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Summary: Thanksgiving sermon based on Psalm 100

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Have you ever seen a young child clap her hands?

We have several young children at Patterson Avenue Baptist Church – and they clap their hands for almost anything. Place them in the company of other children and they will clap their hands. Give them some food and their will clap there hands. Put them in a room full of colorful toys and they will clap their hands. Play some music and they will clap their hands. Young children so appreciate life that they will applaud almost anything. Unfortunately, as they grow older, most people loose that spirit of applause. They (we) cease to appreciate the amazing blessing of life. Our challenge today is to recapture the spirit of applause.

How do we do that? It starts, I believe, when we pause to remember the ongoing goodness of God in our lives.

Are you familiar with the term “pack rat”?

A “pack rat” is a person who loves to pack away every piece of belonging that crosses their fingertips. Very little is thrown away. Instead, almost everything is packed away in boxes, basements, and attics.

Pack rats try to rationalize their behavior. You know what it means to rationalize, don’t you? It means to speak “rational lies” to your self in order to back up and support any decision you have or intend to make.

“That item has sentimental value!” That’s a good line. Pack rats use it often to rationalize their propensity to pack stuff away. “This item reminds me of an important incident in my life. To get rid of that would be a denial of my very heart and soul.”

Others rationalize in a more practical way. “I can’t get rid of that! I might need it again one day. You know the day after I might get rid of it is the day I will need it!”

“Pack rats” – the world is full of them. In fact, I have a confession to make. I am one of them. I am a card-carrying member of the “pack rat” society.

Now my massive collection of junk was not really much of a problem until we began preparing for our recent move to Richmond. My lovely wife Jeana said, “We are not taking all this junk with us, are we?” Now I have been married long enough to recognize a rhetorical question when I hear one. What she meant was, “We are NOT taking all this junk with us!”

Some of my stuff was donated to a thrift store operated by a local mission. Some of it was taken to the dump. And some of it I snuck back into some boxes when Jeana was not looking. I could not help it. I found some personal treasures that I just could not part with.

I found the February 1982 issue of the Baptist Campus Ministry Newsletter for the Florida Baptist Convention. In that newsletter, you will see my picture with 18 other students from across Florida, selected to serve as Student Summer Missionaries. My assignment was to work in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Attached to that newsletter was another, in which I and the other Student Missionaries reported what we had been doing on the mission field.

I found some old report cards from my days at Seminary, pictures of churches I have served, a collection of articles, sermons, and Sunday School literature that I’ve had published.

One prize possession for me was a worship bulletin and audiotape of the sermon preached by Dr. Don Musser, one of my professors, on the day of my ordination

None of these items would mean much to most of you. These are my treasures, my memories, my experiences. You have your own scrapbook, photo album, or treasure box somewhere in your house. When was the last time you opened it and remembered the ongoing blessing of God’s presence in your life?

Do you know how I felt as I went through those boxes? I found myself wanting to applaud with praise. As I whittled my way through these boxes, I remembered the long-standing presence of God in my life. Sometimes God was center stage, doing all the acting. At other times, God was somewhere in the shadows, directing my life and whispering prompts and instructions in my ear. In hindsight, I could see, whether center stage or off to the side, that God has been an integral part of my life. At the time, I might not have been paying much attention to God, but God was still paying attention to me. God was there, and each item in my stack of stuff allowed me to recognize the work of God’s grace in my life.

These are my mementos, my memories, treasures from my lifetime of experiences. What are those things in your life that you treasure as symbols of God’s amazing grace at work in your life? What is it in your life that prompts you to offer thanks and praise to God? What is it about your experience with God that makes prompts you to want to break out in applause?

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