Thanksgiving 2020

Canadian Thanksgiving

Did you know that Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada 43 years before the American Thanksgiving? For more interesting Canadian Thanksgiving history tid-bits, click here.

Thanksgiving and COVID-19

The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Thessalonica, exhorted them to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As we face all kinds of the troubles, tragedies, conflicts, divisions, injustices and sufferings in the world, how do we give thanks in all circumstances? With the coronavirus claiming the lives of so many people, and the number of cases increasing—in some places far too rapidly—daily, how can we celebrate Thanksgiving? It may be appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving this year by offering a time and space to lament, grieve and mourn our losses—especially the deaths of loved ones, friends, neighbours and colleagues. Hopefully we can give thanks to God for the multiple ways these significant others influenced and inspired our lives. Hopefully too, we can commend them into God’s eternal care.

Pastor Martin Rinkhart, an inspiring example of faithfulness

One of my favourite thanksgiving stories provides some inspiration in that direction.

Martin Rinkhart was a Lutheran pastor in Eilenburg, Saxony, Germany during the Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648. As the story goes, he was the only surviving clergyperson in 1636 or 1637, when a major pestilence afflicted the town which was so crowded with refugees and so ravaged with plague, disease, and famine that sometimes as many as 50 funerals were held in one day. Among those buried that year was Rinkhart’s own beloved wife.

Yet, in the midst of such difficult circumstances Pastor Rinkhart wrote the beautiful hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.” According to one tradition, Rinkhart based this hymn on Sirach 50:22: “Now bless the God of all, who everywhere works great wonders.” Another tradition suggests that it was originally written as a table grace for his family. In any case, the hymn was well received in Germany and has been sung on such special occasions as the signing of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and the completion of the Cologne cathedral.

Although Rinkhart had suffered much and his family, friends, parishioners and townspeople had suffered much, he was still able to offer God his thanks and praise.

A Thanksgiving exercise

As an exercise in thanksgiving, you may either individually or as a family wish to write down a list from A to Z, of all the blessings God has given each of you and then prayerfully offer your praise and thanks. You may even consider doing this each day or week or month, rather than only once a year at Thanksgiving. This exercise may also motivate you to pursue moving your thanking into acts of loving-kindness in response to what God has given you.

If the spirit moves you to share your Thanksgiving list with yours truly and other blog readers below as a comment, that would be wonderful. Thank you in advance for the same! 🙂

Those two words, Thank You, can make so much difference in so many ways!

Thanksgiving 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Today, October 14, is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, and a statutory holiday. We Canadians have much to be thankful for as one of the, if not “the” best place(s) to live in the world. God has richly blessed us as a nation—may we never take this for granted. Thanks be to God! May our gratitude to God be expressed daily. May we also express it in our relationships at home, work and school every day. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my fellow Canadian readers!

Over the years, I’ve blogged about Thanksgiving, you might want to have a look at the following links:

Thanksgiving 2007:

Thanksgiving 2010:

A Brief Lectionary Reflection on Deut. 26:1-11, Lent 1

Image credit: Yebin Mun

This pericope includes instructions to the Israelites when they began to settle in the Promised Land and survived via an agrarian way of life. They were to bring to the priest at the place of worship the first fruit of their harvest as an offering. This was a reminder to them of how the LORD God provided for them.

Included in the ceremony of giving the first fruit to the priest is a confession of faith beginning with the words: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor….” This ancestor, some scholars believe, was Jacob, who lived for many years in the land of Aram, modern day Syria.

The confession of faith goes on to emphasise the importance of remembering how the Israelites suffered as slaves in Egypt, and how the LORD God delivered them from slavery through the Exodus event, bringing them to and giving them “a land flowing with milk and honey.” In other words, God delivered them from an oppressive, poverty-stricken state of existence to a new life of freedom and opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle through the means of a fertile land.

This confession of faith connects with the gospel pericope in that it is by way of confessing one’s faith and remembering God through that act of confessing that is life-giving and helps one to depend on God for deliverance from temptation and oppression. The confession is then an act of expressing one’s ultimate loyalty to God.

