have a pleasant time with your family…”

You know, things like that.

But as I wrote Jane, I thought about her son. He was driving a car last week and was in a tragic accident. His girl friend was killed instantly, and he has still not awakened from the coma.

It is sometimes hard to give thanks.

I sent thanksgiving greetings to Bob. And as I told him to remember to give thanks, I thought about how this would be his last Thanksgiving. His cancer has spread.

It is sometimes hard to give thanks.

I sent an email to my cousin, Joe. He is struggling with his mother, who can no longer remember her son Joe.

It is sometimes hard to give thanks.

I’m told the economy is getting better, but I still know of so many who are unemployed or underemployed.

It has been two years since the attacks of September 11th, and yet we still have not captured Osama Bin Ladin and the threats of new attacks are still hanging over us.

We fought a war in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein is still on the loose. And our young soldiers are still dieing.

It is sometimes hard to give thanks.

And here is Jesus saying, “Don’t worry about your life.”

So what is your thanksgiving like?

Is it joy and gratitude, or anxiety and worry?

Sometimes it is hard to follow the instruction of Jesus and not worry about our lives.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, said something very similar when wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Paul was always giving thanks to God. In another letter, he wrote, (1Thes 5:18) "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

In our epistle lesson for this evening, St. Paul urged us to constantly lift up all sorts of prayers – including prayers of thanksgiving for everyone (1 Tim 2:1).

And before you say that it was easy for Jesus or for St. Paul or for others to give thanks because they were spiritual giants and had it simple, think again.

St. Paul talked about how difficult his life was (in II Corinthians 11:23-28. It wasn’t easy.

He said, “I have worked hard. I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Yet this is the man who wrote, “Give thanks always!”

He meant we should be thankful when things are going great, but he also meant we should be thankful when things are not going our way.

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