Psalm 100;Philippians 4:4-9; “Give Thanks to God” (22-25-14)

By the Rev. Bob Gochenour @Trinity Lutheran Church

 

One of my favorite Peanuts comic strip is the one that came out a few years ago just a few days before Thanksgiving.

First Frame: Lucy is feeling sorry for herself and she complains: “My life is a drag. I’m completely fed up. I’ve never felt so low in my life.”

Second Frame: Her little brother Linus tries to console his big sister and says: “Lucy, when you’re in a mood like this, you should try to think of things you have to be thankful for; in other words—count your blessings.”

Third frame: Lucy responds:

“Ha! That’s a good one!

I could count my blessings on one finger!

I’ve never had anything and I never will have anything.

I don’t get half the breaks that other people do!

Nothing goes right for me! And you talk about counting my blessings!?!

You talk about being thankful!

What do I have to be thankful for?”

Fourth Frame: Linus answers her: “Well, for one thing, you have a little brother who loves you.”

Fifth frame: Lucy runs and hugs her little brother as she cries tears of joy.

Final Frame: While Lucy is still hugging him, Linus says:

“Every now and then, I say the right thing.”

Psalm 100 follows Linus’ suggestion and encourages us to count our blessings.

Psalm 100 gives us 7 blessings:

1.  God made us;

2.  We belong to God;

3.  We are his people;

4.  We are the sheep of his pasture;

5.  The Lord is good;

6.  His steadfast love endures forever;

7.  His faithfulness endures to all generations.

This scripture gives us 7 good reasons to be thankful!

We are not alone—even when we feel the blues!

God is with us—God is a very present help in times of sorrow.

God loves us—we can make a joyful noise.

God is faithful—we can worship the Lord with gladness.

God is steadfast—we can come into His presence with singing.

This Thanksgiving week, we need to count our blessings.

Allow Psalm 100 to be your starting point: this passage provides 7 blessings; I am sure you can add others to the list!

It is good for us to remember the good things God has done for us this year.

Greg Anderson, in his book, “Living Life on Purpose” tells a story about a man whose wife left him.

He was completely depressed.

He had lost faith in himself, in other people, and in God.

He found no joy in living.

One rainy morning, this man went to a small neighborhood diner for breakfast.

The diner was as depressing as the man felt.

Several people were at the diner but no one was speaking to anyone else—everyone seemed to be stuck in their private silence.

Our miserable friend hunched over the counter—stirring his coffee with a spoon.

In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl.

They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting: “Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?”

The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said,

“Sure, honey, we pray here! Will you say the prayer for us?”

The little girl turned and looked at the rest of the people in the diner and said: “Bow your heads.”

Surprisingly, one by one, every head went down.

The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said:

“God is great! God is good! And we thank Him for our food. Amen.”

That prayer changed change the entire atmosphere at the diner.

People began to talk to each other.

A few people laughed.

The waitress said: “We should do this every morning.”

Our depressed friend noticed a change in his own mood: “All of a sudden, my whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl’s example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stopped dwelling on all I didn’t have.”

The Apostle Paul was trying to teach this lesson to the Christians in Philippi.

Paul says that thanksgiving is a spiritual discipline—we need to practice it every single day.

He writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4,6-7)

Thanksgiving needs to be more than just an annual holiday.

It needs to be more than a fun day of turkey and all the fixings.

It needs to be more than a family reunion, a football day, or a hunting holiday.

Thanksgiving needs to be a daily practice—a spiritual discipline.

We need to have the attitude of Thanksgiving—a constant awareness of our dependence upon God and others.

We need to have the habit of thanksgiving—a daily behavior of joy and celebration for God’s faithfulness to us.

We need to have the discipline of thanksgiving—a continual prayer of gratitude for God’s abiding presence with us.

This is why Paul invites us to have an “attitude check.”

He writes: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Keep on doing the thing you have learned…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

God is true: follow God’s way and follow truth.

God is honorable: follow God’s way and be honorable.

God is just: follow God’s way and practice justice.

God is pure: follow God’s way and be pure.

God is commendable: follow God’s way and you will be blessed.

God is excellence: follow God’s way and strive for excellence.

God is worthy of praise: praise God with all your heart.

We must practice the discipline of thanksgiving—at all times!

 

Martin Rinkart was a minister in the little town of Eilenburg in Germany almost 400 years ago.

He was the son of a poor coppersmith, but somehow, he managed to work his way through an education.

Finally, in the year 1617, he was offered the post of Archdeacon in his hometown parish.

A year later, what was known as the 30 year war broke out.

His town was caught in the middle of the conflict.

Eilenburg was a walled city, so it became a haven for refugees seeking sanctuary from the fighting.

Soon, the city became too crowded and food was in a short supply—a famine hit the town.

In 1637, the massive plague that swept through Europe hit Eilenburg.

People died at a rate of 50 per day.

Martin Rinkart spent all of his waking moments burying the dead.

In one year, Pastor Rinkart conducted 4,500 funerals—including burying his own wife.

Over the next few years, 8,000 people died

His ministry spanned for 32 years—30 of which were impacted by war, famine and plague.

These were tough circumstances to be thankful.

But he followed the Apostle Paul’s direction and practiced thanksgiving as a spiritual discipline.

How else could he write the words to this famous hymn:

“Now than we all our God,

With hearts and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done;

In whom his world rejoices;

Who from our mother’s arms

Has blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love,

And still is ours today.”

 

It takes a magnificent spirit to come through such hardship and loss and still express gratitude.

This is a great lesson: “Rejoice in the Lord always…”

Surrounded by great adversity: thanksgiving will deliver you!

Surrounded by great celebration: thanksgiving will prepare you for life.

Surrounded by this great congregation: let us encourage one another to practice our thanksgiving together as we sing Martin Rinkarts’ great hymn: “Now Thank We all our God.”