The Fruit of Thanksgiving
Sermon Title: The Fruit of Thanksgiving
Good News Statement: God provides us with thanksgiving
Preached: Sunday, November 21, 2021 at First Baptist Church of Robinson, IL for the County Thanksgiving Service
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NRSV): Psalm 100: This evening’s scripture reading comes from Psalm chapter one-hundred. In a season of Thanksgiving, it’s important to pause and reflect upon what God invites us to do when it comes time to offer thanks. Listen to the words of the Psalmist:
All Lands Summoned to Praise God
A Psalm of thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Good evening everyone! My name is Pastor Daniel Skelton, and I am the Pastor at Dogwood Prairie United Methodist Church and Seed Chapel United Methodist Church in Oblong. It is an honor, gift, and a privilege to be able to share the word of God with you.
For those of you who have never heard me speak, this could be your lucky day or could be a day in which you wish to forget. I will leave it up to you; but hopefully, it’s the former! But, for those who haven’t heard me speak, I usually like to begin with some humor. I do this because our lives can get hectic and sometimes we need that gentle reminder, that gentle nudge, that with God by our side it’s okay to laugh even when life just seems unfair. About 99.9% of my jokes are kid friendly because my nine-year-old nephew sends them to me. And so, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I asked my nephew if he would be willing to share with me some Thanksgiving jokes. This is what he sent me:
-Why did Mom’s turkey seasoning taste a little off last year? She ran out of thyme.
-What’s the official dance of Thanksgiving called? The turkey trot.
-What’s one thing that you’ll have in common with a teddy bear on Thanksgiving? You’ll both be filled with stuffing.
-What was the turkey suspected of? Fowl Play.
-What’s a running turkey called? Fast food.
-And lastly, what should you say when your family begs you to stop making these jokes? “I can’t quit cold turkey.”
Thanksgiving is one of America’s oldest and most beloved and fulfilling holidays. As a matter of fact, it is recorded in most, if not all, history textbooks, that the very first Thanksgiving meal took place in December of 1621 in the Plymouth Colony of present day Massachusetts.
While it’s not known whether the Plymouth colonists repeated the 1621 celebration in subsequent years, the tradition of giving thanks to God merged with celebrations of the harvest to become a fall tradition. As a matter of fact, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the final Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving holiday for the first time (www.history.com).
Here is some other food for thought catered to the holiday of Thanksgiving: According to history.com, President John F. Kennedy was the first President to pardon a turkey. The first President to receive a ceremonial Thanksgiving turkey was President Harry S. Truman. President Thomas Jefferson refused to celebrate Thanksgiving; and Benjamin Franklin considered making the turkey our national bird. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, how much does the heaviest turkey on record weigh? 86 pounds! On average, about how many turkeys are prepared for Thanksgiving in America each year? About 46 million turkeys! How many Americans prefer Thanksgiving leftovers to Thanksgiving dinner? About 80 percent of Americans! About how many people attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade each year? About 3.5 million people!
From its roots in the Plymouth harvest celebration to Lincoln recognizing Thanksgiving as a national holiday to millions of Americans gathered to eat leftovers, we can trace the origins of the annual celebration of family, food and gratitude we know today; and in doing so, we find that the ultimate root of our ability and willingness to give thanks rests in the hands of our Creator. Because of God’s work of bringing people together in 1621, we, today, are called to give thanks to God for all that He has done, is doing, and will do in our life. The time has come, as the Psalmist proclaims, to give thanks to our LORD eternally (Psalm 30:12). But what are we actually saying when we give thanks?
Let us pray… Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the opportunity to gather together to give thanks to you. Lord, help us to understand what it means to give thanks in our life so that we will be eternally blessed in your kingdom. I pray that my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In your name we pray, Amen.
Have you ever thought about what you might be saying when say thank you? According to the New York Daily News, “New research reveals [that the average person will] say thank you 2,000 times a year…but more than half of the time [they] don’t actually mean it.” If I did my math correctly, this equates to having the average person saying thank you 5.5 times a day but only meaning it about 2.75 times per day. Now that is a pretty small, yet powerful realization, when considering that the average person will speak anywhere from 7,000 to 20,000 words per day.
Again according to the New York Daily News, “Merci Chocolates polled 2,000 Americans to better understand what “thank you” really means and the ways in which we show gratitude in our fast-moving modern lives. Results showed that “40% of those questioned said they often don’t show any gratitude at all for things they know they are actually thankful for.” The study continued by highlighting how age plays a factor in our ability or willingness to say thank you. “Interestingly,” stated a spokesperson from Merci Chocolates, “the results showed that the older we get, the more likely we are to mean what we say — those under 25 years old were nearly twice as likely to be insincere in their thanks versus someone aged over 55.
