Posts tagged ‘Blessings’

Preemptive Thankfulness

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It has become a tradition on this blog during Thanksgiving week to take a moment to reflect on a Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. Thanksgiving is a holiday birthed by our history and in our land and, each year, the president issues a proclamation meant to focus our attention on all the reasons we have to be grateful.

This year, I’d like to take a moment to remember a Thanksgiving Proclamation that was issued after Thanksgiving on December 26, 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt. He had issued a more traditional Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 8 of that same year, but then, in light of the vicious December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor that lurched us into World War II, President Roosevelt felt the need to issue a second Thanksgiving Proclamation. It read thusly:

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God. The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty. In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States. It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, “Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection,” and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven. I recommend that all of us bear in mind this great Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me I the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Inspired with faith and courage by these words, let us turn again to the work that confronts us in this time of national emergency: in the Armed Services and the Merchant Marine; in factories and offices; on farms and in the mines; on highways, railways and airways; in other places of public service to the nation; and in our homes. Now, therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite the attention of the people to the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day and I request that both Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, and New Year’s Day, January 1, 1943, be observed in prayer, publicly and privately.

Shortly after Thanksgiving Day 1941 and what was at that point the worst attack on American soil in its history, President Roosevelt issued a proclamation already looking forward to Thanksgiving Day 1942 – nearly a year in advance.

Such a proclamation might, at first, seem tone-deaf. After all, who feels thankful when mourning so much loss, as Americans were after Pearl Harbor? Such a proclamation might also feel premature. After all, by the time Thanksgiving Day 1942 rolled around, wouldn’t the president’s proclamation from the close of 1941 have been long since forgotten? But, despite such concerns, this proclamation was needed.

Gratitude is needed most when history does its worst. For it is at these moments that gratitude focuses us – not so much on what we do or do not have, but on the One to whom we are called to be thankful. Gratitude needs an object. And, as President Roosevelt reminds us in his declaration, the object of our gratitude is rightly God.

It is no secret that 2021 has been a trying year. A pandemic has worn on longer than any of us desired or expected. Political, social, and cultural unrest, upheaval, and distrust have run rampant. And our economic future feels uncertain. How should we respond to times like these? Let’s take a page from President Roosevelt’s book and be preemptively thankful. Thankfulness is not a product of our circumstances, but an orientation of our hearts toward the One who receives our thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 22, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Everyday Thankfulness

Praying HandsIt was truly a mountaintop moment. I’ll never forget seeing her rush down Concordia’s breezeway in her stunning white dress, bursting through the back doors of the worship center, and coming toward me. The day I married Melody was a day I will always cherish. But, as seems to be the way of life, you must eventually leave the mountaintop moments of life and tread into the valley of reality.

The valley of reality struck less than a week after our wedding. By then, the ceremony was ancient history, the reception had long passed, and we had returned from our brief honeymoon to the apartment we were living in at the time, littered with wedding gifts – lots of wedding gifts. Mixers, crock pots, flatware, bed linens, personal effects, and hundreds of dollars of gift cards to Target. “Okay,” Melody announced, a towering stack of cards in her hand, “It’s time to put this stuff away, but as we do, we need to write a thank you card for each of these gifts!” Each of these gifts? But there were hundreds of them! Nevertheless, gift after gift, I wrote these thank you notes, even though my hand got cramped and my tongue got dry from licking all those envelopes. I must confess that that more notes I wrote, the briefer my expressions of gratitude became. I appreciated the gifts, but the overwhelming task of writing hundreds of cards led to the underwhelming nature of my notes of thankfulness.

Sadly, like my thank you cards, many modern day expressions of gratitude are underwhelming. We do not respond adequately to, or even bother to notice, the many things for which we have to be thankful. This is what makes some words from the famed poet Ralph Waldo Emerson in a sermon he delivered on Thanksgiving Day of 1830 so striking to me: “At first, brethren, consider whether each of us has not had some reason to acknowledge the special favor of God Himself.”[1] Emerson is calling on us to reflect on our lives and find some gift from God for which we might be thankful. This kind of a call from a pastor to his people at Thanksgiving is common. And yet, the reason Emerson offers as to why we should give thanks is striking: “Twelve months are past.”

