Hello Baysiders! Hope all is well in your souls this week. As the holidays are arriving, let’s dig deep in prayer and fellowship to be strong during this season. It can be joyful but also stressful and a solid devotion life can be a source of strength.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What is the traditional meal? What time is the eating? The fun is learning all the different ways we participate in the spirit of thanks. Let me tell you one way NOT to celebrate the holiday, don’t make Thanksgiving be focused on your desires and expectations. The worse thing you can do is make Thanksgiving about you. If you do, you will not be celebrating Thanksgiving but twisting it; you will be contradicting the holiday. The reason is at the heart of the holiday is everything and everyone else but you. This is because fundamentally being thankful requires you to not be the focus or receiver of celebration. When we say thank you, we are admitting our vulnerability and dependence to or on something outside us. To say thank you means you are bankrupt and helpless thus appreciate the help and resources that you received. From someone opening the door for you, taking out your trash, surprising you with coffee, a clerk giving you the receipt, friends inviting you to dinner, and to a simple text message with an encouraging word. These are all transactions apart from your doing. Thankfulness can only be done by making it about others or someone else.
I get this from scripture in Luke 18 where Jesus shares a story about a very pious religious man who goes to church and prays to God, thanking God he is not like other people, thanking God that he is a good moral person, thanking God that he every year is honest with his taxes and was not a scumbag. This person is a Pharisee and in verse 11 we learn about how he was such a bad turkey, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.” His thankfulness was about him and his doing, his achievement, his actions. But thats not thankfulness. He made the prayer about him. There was no humility, no vulnerability, no appreciation for what God has done for him. He never once considered the external factors that made his life and his own character so great. It was everything about what he did for God and how it made him look good among others.
Bayside, can we be thankful in the correct way? Can we be good turkeys? If you are having a hard time being thankful about your life right now its probably because you are focusing too much on yourself. But that is not how you find thankfulness. Maybe you are finding it difficult to be thankful in your crummy situation because you are concentrated on what others have not done and comparing it to what you have done. You put in the hard work but someone else gets the promotion. You are always the spouse who is flexible and forgiving but never receive the same grace. The President is not doing what he said he would do and you voted for him. You always do what is right yet always get the short end of the stick. When we think this way, we are a bad turkey, being like the Pharisee thanking yourself because of the good you have done and belittling others who have not done those things. Thats not the spirit of thanksgiving. You find thanksgiving by seeing what others have done for you. You will be thankful when you realize all the good in your life was given to as a gift that was not at all part of your doing. When we admit our neediness, thankfulness will arrive in our hearts and the turkey will be good for all to eat.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Aaron ?:^)