TACKLING THANKSGIVING

The past couple of years have been difficult for everyone. So how do you
tackle Thanksgiving? I’m not talking about watching football in its various
forms over the Thanksgiving weekend. Many people love American
football and have their favourite teams. Others love Canadian football and
dream of an Argonaut Grey Cup. Still others think of football in the soccer
sense. All three forms of football involve some tackling.

Nor am I referring to rugby with its tackling or going fishing for
Thanksgiving weekend to get away from the stresses of life while using
fishing tackle.

There may be some people who are in pain or just numb trying to approach
Thanksgiving this year. Still others are very angry. We have seen that anger
pour out in the recent election and during this pandemic. But many in all
sorts of churches are also angry. Given attitudes like that, some may
actually feel a twinge of guilt approaching Thanksgiving. Still others may
somehow separate their anger on one hand and still go through the motions
of Thanksgiving.

But how can we actually tackle Thanksgiving so that it pervades our whole
lives? Let’s admit that we are all human in this regard. Also, many of us
have been wounded in this pandemic. Philippians 4:5-7 may speak to us
about this. The New Living Translation has it this way:

“Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the
Lord is coming soon.

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God
what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will
experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His
peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

What does that mean? What are the steps we must take? The ESV
translates the first few words, “Let your reasonableness be known to
everyone.” Are you considerate or reasonable? The NIV has it, “Let your
gentleness be evident to all?” How do people look at you? Do you freak
out about everything? Do you turn everything into a drama or crisis? Are
you unreasonable about everything?
Second, you may claim to be a believer but do you practice practical
atheism? Our God isn’t just transcendent but immanent. Isaiah 57:15
declares:
“For this is what the high and exalted One says –
he who lives for ever, whose name is holy:
‘I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

The issue here for everyone is whether each of us are contrite and
lowly. How can God live in someone who is vain and proud? If you
take offense at things, perhaps you are harbouring pride. If you
pretend like Jesus is not coming back or that He is not near, you don’t
have to thank Him for anything. You can just blend into society. You
can try to claim the benefits of Christianity without the
responsibilities. But can revival really happen that way? If we take
Isaiah 57:15 seriously, the answer is no. Instead, we should all come
before God and confess our sins.

Do we mollycoddle angst? worry? or anxiety? If we do mollycoddle
this in our lives, we can really do a number on our spiritual lives?
How beneficial would it be if we protect our worry from the good
news? How helpful would it be if we are anxious about everything?
Instead, Paul tells us in Philippians “Do not be anxious about
anything?”

Notice the next issue to confront? Philippians 4:6 instructs us, “Pray
about everything?” Do we give God the silent treatment and not
bother to pray at all? Do we pray about a few things and keep most
areas off limits to God? If we do communicate with God at all, do we
tell God what we need or what we want? Finally, we are to thank Him
for all He has done. How long is your thank you list? If you pray for
something, He just might say yes, and then you’d be obligated to
thank Him. Or perhaps you just want to thank “To Whom It May
Concern.” All sorts of people like to deceive themselves. Can you
measure your spiritual health by how thankful you are? Can you
thank God for the things or the people you may dislike?

If we have gone through all these steps, then and only then does Paul
suggest that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Are you
experiencing God’s peace during this Thanksgiving?

As you come to Thanksgiving, never try to be proud or think you are
indispensible. If you do, you will miss out on the spirit of
Thanksgiving. The lesson of Palm Sunday has a lot to teach us about
Thanksgiving as well. Luke 19:37-42 is very poignant:

When he came near the place where the road goes down the
Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to
praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher,
rebuke your disciples!’

‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over
it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what
would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes.

What a tragedy if we miss out on God’s peace! What a tragedy if the
obvious spiritual things are hidden from our eyes! The lesson of
church history is that many denominational groups or movements
lose steam or lose their way along the way. Can you fathom a Baptist
church without Christ being Lord? Can you picture a church without
the authority of the Scriptures? If He isn’t Lord, what direction will the
church go?

But notice something else about Luke’s Palm Sunday text. They were
rejoicing together as they worshiped Jesus. That is in keeping with the verse
before the text in Philippians which I quoted earlier. Philippians 4:4
declares, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

I invite you to tackle Thanksgiving in this year of our Lord, 2021. If
you do it with rejoicing there will be greater spiritual health.

Let us join together with “the whole crowd of disciples” and joyfully
praise God wherever we are. Let us do this with thanksgiving. The
Lord is near.

God bless you!

Pastor Kevin Smith
www.kipling.org