Thanksgiving(s)

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Chapel Service

Phoenix International. Raceway

November 9, 2013

“Thanksgiving(s)”

Bob Butcher

 

 Thanksgiving brings to mind an All-American tradition that lasts today, however tainted from it’s original intent and format.  However, let me go back into history and scripture to reveal an even older format and reason for it taking place annually.  Let’s take a look.

 In order to “cut to the chase” here let remind you that Jesus sought out the outcasts, poor, sick, and reviled sinners of His day.  All of His Disciples were reviled by the religious leaders of the day (Pharisees & Sadducees).  He got into immediate trouble with them when He called fisherman, tax collectors (considered traitors also to the Jews), and other “sinner types” (breakers of their law) for His Disciples to teach and hang out with. 

 This leads us to think on what some scriptures are speaking about Jesus ministry and America’s Thanksgiving roots.  For the first thing Jesus spent a huge amount of His teaching centered around meals with unsavory, unpopular, despised people.  Eating and drinking were the center of society in all social circles. 

 Jesus had just told Levi (or Matthew, a tax collector to follow Him as a Disciple and Levi followed. Remember tax collectors wer Jews who sold out to the enemy Romans and worked for them to collect money for the Roman government.  They also took money for themselves. Let’s jump to Mark 2: 15-17:

15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees] saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”  17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

This passage of scripture describes Jesus sitting down at the table to eat and drink with fishermen, tax collectors, and common sinners.  The religious leaders considered this an offense, unclean and forbidden.

 It is amazing how many scriptures speak of how God reveals His kingdom through gatherings around the table to share a meal together.

 As race teams and NASCAR community or most any other community we are hardwired by God to celebrate life together over food and drink.  Gosh, almost every winning team goes out together to celebrate.

 Well, when we do it as Christian believers it becomes so much more than simply eating to stay alive.  It is a witness that we are grateful sons and daughters of the King waiting for the great Wedding Supper of the Lamb…(Jesus as the Bridegroom and the Church as the Bride in Revelation 19:6-9).

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)  Then the angel said to me,“Write this: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Mary Douglas, the great social anthropologist, wrote: “In every culture on the planet, meals are boundary markers.”  It determines who is in and who is out, who is clean or who is unclean.  (Try remembering your junior high lunchroom and you get the idea quickly if you were like me)

 Look at what the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2: 11-18:

11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.  14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.  17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

 Now lastly look at America on the first Thanksgiving.  There is an important issue to catch here.

On March 16, 1621 , what was to become an important event took place, an Indian brave walked into the Plymouth settlement. The Pilgrims were frightened until the Indian called out “Welcome” (in English!).  His name was Samoset and he was an Abnaki Indian. He had learned English from the captains of fishing boats that had sailed off the coast. After staying the night Samoset left the next day. He soon returned with another Indian named Squanto who spoke better English than Samoset. Squanto told the Pilgrims of his voyages across the ocean and his visits to England and Spain. It was in England where he had learned English.

Well, you likely know the story how these Indians saved the Pilgrims from starvation and taught them how to plant, fertilize and grow numerous types of food crops.  There is a lot more to the history but the result was that The Pilgrim Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to be shared by all the colonists and the neighboring Native Americans. They invited Squanto and the other Indians to join them in their celebration. Their chief, Massasoit, and 90 braves came to the celebration which lasted for 3 days. They played games, ran races, marched and played drums. The Indians demonstrated their skills with the bow and arrow and the Pilgrims demonstrated their musket skills. Exactly when the festival took place is uncertain, but it is believed the celebration took place in mid-October.

Finally there is the point that I was heading too.  The Pilgrims had been outcasts and persecuted in England and understood as the Disciples did with Jesus what it meant to be “in or out.”  They chose also to bring the Abnaki tribe into their fellowship and share with them.  (By the way, that particular tribe were also sort of outcasts in their native culture among all the tribes.)  The first Thanksgiving day began here.  Yes, it took until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed and appointed an annual Day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the blessings of the Lord upon America and all mankind.

Now isn’t it interesting that the whole thing about breaking bread together, inviting outsiders, and celebrating God’s bountiful love and blessings has never left?  My question would be:  When is the last time you, your team, your family have invited “outsiders” to your Thanksgiving or even any other holiday?  Here in our family it is quite a common practice over all the years Kathy and I have been married.  Actually, I was invited by Kathy to share Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family when I first knew her.  Amazing!

So let me share more to the message today.

When I was young Thanksgiving was a day to deer hunt.  It took until I came home from the Air Force before I understood my parent’s heart for this day.  Oh yes, we had come to a deal where I would be home for a late Thanksgiving dinner in the evening.  And yes, I did know the story of America and Thanksgiving, but really never connected it all to God’s blessing on our lives and our nation.  Today, it is a favorite holiday …and no, not only for the food either!

I am sure you know the originating story, so I will not repeat all that although we annually need to remind ourselves of the day’s importance.  

I am sure if we stopped and seriously thought about our lives that we might really realize how thankful we should be and celebrate.

