Summary: This Thanksgiving sermon uses various Psalms to explore the depth behind the things for which we are thankful: friends, family, health, the world, God and what he does.
The smell of the turkey roasting away has been tantalizing for quite some time, but now the breast meat has reached 165 degrees, the thigh meat is at 180, the skin is a beautiful brown, and the bird is resting tented loosely under foil.
The pies (plural!) have been cooling on the counter, the potatoes are mashed, the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes are nicely browned, the salad is on the table, the side dishes are holding warm in the oven, and the gravy is being furiously whisked away on the stove top to make sure there are no lumps. The feasters are hungry and ready, and the call comes: “time to eat!”. Everyone gathers at the table, the platters are laid out, glasses full, and then comes the question: what are you thankful for? I’m fairly confident that most of the responses will be along the following lines: Family. Friends. Health. Our world. God and what He has done.
And most often, I think, those responses will be a word, or a sentence, maybe a quick story – possibly brief because the food is on the table and getting cold – and we know/hope/trust/believe that behind that simple word or sentence is something powerful and important to us, which provokes an emotion and articulates a thought and gives words to something in our lives that provides meaning, significance, hope, purpose – some of the things that when we stop and reflect are things that really are significant to us.
This morning I want to spend our time unpacking what is behind those simple words or sentences, diving in a little deeper, finding words that give expression beyond just the “category title”, and concluding each with a prayer that we will pray together.
Around my fictitious table, one of the first responses to “What are you thankful for?” is this word: “Family”. What does it mean?
In our earliest years, we found ourselves completely dependent on others for our every need. As an infant, someone needed to put special food on a tiny spoon, make airplane noises to get us to open our mouths, and then wipe our faces when we dribbled half of it down our chin and onto our shirt. We needed someone to make the wash water the perfect temperature, lay us gingerly in a plastic tub with our head carefully lifted out of the water, take a gentle cloth and wash us clean, then wrap us in a warm towel and hug us close. We needed someone to change our diaper, to reach our favorite toy, to mimic our smiles and giggles and laughs, to dry our tears and read us books and take us to the park and push us in the swing. And we are thankful.
Then we grew a little, and we needed someone to set limits so we could explore the world safely, someone to put training wheels on the bike and a helmet on our head, someone to sit on the bench at the park while we climbed and ran and jumped, someone to wipe the dirt off our knees when we skinned them. We needed someone to still read us books and get the bath ready, to still tuck us in at night, to play games and do chores. And we are thankful.
We grew a little more and went to school, and we needed someone to pack a lunch, help us figure out our homework and figure out our friendships, someone to help us figure out what we enjoyed in our “free time” and then drive us to the soccer practice or the music lesson. Those were years of steady molding of character, of truly “growing” – physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. And we are thankful.
Then we hit adolescence, and we needed to re-write the boundaries. As we sought to understand and embrace who God made us, as we began to take more responsibility for our decisions and character and priorities, we still needed family. Sometimes these were challenging times of transition, but those challenges were possible because the nature of family is that of relationships that are more foundational then temporal. They are not chosen, and that makes them more permanent. And we are thankful.
Then we struck out on our own, and began a period of exploring relationships that would come to form our new family, and for some of us that led us to stand before God, friends, and family and enter a lifelong, covenantal promise of marriage. Some of us have seen those promises kept, others have not. Some of those relationships produced children, and the cycle of family continues. We find joy in meeting needs, just as ours were met though infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, and adolescence. We embrace the challenges that come – physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. We find the depths of joy in self-sacrifice, the greater joy of giving, and the Godly pride in seeing our children find purpose and significance. And we are thankful.