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Matthew 21: 28-31
The Pilgrims were devout men and women of God who gave thanks to their lovely, caring heavenly Father
in the midst of all conditions of life.
They arrived at Cape Cod with no friends to welcome them, nor hotels to house them, and nothing to refresh
their weather-beaten bodies.
In the winter they experienced weather that was so sharp and violent that half of their number died.
Food was so scarce that they were reduced to living daily on five grains of corn for each person.
But spring came, and then summer.
Soon the fall harvest came. It was a good harvest.
Gov. William Bradford set aside a special day of thanksgiving to God.
The giving of thanks to God was always a natural response on the part of the Pilgrims.
It was never to be associated with the absence of hardship, as so many of us think today.
The Pilgrims understood thanksgiving in its fullest, Biblical sense.
So, instead of complaining, they found cause to be grateful and joyful.
- The Lord was with them!
- He watched over them.
- He sustained them.
- He gave them the courage and strength to persevere.
"The Lord was with them in all their ways," they wrote, "for which let His holy name have
the praise forever, to all posterity."
Today there are dangers signals that the expression of gratitude is eroding.
The KJV has a very special word for this condition of life.
It is called, "murmuring."
Let us hope we never lose this word from our vocabulary because when you pronounce the word, "murmur," or
"murmuring" over and over again, you can sense the power and action of what is happening.
The Bible is full of murmurers or, as we call them, complainers.
- They are the half-suppressed grumblings, the contemptuous complaints said in a corner.
- They are the critical side comments.
- We didn't think that we had been heard.
- We didn't think that others were behaving that way.
"And they murmured against the good man of the house." (Matthew 20:11)
Those laborers who received their exact wages for which they had contracted.
"And the Scribes and the Pharisees murmured against the disciples because they dined
with publicans and sinners. "
And the Jews murmured against Jesus because He said,"I am the bread of life."
"Seek God's will and His kingdom, and all manner of things will be given to us." (Matthew 6:33)
- We are cautioned by our Lord to live each day consciously in God's presence.
- We should not be anxious or overly concerned about the security of our existence.
It was not by accident that the church is directed to read this passage on Thanksgiving Day.
The inescapable fact is -- all we have is now!
- The joy of giving thanks is directly related to a life that is free from anxiety and frustration.
- The key is to live each day consciously in the presence of God.
The past belongs to history - it is gone!
The future belongs to God.
We must rearrange our priorities, and seek God's will in all matters.
It is then, that our Lord assures us, that the Father who looks after the birds of the air feeding them and nourishing them
will also take care of our needs.
That condition of life demands a faithful response on our part.
This is a matter of discipline.
- We must stop being overly obsessed with our needs.
- We must learn to take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God.
It is a matter of living each day in God's presence, and reminding ourselves of the obvious,
but often forgotten eternal truths:
When we pay attention to the present, a peculiar thing happens.
- "This is the day the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."
- "God has given me this breath of life. Thanks be to God."
- "The earth is the Lord's and all that therein is."
In the light of one eternal moment, we can begin to look at ourselves and at life in a joyful, new way.
- Suddenly, each moment is no longer sandwiched between the past and the future.
- Suddenly, we can stand still in it.
Life is no longer something to be endured, but rather to be enjoyed.
As we begin to enjoy and reverence each day, a grateful heart begins to find expression.
Now we come to the very heart of Thanksgiving.
Have you already expressed your gratitude to God this day?
- Thanksgiving begins with the awareness of God.
We feel His living presence with us, among us, and in us.
He is at the very heart of life.
- Thanksgiving breaks forth from our lips, when we begin to experience an interplay between God and ourselves.
- Thanksgiving finds expression when we provide those quiet moments for God to act upon us,
and instead of rushing through life as directors of our own destiny, we allow God to be God in our lives.
- Thanksgiving takes form on our lips when we discover, that among the tensions and bewilderment
of our world and our society, that God is present with us.
- Thanksgiving erupts amid the changing nature of the church, when we remember that God is still in control of His church.
- Thanksgiving forms in a grateful heart in times of stress and strain when we become aware
of the loving presence of Emmanuel -- God with us.
We have often been critical of the ten lepers who Jesus healed, and only one returned to say, "Thank you".
We are often guilty of the same ingratitude -- of the same carelessness!
On an autumn night in 1860, a steamboat broke up and sank in Lake Michigan, one mile from the village
of Winnetka, Illinois.
There were 393 passengers aboard the Lady Elgin.
279 of those passengers drowned.
Of the 114 survivors, 17 were saved by Edward Spencer, a student of Northwestern University.
Edward Spencer was a strong swimmer, but after he had made 17 round trips pulling people out of the water to safety,
he became delirious from the strain and fatigue.
It was reported that he asked again and again, "Did I do my best?"
As a result of that night, Edward Spencer became sick, and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Some years later, on Spencer's birthday, a reporter asked him his most vivid memory of that heroic date in his life.
His answer: "I remember that not one of the 17 returned to thank me."
How often do we fail to thank our heavenly Father for all His bountiful blessings?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we expressed our thanksgiving 364 days of the year, and had only one day of complaining?
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org