Year after year we celebrate Thanksgiving. We know the history, stories, and all that goes into the celebration of this great feast. Certainly the name of the feast tells it all. Here is a day set aside to thank God for all the blessings of life, known and unknown, big and small. However, sometimes in the midst of all that goes on in our lives, in the days of crisis and fear, sickness and poverty, it is hard to say, “Thank you, Lord.”
In the Book of Joel we read that the chosen people of God went through tough times. Everything around them fell apart. Crops were destroyed, leading to famine. Their land was invaded and they were displaced. The vines and the fig trees did not produce. The cattle in the land died. Families suffered great poverty and illness. It seemed that the blessings of life had disappeared, one after another.
This caused people to become more and more selfish and melancholic. God’s chosen people began living like abandoned people. Their faith gave way to fear. There was a breakdown of law and order. It seemed as if there was nothing to thank God for.
However, God’s response to their selfish behavior is noteworthy. God called them to comfort and promise in spite of their attitude, their need to own and hoard. God shared their pain and walked with them in their suffering. God did not stand afar and watch, challenging them to make it on their own. God promised to help and kept His word. God called them to be grateful in their hearts for the blessings of everyday life.
Small, unseen blessings, when seen, have the power to transform lives. Small graces of everyday life may grow into bigger ones, eventually. The person who is waiting to thank God until the huge, huge, blessings appear may have a long wait because there just are not too many big-ticket items waiting out there for you and me. Our lives are more like the lives of the saints who had small-ticket blessings in abundance every moment of their lives. Ours are more like the lives of the apostles and martyrs who saw God’s hand at every turn in life.
This thanksgiving I want to invite you to find the small blessings that fill our lives. Let us take to heart that our nation will recover from its crisis. Our land will prosper and grow. Our people will have plenty to eat and our cattle will survive. Our banks will grow and our economic systems will be stable again, if only we have the will to live and can live like a nation under God.
As He said to the people of Israel, the Lord says to us, “Be not afraid.” God says it over and over, be not afraid. Be faithful and be grateful. Do not let fear cripple you and cause you to become selfish and ungrateful in the midst of crisis and poverty. God will pour out His Spirit upon the young and the old when they grow in gratitude and praise. The men and women in our community will be led by the Holy Spirit to create a better society filled with justice and mercy―the two greatest attributes of God. We should not replace justice and mercy with self-righteousness.
By the time you read this, many of you will have gone through the frantic black-Friday syndrome and now you own more stuff. Or does it own you? Let us not be like those people mentioned above who lost their trust in God. Let us, instead, turn our culture and our character toward becoming a people who have plenty―having plenty with God who is everywhere, even in the gentle breeze through our front door― rather than letting our “plenty” be all the stuff that clutters our minds, hearts and homes.
It is gratefulness that makes a people viable and valuable. It is the space given to God in our hearts, minds, homes and systems that makes us a grateful people. What we own owns us in return. If what we own is God, then there is plenty to be thankful for, because then God owns us. What other thing do we need to be thankful about and joyful for?
© Fr. Jos Tharakan
Published in The Courier, Russellville, AR Newspaper on November 25. 2009
- Sermons on the readings of previous Sunday can be found here
- Podcasts of the sermons can be found here
- Visit my church: All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Russellville, AR
- You can read more about me at my website
- You can subscribe to these readings by email. Enter your email address and click subscribe, and follow the instructions.