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Thanks Be To God!
How does your family give thanks to God on Thanksgiving Day?
Bart Simpson, of the "Simpsons," used this prayer of grace on one of their programs:
"Hey God, we bought this food with our own money, and we fixed it ourselves -- so thanks for nothing!"
That probably shocks most of us.
Yet, this the attitude of many today, although it may not be expressed so bluntly.
Thanksgiving has become a holiday in which we tend to congratulate ourselves for all we have accumulated.
We live in a self-help, self-made society where self-reliance is exalted.
People are valued for what they produce, rather than who they are.
Gratitude is essential to us as Christians.
We live in a world that is hungry for that which will satisfy.
- It sets us apart from the culture in which we live.
- It is at the heart of Thanksgiving.
In our Scripture passage 5,000 men, not counting women and children, have just been fed.
- We see people constantly searching for meaning and purpose.
- We see people who have "made it," yet are still searching for something more --something that satisfies.
They have followed Jesus to the other side of the lake looking for more bread, and maybe, hoping for another miracle.
Jesus understands their deep hunger, which they may not even recognize.
So, Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you."
In the state of Wyoming there was a man named Elijah, and his wife, Oprah.
They had a reputation for hosting large parties.
- They were farmers who owned their farm and had a lot of cattle.
- They were good managers and workers and were able to add to their land.
- They added to their cattle until they had more than anyone in the county.
People came from miles around to attend these barbecues and to be seen there.
Later, they fell on hard times.
Finally, they were forced to sell all they had, except for an old car.
- In the spring the cattle were struck by a unknown disease, and most died or had to be destroyed.
Most of their cash crop was lost during the worst drought in decades.
- During the Fall, robbers stole all of their prize horses.
They ended up with enough personal belongings to furnish a small house.
By this time, they were in their 70's, and were too proud to apply for welfare.
A neighbor invited them to live and work for him, and they accepted.
Elijah was an excellent mechanic, so he kept all the farm machinery working.
Oprah fed the chickens and kept the garden.
They were provided a small cottage, and enough food to meet their needs.
One day guests arrived at the ranch for a party.
Elijah supervised the slaughter of a young calf and Oprah was in charge of the barbecue .
As the guests ate and drank, Elijah and Oprah passed by in the distance on the way to their cottage.
"Do you see that man?" the owner asked the group?
"He once was the richest man in the area.
Perhaps you have heard of him, his name is Elijah."
"Of course I have heard of him," said one of the guests,
"He was known all over the country.
Do you think we could speak to him?
It would be interesting to hear about his life."
"I'll call him, but be careful. He is a proud man."
So, he called Elijah and Oprah to join them.
"Tell me sir, " asked one of the guests.
"Is it hard for you to look at us enjoying ourselves?
Does your present life cause you regrets?"
Elijah smiled, "Ask my wife. She is the speaker of the family concerning these matters."
Directing his words to Oprah, the guest spoke in a loud and brazen voice,
"Can you speak to us of your former happiness and your present misery?"
Oprah answered calmly, "For 50 years the old man and I lived, seeking happiness and never finding it.
Now, in our second year here, when we have nothing left, and we live as hired labourers, we have found true happiness.
We need nothing more."
Everyone turned their attention to her as she stood straight and tall, smiled at here husband and spoke again.
"I speak the truth.
We sought happiness for half a century, and while we were rich we never found it.
Now we are poor and are content.
When we had land and cattle the old man and I never knew a moment's peace.
We had not time to talk, to think about our faith or pray to God.
We had so many worries - how shall we serve the guests, what will people think, will the hired men cheat us?
We did not sleep well at night for fear that animals would attack the new calves or robbers would steal the prize horses.
We argued over finances and that is a sin.
He thought we should invest one way, and I another."
"And Now?" Asked the guest.
"Now the old man and I wake in the morning and talk to each other with love and respect.
We have nothing to quarrel about, nothing to worry about.
Our only concern is to serve the owner well.
There is time to talk, to listen and to pray to God.
After 50 years of looking for happiness we have found it."
-- Adapted from Stories for the Journey
Today, we should think of all the things for which we are thankful.
We have so many blessings for which we should "rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice."
- We think of family and friends.
- We are grateful for the food that we eat, and for our homes, but more than that we are grateful
for the Bread that satisfies.
- We are grateful for the Bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
- We are grateful for our Lord Jesus Christ.
We know that all we have is a gift from God, and we are so grateful.
On Thanksgiving, we glory in our generous God who is faithful, caring for our every need.
So we must take time to express to God our gratitude for all our wonderful blessings.
True thanksgiving will result in the dedication of our lives, and of a Christian stewardship of all our possessions
and to share our Lord Jesus with a needy world.
This is how we can truly express our gratitude to God for His gracious love and mercy to each one of us.
Thanks be to God!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org