Did I hear that right? We ought to be thankful to God simply because a year has passed from one Thanksgiving to the next? Sure enough, Emerson’s first reason for thankfulness is the simple gift of time. Perhaps the simple gift of time was especially poignant to Emerson because his beloved wife Ellen lie sick in bed during this period with tuberculosis. She would die from the disease the following February. God’s gift of time with his wife, then, became suddenly precious to Emerson.

The text on which Emerson based his sermon for that Thanksgiving Day was from the Psalms: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1). The Psalmist, like Emerson, references time. Except the Psalmist does not call us to give thanks for twelve months; rather, the Psalmist calls us to give thanks for “forever.” For long after our lives have passed from this earth, we will have an eternity with a God who loves us. And that should be enough to move any heart to thankfulness.

As we celebrate another Thanksgiving this week, do not let your expressions of gratitude wallow in mediocrity. Instead, make them hearty and overwhelming. For God’s gifts are hearty and overwhelming. And if you need something for which to be thankful, consider this: twelve months have passed. Not only that: eternity awaits. Give thanks to the LORD for this!

___________________________

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Complete Sermons of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 3 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1991), 46.

November 24, 2014 at 5:15 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People?

The other day I participated in an internet poll.  The question asked was, “Do you consider yourself to be a good person?”  There were three options:  “Yes,” “No,” and “It’s not black and white.”  The results of this poll?  The vast majority of people – a little under two-thirds – responded that they did consider themselves to be good.  Another one-third of the respondents answered that such a question is not black and white.  Finally, two people claimed they were not good.  And one of the two was me.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we looked at a list of spiritual gifts from Romans 12.  Before talking about spiritual gifts, however, Paul sounds a warning:  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3).  Paul understands that humans have a proclivity, when asked whether or not they are “good,” to think of themselves as better than they are – to think of themselves “more highly than they ought.”  Thus, Paul calls for “sober judgment.”

Last week in my personal Bible reading, I read a seemingly simple and straightforward passage that gripped me:  “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” (Genesis 13:10).  In Genesis 13, Abraham and his nephew Lot are on their way up from Egypt to start over and settle in a new place.  As they reach the Negeb, they arrive at a pinnacle from which they can see two lands – one to the east which looks well-watered and lush and one to the west which looks arid and barren.  Abraham, in an act of stunning generosity, allows his little nephew to pick which of the two lands he would like for himself.  Logically, Lot picks the lush land, leaving his uncle with the barren pit.  But as Lot is picking the lush land, we find out that this land is home to two infamous cities – Sodom and Gomorrah.  Before God destroys these twin cities of iniquity with fire and brimstone, however, they are apparently situated on a verdant plain.  But why?  Why would God bless such evil cities with such lush landscapes?  For these cities cannot be considered “good” by any estimation!  Even people who call themselves “good” would probably say that the residents of these cities were “bad”!

There is a foundational truth that undergirds all of God’s blessings:  God’s blessings come not because humans are worthy to receive them, but because God is gracious to give them.  Sodom and Gomorrah certainly did not deserve the land and bounty they enjoyed.  But out of His grace, God blessed them in spite of their wickedness.  And we must remember and recognize that God does the same thing with us.  The blessings we have are not the result of our worthiness, but a testimony to God’s graciousness.  As Jesus Himself says, “The Father causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).

More than once, I have been asked, usually after a heartbreaking tragedy has struck a seemingly great person, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Though it is important to affirm the sadness of tragedy and mourn with those who mourn (cf. Romans 12:15), it is also important to understand that such a question has embedded in it a faulty premise.  There are no “good” people, at least not in the biblical sense.  Though people, when asked if they are good, may consider themselves as such, the Bible paints an entirely different picture of human holiness.  Paul explains, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts…We were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1, 3).  “By nature,” Paul says, “we are sinners.  By nature, we are bad.  And because of our badness, by nature, we deserve not God’s blessings, but God’s wrath.”  The question, then, is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but “Why do good things happen to bad people?”  For we, like Sodom and Gomorrah, deserve not the verdant plains of God’s blessings, but the barren desert of God’s wrath at our sin.  So why does God give us good things even though we are bad?  He gives us good things because of His grace.  So praise God for His blessings to you today!  For you do not deserve them.  But God has given them to you anyway.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

April 23, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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