Thanksgiving Like No Other

Scripture: Psalm 34:1-10

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Meditation

As we prepare for the celebration of Thanksgiving, it is no secret that we are supposed to be thinking about things that we are thankful for.  We are reminded of pilgrims who had nothing, barely surviving their first year in North America, and celebrating a “feast” that would likely appear meager to us by today’s standards.  Many will ask around the table this Thanksgiving holiday, what we are thankful for and will, undoubtedly, struggle to find answers.
 
2020 has been a rough year.  It is likely that your Thanksgiving celebration will look like no other you have experienced in your life.  It may be lacking people or comfort, depending on where you find yourself.  There is much that would take our focus off of the many blessings we experience daily as both the People of God in Christ and as citizens of the United States of America.
 
As I reflect on this Psalm, the title line is telling.  David is “extolling the Lord” despite the fact that he has just survived an encounter with an enemy king by pretending to be insane.  He is the Lord’s anointed King of Israel and yet he was humbled to the point of feigning insanity, drooling on himself amongst other things, in order that he might get away from an enemy’s clutches.
 
Yet, reflecting on this later, David praises the Lord.  He could have been dismayed at the humility he felt, acting like a fool in front of royalty.  What he recognizes, though, is God’s work of protection and deliverance that has taken place.  Truly God’s faithfulness was on display here.
 
It would truly be easy for us to focus on the negative this year.  Less family, more restrictions, pandemic, and politics.  There is so much that could be said.  David chose to glorify the Lord despite his constant trials, and what we see… what he sees time and again is God’s continued faithfulness.  As he writes, “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
 
I wonder what this looks like for us in our current situation?  When we choose to look for the good things that the Lord is doing rather than at the difficulties of our situation, perhaps we will gain a new perspective, not just on our current situation and the things for which we have and give thanks, but also on what the Lord is preparing us for as we continue to move forward in Him.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternal God, you watch over your children, with your tender and loving care. I thank you this day for your mercy and grace. I am grateful for your healing power, and for the abundant blessings, you have given me. But most of all, I am thankful for the promise of salvation, given through your Son, our Lord. Through him, when all is completed, there will be no more sickness or pain. I pray in his name. Amen.  (written by David Bennett)


Psalm 67

Psalm 67 New International Version (NIV)

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us—
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.

May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.



Psalm 139 "Who's in Control?"



Psalm 115 – "For Thine is the Kingdom…"

The Lord’s prayer sets up a structure for our prayer life, one that always comes back to God and is never ending.  Like breathing, something we do constantly and that gives us life, our relationship and conversation with God should be ongoing and unceasing.



Psalm 91 "Lead us not into temptation…"

We all struggle through trials and hardships in life and, though God is not responsible for causing them, He does allow us to go through them and faithfully walks alongside us during them.  Praying that God would “save us from the times of trial” creates space for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts that we may listen better to what God teaching us and trust more in God’s faithful and steadfast protection.



Psalm 51 "Forgive us our debts…"

As we look at the 4th phrase of the Lord’s Prayer we are both reminded of our need for forgiveness and that we need to also be forgiving.  Christ’s love and forgiveness for us allow for the cultivation of a forgiving heart, a work that done in us by the Holy Spirit.



Psalm 136 "Give Us this Day…"

As we look at the third phrase of the Lord’s prayer “Give us this day our daily bread,” we couple it with a Psalm of Thanksgiving, a reminder of God’s faithfulness throughout all of history.  When our focus is shifted in this way, we can move forward in faith, knowing God will continue to be faithful, providing all that His people need.



Psalm 8 "Our Father in Heaven…"

Our Sermon Series “Teach us to Pray” continues with the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer.  First and foremost we must recognize who God is as the Holy God, creator of all things.

Pastor Sarah Farkas preaching.



Psalm 119:105-112 "Light for the Path"

1/17/2016 – Engage the WORD – There are times when our path seems clear and times when it seems cloudy and dark. In those times, we need to turn to God’s Word to give us light, maybe not to illuminate the whole path, but at least enough for the next step.



