“Give Thanks”

“Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich”
Because of what the Lord has done for us

Give thanks
We give thanks (give thanks)
We give thanks”

                 Thanksgiving always brings to mind my first attempt at “preaching” before a considerable gathering of people.  At that time in my life, anything over about five was considerable.  However, on this occasion (and the day which followed) my audience was much bigger and quite diverse.  It was the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving 1999 and my home church served as host to the Central District Youth Fellowship which was a gathering of children, youth, and their leaders from many of the forty-four churches within our local conference.  The task was “simple.”  We would sing a few songs, hear reports from our district leaders, and yours truly would supply a word for the people of God.  Call it a “devotion” or the ramblings of a young adult who had little clue as to what I was doing, I read the great hymn of thanks (Psalm 100) and expounded upon its message for about ten to fifteen minutes.  While not necessarily eloquent, it was sufficient to survive the event.  With a sigh of relief and a few kind words from those in attendance, I presumed my sacred duty for the weekend had been fulfilled.  Little did I know what my home pastor had in mind as he approached me at the conclusion of the evening with:  “That was really good Kelley.  How would you like to do it again in worship tomorrow morning?”  Needless to say, I consented to do so.  However, that by no means meant God was calling me into the ministry (or so I thought).  Time has certainly told a very different story.

                 The lyrics at the top of this page are from a song which was shared during that Saturday evening service.  They were written in 1978 by Henry Smith and later made popular by artist Don Moen in 1986.  In the years since, choirs, congregations, and youth groups have used this chorus to acknowledge God’s blessings during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day.  Here at the cusp of another November, we find ourselves readying our homes not for Thanksgiving, but rather for Christmas.  On October 21, the Hallmark Channel began its “Countdown to Christmas” with a variety of new and previously released films to get people into the holiday spirit.  Fall décor was long ago placed on discount and area malls are creating the usual winter wonderland for Santa’s arrival.  Lost in the mad dash to find the ideal Christmas tree and the best prices on gifts is that national holiday we know as “Thanksgiving.”  Of course, we know one special day is not necessary in order for us to return thanks for God’s blessings.  Any day or time is the appropriate occasion for reflecting upon God’s goodness unto each of us.  While not included within the “Fruit of the Spirit,” thanksgiving is one of the identifying qualities of being a Christian.  Ungrateful and Christian should by no means exist within the same space.  Unfortunately, we become busy, forgetful, or self-dependent, and ignore the consistent place for thanksgiving in our lives.  As we look at the weeks to come, here are a few verses for our meditation:

Psalm 103:1-2:  “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits.”

I Chronicles 16:34:  “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Colossians 2:6-7: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Philippians 4:6:  “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

James 1:17:  “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

                 Continuing with this focus upon giving thanks, Sally, Marci, and I wish to express our sincere gratitude to the Little Rock family for your thoughtfulness on Ministers’ Appreciate Sunday.  The notes and gifts meaningfully communicated your love and support to each us.  We were greatly blessed and look forward to our continued ministries with each of you.

Thankful in Christ,

The Reverend Kelley Smart