MANY PEOPLE OFFER UP THANKSGIVING, BUT FEW ARE TRULY THANKFUL
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE REFORMED CHURCH
IN ATHENS, NEW YORK
FOR THE COMMUNITY THANKSGIVING EVE SERVICE
23 NOVEMBER 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Those of you, who know me, know that I am far from being a cynic, but from the title of tonight's sermon, one might think otherwise.
"Many People Offer Up Thanksgiving, But Few Are Truly Thankful."
I make this bold statement, not because I'm cynical, but because I'm observant and boldly honest; and because my heart is breaking just as the Lord's is, when I see all the hardness of heart around me.
For if we are truly thankful to God, we would live like it for the other 364-1/4 days of the year.
And yes, I know you're here because you are truly interested in offering thanks to the Lord for all He has done.
But when we live in a world that is growing harder of heart by the day, it is all too easy to forget our true love.
We need to be reminded from time to time.
But more importantly, we need to be reminded to remind others, too.
This is also the state of affairs that existed in Israel some 2,600 years ago, in the days of Amos.
And Amos accepted the call of God to speak to the people about their hardness of heart, and about their false offerings of thanksgiving.
Listen to what he said to them and to the Lord's sarcastic words (Amos 4:4-5):
4. "Enter Bethel and transgress;
In Gilgal multiply transgression!
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
Your tithes every three days.
5. "Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,
And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known.
For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,"
Declares the Lord God.
If we go to church every Sunday,
If we offer up prayers of thanksgiving,
Even multiplied prayers of thanksgiving,
If we give to feed and clothe the poor and needy,
And we are not truly thankful, it all means nothing.
If we are truly thankful, we will obey the Lord our God.
And if we are obeying the Lord our God, then others will see it expressed in our unconditional love and compassion.
For it is only through unconditional love and compassion that we can ever hope to obey all the Lord's commandments, for only this kind of love is capable of fulfilling them.
So, if this is the intent or our hearts, then we should offer up our prayers of thanksgiving, for they will be heard and accepted and, in return, we will receive the blessing of the Lord.
And remember, even Jesus gave thanks, as when He fed the multitude (Matthew 15:34-37):
34. And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few small fish."
35. And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground;
36. and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples in turn, to the multitudes.
37. And they all ate, and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.
And remember that the two fish were already dead, so He didn't have to kill any others, nor did he have to bake any more bread; He just multiplies what was given to Him.
Jesus offered up heartfelt thanks, and in return, He and the others received the blessing.
But why would Jesus have to thank His Father, for They are One?
Because while He remained in the body of a human, He was, in effect, a little lower in position.
His offering of thanksgiving was for the power given to Him, for the food present, and for the abundance to follow.
Now, Jesus is Lord and King and God; if He offers up truly thankful prayers, how much more do we need to do the same!
Remember also the thanksgiving that Jesus gave when He served the bread and wine at the Passover supper (Matthew 26:26-28):
26. And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
27. And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you;
28. for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Here, Jesus isn't just offering up thanks for the bread and wine; He's offering up thanks for His own human body that was to pay the price of sin for everyone who would receive it.
And, in offering up Himself as the final sacrifice, He was ending the concession God granted the people to sacrifice animals, which the people didn't officially accept or do until the Temple was destroyed twenty-some years later.
Therefore, shouldnít every meal be a reminder to us as well, that we offer up thanksgiving for what we have before us?
Not only the food of the current meal, but also the spiritual food Jesus offers us: His body and blood that will sustain us into everlasting life.
Isnít this something to be thankful for at every meal, and even with every snack?
We need to recognize the gift of God in everything, and be continually thankful.
Do we give thanks in restaurants, and in other public places, not to attract attention to ourselves, but as an example to others, and because of the fact that we are truly thankful?
And as with the thank offering over the bread and fish, that they would multiply to feed the thousands, so are we to be thankful for things that have not happened yet.
Jesus did this before He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:40-42):
40. Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?"
41. And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me.
42. "And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me."
Isn't this similar to what we mentioned about giving thanks in restaurants?
If we are truly thankful in our hearts, God knows it, but when we express it openly, others come to know it, too.
And in the process, hopefully they will recognize all they have to be thankful for as well, even before they have it.
True thankfulness is not some canned prayer we offer from time to time.
It's not even some words from our heart we offer up at some special time.
True thankfulness is much more than all these things.
True thankfulness is a state of being.
True thankfulness is part of our everlasting love relationship with God.
True thankfulness is part of the joy of being here tonight, and being in each otherís presence.
True thankfulness is knowing we are always in the presence of the Lord.
True thankfulness is that absolute assurance that God loves us.
And true thankfulness is sharing that love and compassion with everyone else, and the whole of God's creation.
Your Comments are welcome
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