Reflections on Reactions

There seems to be an overabundance of fear that has crept into the world in this last week.  I have seen it expressed in the news and especially on social media.  While the answers of what to do about this and that still seem to be points of discussion, or perhaps simply narcissistic, positional posturing with no real desire for dialogue or anything other than to dismiss the argument of the “other side” and prove that they are wrong at all costs.

While each “side” continues to try to proverbially bash the other over the head with Scripture to prove themselves, I am reflecting on what Jesus meant in Luke 12:49-53, about a house, a family, even parents and children that are divided.  I also wonder if there are places in Scripture that might offer us wisdom in how we should be conducting ourselves… in public… on social media… and in other forums where we have so readily thrown our Christian brothers and sisters under the bus.

While the book of Proverbs offers much wisdom, it is perhaps the words of James come to mind most readily for me:

James 1:19-20

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 

I wonder if too often we get caught up in the notion that we are adding to the “conversation” by constantly putting our views out there, dismissing the views of others.  Yet far to often we forget that the very meaning of “conversation” and “dialogue” is, by definition, an act of listening as much, if not more than you are speaking.  I think that if we are honest, we have forgotten how to do this.

Now we could blame social media, twitter, “liberal” or “conservative” media, cell phones, or any number of other things, and yet I think the simple fact is the only people we have to blame is ourselves.  Whether our intentions are good or not is besides the point really, we have taken the easier road of boastful and sometimes even arrogant statements about what we think (which is obviously right) and made sure that those who oppose our view know that they are wrong.  Our words are cutting, demeaning, and sometimes even dehumanizing.

We have been shouting at each other for so long in such a public venue that, rather than proving our point to anyone, we have collectively turned our Christian voice into nothing more than two people shouting into two empty rooms.  Instead of contributing a solution to the problem, both sides, whom I assume are well meaning, have only contributed to a stalemate in solving the real problems that do exist.  Instead we have, perhaps unknowingly, chosen to promote that which we feel is most important: Our Own Opinion.

We claim that we are “following in the ways of Jesus” who stood up against bigots and pharisees, and yet we fail to recognize that there is only one mention of Jesus going into a situation with “guns blazing.”  In every other situation it wasn’t Jesus who spoke first, but the others.  They asked their questions, made their statements, and said their piece and Jesus was willing to hear it.  Granted there was loving, and sometimes forceful correction that took place, and I think that is necessary for us today as well, however it comes in the midst of listening and loving those He spoke to, even if they were “spiritually blind.”

What would it mean to really listen to our brothers and sisters?

What would it mean to really look at the problems that others struggle with?

Maybe it would mean that we don’t so readily dismiss the legitimate fears of others surrounding refugees and terrorists…

Maybe it would mean opening our eyes to the real struggles of those forced from their homelands with absolutely nothing who simply want a safe place to exist…

Hopefully it would mean that we could, for a moment, stop proof texting our own arguments in Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak to us… and through us… from God’s Word…

…a voice that calls us to “carry each other’s burdens” and to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace.”

I would not presume to know the solutions to the problems that we are currently facing in the world.  I don’t know how to take down ISIS or what to do with hundreds of thousands of refugees.  To be honest, I am still seeking to come to grips with the fact that several hundred (I think over 500 at this point) have died in terrorist attacks that we have heard about, and I’m sure there have been more that we don’t know about.  Women and children are still enslaved in the sex trade each day, humans sold into bondage.  Corrupt Governments in the most powerful nations in the world argue and bicker over everything under the sun, but the real needs of people, whether refugees or homeless veterans are not addressed.

I do not know how to deal with these things… what the answers are… how to begin to address them… so I will say nothing and just listen… I hope I will gain wisdom… and will continue to care for the least, the last, and the lost in any way that I can…

…but this one thing I do know.  I know that my Redeemer lives and one day He will stand upon this earth.  I know that He who is the first and the last is making all things new.  I know that Jesus Christ loved the world so much that He gave His life that we could live.

And I know that, in the midst of so much that would give cause for fear, for doubt, for hesitation, I can say with the Psalmist these words:

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.