“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Times have seemingly changed. My perception is that many of us are approaching this as “Thanksgiving season.” This is a good thing, I think. Thanksgiving as a season feels good because it hasn’t yet been coopted by any marketing companies. No audacious gift giving, nor overabundance of sugary treats.
The satisfaction around being thankful is what created this change. We just plain feel good when we are thankful. New research on the topic confirms what we feel – namely, that people who have sustained happiness (joy) are those who regularly have a thankful disposition.
Unfortunately, our transactional society is eroding true gratitude. We are usually grateful for what we “get” and are less oriented towards gratitude. Put another way, we are thankful for our privilege but when that privilege is removed, we don’t fare very well. Essentially, it is easy to be grateful when we’re spoiled, but this kind of thankfulness is not what the Bible teaches.
Legendary theologian Henry J. M. Nouwen has said, “True gratitude cannot be manufactured… (and) it bears little resemblance to the forced optimism underlying… ‘counting your blessings.’ It is not a denial of real pain and loss.” I will add that true thankfulness is an orientation of the heart. It is a way of living. It is neither gratitude for a gift, nor a stuffing away of the bad things in life. Thankfulness is our recognition – better yet our response – to the intimate understanding of God’s love for us. (Which I explain in my sermon from last weekend.)
I’ve always approached Thanksgiving as a season. This is a sacred season for me, mostly because I watched my father die of a heart-attack three days after Thanksgiving. That was 40 years ago this year. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to move my basic understanding of this event in my life from sadness to thankfulness. I still feel and hear and see my dad in and through my life – and even now in the life of my children.
So my friends, work to cultivate a depth of thanksgiving. By this I mean, work to cultivate a sense of closeness with our God of love. Of course, come learn more in worship this season. But mostly, live thankfully.
Gracious God, thank you for the many gifts you give us, our place of privilege in the world and a comfortable life. Even more, thank you for your love. Give us the faith to live thankfully recognizing that your love is all we truly need. Amen.
Written by Pastor Greg Bouvier
Pastor Greg heard God’s call to Sheridan in 1999 and that began a journey which has become his life’s work. Having played a variety of roles as pastor of Sheridan, Pastor Greg was called as the Senior Pastor in 2011. He leads the staff and his primary focus is on the creation of culture, the overall direction of worship and partnering with our amazing team. Pastor Greg has been married to Rose for more than 30 years and together they have two servant-hearted grown children.