The Apostle Paul loved to write letters. In fact most of our New Testament comes from God’s inspiration through his pen. Paul wrote as if he was right in the room with those he was communicating with. He patted them on the back when it was deserved, and he wasn’t afraid to kick them in the butt when it was deserved too.
Paul, along with about 100 partners in ministry started many churches. And the legacy of that continues today. One of his challenges, that is so easily taken out of context – just by changing one little word – can be found in the letter to the people who were Jesus followers in Thessalonica. Many very well meaning people will quote the 8th verse of the the 5th chapter as “give thanks FOR all circumstances”, but it actually reads “give thanks IN all circumstances”. Quite the difference, isn’t it. It’s much more human to be able to find something to be thankful for IN whatever we find ourselves in, but to be thankful for whatever we are in is much harder. I don’t think God wants us to ever miss our humanity.
This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving. A time to gather with our families and friends, to enjoy the fruits of the harvest, and reflect on the good things that the past year held for us. Some folks even go around the table stating what they are thankful for before they begin the feast.
This year is a Thanksgiving I have been praying would be many years yet in it’s arrival. It’s the first year without my mom at the table. Mom, you see, was quite the hostess. She loved dinners when every pot in the kitchen had been used, and the table was full of dishes and people, and the air very loud with conversation. Over the last number of years, that celebration was much smaller, but she still loved to gather at the table with family, and friends alike. Last year, she wasn’t up to travelling – so we took thanksgiving dinner to them. Jeff bar-b-qued the turkey breast, and I took all the fixings.
I’m so glad we did that – and had I known then, what I know now, I would have made a much bigger deal about it. I would have relished her joy at having busyness in her kitchen, and savoured every bit of laughter that she shared that day. So, this year’s celebration will be different, but a celebration all the same.
You see, the rest of the passage where Paul says to give thanks also says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Even prayer-stained hallelujahs are still hallelujahs. God woke me up this morning, He didn’t have to do that, and because He gives me the gift of another day – I will say thanks. My dad is still able to drive to our place, and he is looking forward to having this weekend with us- and I will say thanks. I get to spend this holiday with my beloved, and have the joy of hearing him preach the Word – and I will say thanks. We have all the food (and more) that we need, a lovely home, each other, warmth, good health, the love of those around us, and opportunities beyond measure – and I will say thanks.
Am I happily anticipating this first year’s gathering without mom – not for a moment. But, I know where she is, and that she is at the foot of her Saviour in perpetual worship, no longer sick or hurting- and I will say thanks. For a life well-lived, and a love well-shared, and a faith well-passed along.
May your thanksgiving be IN all things, no matter where life finds you this year. Know that God loves you more than you can ever imagine. That’s worth saying “Thank You” for.