BY REV. TIM HARMON - LAKE PARK FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion,
and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. — 2 Corinthians 9:11
What does Thanksgiving mean? No doubt when asked that in November we think of the holiday we celebrate on Nov 23 this year. Or we might think of it as a feeling of being grateful or maybe even an actual expression of thanks. And of course we think especially of doing that to God. But what does the Bible say about thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is the name of one of the many offerings in Leviticus that constituted the temple religious practices of our Israelite ancestors from the Old Testament. It was an obligation to offer back to God a portion of what God gave to you. It was a public ritual of giving credit to God and offering gratitude. But it also was different because a thanksoffering was a feast for all (the food cooked on the altar was shared with everyone present, not just the priests — like what happened at other offerings).
Thanksgiving is an act that is typical of the followers of God — from Psalm 100 we learn that we enter God’s courts with thanksgiving! It is a song of praise and an attitude of generosity and gratitude wherever we go and part of our covenant duty. It was a way that we spread God’s grace to others.
In the New Testament, Paul writes often of thanksgiving, both in the church and in our relationship to God now because of Jesus’s death and resurrection. And thanksgiving always led the early church not only to praise God but to actions that spread the thanksgiving to others. This was done through providing for the needy, sharing joy with the church, giving to offerings to help the ministry of the church, singing and praying and being in fellowship with others.
In all this, did you notice that Thanksgiving is not just a personal feeling or a gratitude that stayed with you, but instead turned outward and is a community-building event.
It is something that moved you to be active and involved and about reaching out to others. How far we have come in thinking that to be thankful is our own feeling, that to be thankful is something we experience alone.
So this thanksgiving, let’s not just gather with family and eat and be merry, although that fellowship is important. Let’s be moved to real thanksgiving which is to all the community. Here are some ways to celebrate:
• Write “thank yous” for the year to everyone that has touched you
• Volunteer in a food pantry or a meal center to feed and have fellowship
• Give a tenth of the cost of your meal on Nov 23 to a feeding program like Iowa Food Bank or Upper Des Moines opportunity or to Dinner Date
• Invite those who are alone to eat with you or bring them pie/apples/or soup
• Buy two meals and give one to another family this year
Let us give thanks to the Lord for God is good and God’s love endures forever! Happy Thanksgiving!