Personally, I simply have to remember believing that I would never live to reach 30.  I figured that between Vietnam and racing one of them would certainly take my life.  Today, I can say how thankful I am that the Lord blessed me with life beyond 30.  It wasn’t until 32 that I met Kathy.  Then I was 36 and 38 when Leeanne & Sarah were born.  Today, I have been blessed with their children and get to share my life with them here in Oregon.  But there is far more to be thankful for.  How about you?

Since I have been so blessed to travel around so much of this world, I can say how thankful I am to be born here in America.  I am a firstborn American and my European parents were so proud of that.  All my life I heard story after story how grateful my parents were to become Americans and that my brother and I were born here in such a blessed country.  There are countries and places I love to travel, but not live.  All I have to do is think of the places in the former Soviet Bloc countries where Kathy and I have ministered to know how blessed we are today.  I only have to remember how close I have been to prison in some of those countries just for speaking the name of Jesus.

Then I have to only think a moment to know how thankful I am for God’s intervention in my life so many times.  We all can do that if we only stopped to think a few minutes and then be true to ourself.

Are you by chance aware of how closely America has followed in the footsteps of Israel as being especially created and blessed?  I rarely think it is just coincidence that we have been so blessed in our nation’s history.  In so many ways we have step by step paralleled what is often referred to as “God’s Chosen People.”  We have been blessed to have so much and sent out to share the Gospel so widely in our short national history.  Truly, it has come with a very high price, but with great honor.  Our wealth, safety, and so many blessings have come upon us throughout our history despite our own rebellion and growing unbelief just as Israel walked out before us in its history.  Simply take a look at Psalms 106 that depicts Israel’s history, rebellion, and blessings.  As you read take time to pause and process Israel’s rebelliousness and the Lord’s forgiveness and divine deliverances.  To me, God’s loving kindness to them …and us today is mindboggling. 

Thanksgiving also brings to mind that even before time as we know it began God had a plan for mankind, love for mankind, and salvation to make sure that He would have our company and worship eternally in a someday perfect world.  He knew our frailty and dealt with it the only possible way He could and still keep His perfection and not compromise anything.  All of this brings about the greatest act of love there ever has been or will ever be:  John 3:16-18.  16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.

But despite this we as humans still do not believe, trust, or even think God cares about us.  Let me show you this “conversation” that one person has with God.  Yes, it is only a story, but the truth surely speaks volumes to each one of us.

 Me: God, can I ask you a question? 
God: Sure.

Me: Promise you won’t get mad?
God: I promise.

Me: Why did you let so much bad stuff happen to me today?
God: What do you mean?
 
Me: Well, I woke up late.
God: Yes.
 
Me: My car took forever to start.
God: Okay.
 
Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong and I had to wait.
God: Hmmm!!!!
 
Me: On the way home my phone went dead just as I picked up a call.
God: Okay.
 
Me: And on top of all that, when I got home I just wanted to soak my feet in my new foot massager and relax, but it wouldn’t work!!! Nothing went right today!  Why did you do all of that to me?
God: Well, let me see.  The Angel of Death was at your bed this morning and I had to send one of the other Angels to battle him for your life.  I let you sleep through that.

Me: (humbled): OH…
GOD: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
 
Me: (ashamed)
God: The person who made your first sandwich today was sick and I didn’t want you to catch what he has.  I had someone else make another one.  I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.   

Me:(embarrassed): Ok…
God: Your phone went dead because the person who was calling was going to give false witness about what you said during that call.  I didn’t even let you talk to them so that you would be covered.
 
Me: (softly) I see, God.
God: Oh, and that foot massager had a short that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight.  I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.

Me: I’m sorry God.
God: Don’t be sorry, just learn to trust me in all things, the good and the bad.
Me: I will trust you.
God: And don’t doubt that MY plan for your day is always better than your plan.

Me: I won’t, God.  And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.

God: You’re welcome, child.  It was just another day being your God, and I love looking after my children.

I know that might be a simple story, but so often we tend to fit exactly into this same type scenario without even realizing it.  Too often we simply complain or blame God for the slightest change to the way we think things should go. 

When one considers Thanksgiving one has only to go to King David and his Thanksgiving stated in Psalms 103. If you are not familiar with David’s life please consider checking his story out in the Bible in 1st and 2nd Samuel.  If you think you got a hard life take a look at his.  After all he went though David this Thanksgiving:

 Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.  Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.  He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!  The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.  He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.  The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.  10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.  11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  13 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  14 For he knows how weak we are;  he remembers we are only dust.  15 Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. 16 The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.  17 But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children 18 of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!  19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything.  20 Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands.  21 Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will!  22 Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom.  Let all that I am praise the Lord. 

Father, today I give thanks that Your faithful love endures forever! You have rescued us, from our enemies, and redeemed us from our foes..(and ourselves). Even when we have rebelled against You, You still save us! (Note Psalm 106) Thank you Father, for never giving up on me.  Truly, that is a reason for Thanksgiving in itself. -In Jesus name, Amen.

Please join Kathy and I and our family and enjoy the wonder of Thanksgiving this year.  Take time to love on family and friends and celebrate the treasures that God has placed within our lives… and invite a guest to share it with you!

2014-02-28T08:58:30+00:00