Following the confession, the Levites, together with the people bringing their first fruits, along with “the aliens” celebrate the bounty provided by God. This is a beautiful picture emphasising the inclusive nature of new life in the Promised Land—implying that no one is left out, there is enough for everyone. A very pertinent message for the situation in many parts of the world today, where there is an ever-growing need to welcome and care for refugees.

This pericope has many preaching possibilities—everything from an emphasis on stewardship, giving God the first fruits NOT the leftovers, Thanksgiving, gratitude, to the importance of confessing our faith as an act of ultimate allegiance to God, to living out our faith by making our community, province, nation, world more welcome and inclusive.

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving is integral to the life of faith. The psalms are loaded with exhortations and invitations to give God thanks. In the psalms, God is thanked during acts of public worship for, among other things: life, health, bountiful harvests and provision of all the basic necessities of life, protection from danger and harm, God’s presence, covenant-faithfulness and steadfast love. In the New Testament thanks is also given in the context of public worship and prayer, healing and health, life and salvation. In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. One of the exercises that I encourage folks to engage in at Thanksgiving is to make a list from A to Z of persons and things and offer your thanks to God for them. Here is my list. If you would like to share yours by leaving a comment on this post you are most welcome to do so. A blessed Thanksgiving to you.

Blessed are you LORD God of heaven and earth. There are so many things and people for which I have to be thankful. Today I give you thanks for:

A – the beauty of your creation revealed through works of art

B – the Bible, source of abundant life now and eternally, revealing your truth and love

C – the covenants of God, both old and new, without them humankind would be lost

D – dreams that inspire, motivate, bring clarity and direction, and nurture our relationship with God

E – eternity, with its promise and hope of a perfect, sinless existence in God’s presence

F – faith, one of the three most important gifts of the Holy Spirit, keeping our relationship with God and neighbour alive and healthy

G – grace, God unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness towards us

H – healing of mind, body or soul/spirit or all three, in more ways than we can ever know or understand

I – ideas, which give birth to thoughts, creativity, beliefs, inventions, and other meaningful activities

J – Jesus, who is, among other things, our Messiah, Lord, Saviour, Friend and Brother

K – the many acts of kindness directed towards me throughout my lifetime by God and countless people

L – love, which, of the triad of the Holy Spirit’s greatest gifts, reigns supreme, revealing the presence of God in the church and world, without which we could not exist

M – music, which allows us to express the whole range of human emotions, awakening us to the joy of life

N – neighbours, whom God commands us to love, and through whom we meet Jesus himself

O – offering, which provide us with the opportunity to love and serve God and neighbour by giving our time, talents and treasures in a spirit of love and generosity

P – preaching, which works faith in us and through it Christ is present and active

Q – quiet, in moments of silence God speaks to us, like he did to Elijah of old

R – resurrection, the small ones that give new life and hope in the everyday and ordinary, and the large one that we await with eager longing to be with Christ beyond the grave

S – sufferings that test us to the limits, strengthen and mature our faith by a deeper reliance on and trust in God, as well as shape, form and recreate us into the persons that God has predestined us to be

T – table, around which we gather to enjoy being fed with an abundance and variety of foods for our physical health, but also the place where family, friends, neighbours and even strangers share in the community of brotherhood and sisterhood, as well as the place where Christ is with us in, with and under the elements of bread and wine as we remember him and his immeasurable love for us through his suffering, death and resurrection  

U – unity, between husbands and wives in marriage, between Christians within their own denomination and ecumenically, between peoples of diverse faiths, racial, ethnic, social, economic and political backgrounds who live in peace, between the three Persons of our Triune God

V – vocations, realising that we are all in this life together, therefore we need the wide array of contributions that each human being makes for the common good of the human family

W – water, the essential element of human life and life as we know it on this planet, and the element through which God life in the sacrament of baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit

X – xylophone, that humble percussion instrument producing unique sounds to praise and thank the LORD with

Y – yeast, which is also humble, small and unseen, yet makes the difference in the quality of bread, and like small faith, adds quality to life and can work wonders that awaken folks to the creative power of God

Z – Zion, city of Jerusalem and hill where the temple was located, and the hope of a new, heavenly Jerusalem, when God shall consummate all of human history, ushering in the complete realm of God