Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…  

“It is not happy people who are grateful, it is grateful people who are happy.”

I think on this thought a lot. I once read of a seminary professor who was blessed with a rather stunning conversation with his father. His father had experienced a life-threatening medical emergency, and had emerged weeks later from his trauma. As he was lying in the back seat being driven home from the hospital he said to his pastor- son, “I prayed that God would show himself to me as I was preparing to die. He never did. I am grateful my prayer was not answered.” His somewhat stunned son asked, “Why Dad, why are you grateful?”

His father went on to express a gratitude for the gift of faith that had been given to him that was not dependent on his senses or experiences. Whether he lived or whether he died faith would be enough. He was grateful. His son wrote of the quiet smile he saw on his father’s tired face. Gratitude makes happy possible. Even in the most counter intuitive moments.

2020 — There is so much that has gone wrong. So much loss, so much pain, so much disappointment to be felt from people in power. So much pandemic disease and death. So much inequity leaving close to 30% of our population food insecure. How does that happen? How does the wealthiest nation on the planet have so much inequity? The pain being experienced by so much of our population makes the thought of a happy Thanksgiving a ridiculous premise for many of our neighbors. I cannot think of one person who is not hungry for 2020 to go away. Begone 2020, begone!! Soon.

Today is Thanksgiving. Most of us will gather in smaller groups than in the past. Brenda and I will miss some of our children. Or, maybe some of us will gather with family virtually. Or, maybe some of us will not gather at all. Or, we will watch football. Or, we will watch the Macy’s parade. We will carve up a turkey, or maybe it will be a hamburger. We will possibly reflect on a childlike memory of pilgrims gathered with indigenous people around a table of plenty (rather than being reminded that the first Thanksgiving gathering was really a celebration of the colonists slaying 700 Pequot men, women, and children in 1637). But regardless of our circumstances or our nation’s history it will be Thanksgiving, 2020. Can I get a “Woo Hoo?”

I like to think of this day with a hyphen, Thanks-giving. The consequence of being thankful is to be a giving person. The consequence of being thankful is generosity. It is who we become. In the same way gratitude begets happy, thankful begets generous.

There is consensus that Paul’s first epistle was his first letter to the church in Thessalonica. To this young, vulnerable church of converts Paul writes words of encouragement, support, and assurance of Christ’s commitment to their salvation. Despite persecution Paul concludes with, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” There is an important distinction to be parsed from Paul’s words. He does not say give thanks for all circumstances, but give thanks regardless of circumstances. A spirit of thankfulness is in and of itself a sign of God’s presence, of God’s blessing.

Every age has had difficult times. Despite the evidence, however counter intuitive it might appear, these are precisely the days when those who call Jesus Lord rise up in a spirit of Thanks-giving. Our spirit of gratitude for the Lord Jesus is manifest in a generosity that is intent on changing the world, and as a result we find joy. We give thanks this day for our Church community that delights in being generous. We give thanks for brothers and sisters of faith who love us with a fervor that loosens whatever chains we have dragged with us through life. We give thanks for a Pastor and a church staff that shepherd us through these difficult days. The list goes on.

May God bless our Thanks-giving despite our circumstances. We are in this together and I am grateful. Oh, in the interest of full disclosure, I will probably still slip into a turkey/gravy food coma today. And thank you for your grace that allows me and others to wordsmith with you in this forum. You make us a gift by encouraging us to offer these devotional thoughts.

Soon and very soon,
Pastor Tom