Another spokesperson noted, “We move so fast today and sometimes we’re on autopilot, saying things out of habit without properly conveying our gratitude.” When we say things on autopilot, what we say can leave those around us feeling underappreciated or thinking we’re insincere. Saying or showing gratitude is a simple gesture that, when delivered properly, can have a big impact and truly brighten someone’s day. The survey concluded by pointing out that nearly half (49%) of those surveyed believed saying “thanks” or “thank you” has lost its true meaning. Why do you all think? So I ask again, have you ever thought about what you might be saying when say thank you? And when you do, are you saying it out of habit or are you being sincere?
Depending on the translation that you read from, the word “thanks” appears approximately 143 times, excluding the Apocrypha text, in the Bible. And of those 143 times, the word “thanks” appears in the Psalms 55 times. The Psalmist, like we read earlier, is trying to tell us something: that it’s time to mean what we say because God deserves to hear our thanks. Before we can understand the Psalmist, we first must understand what we are saying when we say “thank you.”
In the Hebrew language, “thanks” is often translated as ‘toda’ (toe-dah) which means confession. When we confess something, more often than not, we are either publically or privately acknowledging that something in our life deserves attention. For example, Psalm 95:2 states, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” In this verse, the Psalmist is confessing that we are to enter into the presence of the LORD with a “cheerful heart” to use the words of King Solomon. Psalm 92:1 states, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD….” It is good to confess to the LORD that we need Him in our life. When we say thank you, we are confessing that 1) we appreciate what the other person has done for us, and 2) what the other person has done for us is something that we needed in our life to make our life a little easier.
Just think about the moments in your life when you were approaching any door, with arms full of groceries, and someone opened the door for you. The person just made your life a little easier. For those who have siblings that stood up for you, which might have been a very rare occasion, they made your life a little easier because you avoided the wooden spoon. Every day, whether it’s you or someone else, there are moments that make life a little easier; but have you confessed and sincerely said thank you in those moments. So thank you is another way of confessing.
Now in Greek, the word “thanks” is more involved. In Greek, “thank you” is pronounced eucharisto which is often translated as pardon. The idea of pardon is associated with celebrating the Eucharist or Holy Communion. Nonetheless, the root word of eucharisto is the word charis. Charis has several meanings: grace, favor, and kindness, all of which define “thank you” in their own right.
Charis as grace is by far the most common interpretation. The Apostle Paul is said to be the main contributor to guiding people towards grace through his epistles. Grace is often defined as something by which is given to us by God as a gift. Paul writes in Romans 3:24, “[They] are now justified by his grace as a gift…” Saying thank you or giving thanks should not be something we force ourselves to say. It should not be said between clenched teeth—something that may happen when we gather with friends and family whom we don’t necessarily agree with. (Remember what Solomon said in Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools who keep silent are considered wise; when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.” Just think about that come Thanksgiving.) Rather, saying thank you should be a gift that comes from our heart and enters into the hearts of those around us. This was John Wesley’s understanding of grace: grace that is gifted by God for all God’s people.
Similar to what John Wesley—the founding father of Methodism—said about grace, Rebekah Miles highlights in the book Where Do We Go From Here. She articulates God’s grace “leads people toward greater love of God and neighbor, toward holiness of heart and life, and toward forming and reforming each other” (Kevin Slimp, 149). Simply by saying thank you, you are inviting others to know God and you are offering grace and letting them know how important they are in your life. By saying thank you, you are not only leading others toward greater love, holiness, and togetherness, but you are leading yourself towards these things as well.
Charis is also translated as favor. What does it mean to favor someone or something? For me, it means that I have chosen that person or thing above everything else; I have a strong liking, approval, or preference. I often try to figure out who my parents favor more: do they favor my brother who drops his kids off at their house for the weekend, is it my other brother who does random projects for them, is it my sister who lives in North Carolina so my parents get to escape from their busy lives whenever they visit her; or is it me, the one who can bless them and listen to their confessions. My mom would say she doesn’t have favorites. Now my dad would say Jackson is his favorite…Jackson is my parent’s dog. But what is it that makes someone or something your favorite?
You may have a favorite color. You may have a favorite breed of dog or cat; you may even have a favorite shirt or place to go eat. You may even have a favorite aunt, uncle, cousin, brother, sister, or friend. Whether it’s a person or thing, you favor certain things in your life. But why? Because they bring you joy, you like them more than other things, they challenge you, and they remind you of you. The list could go on and on and on. No matter the reason why you like something or someone, you show favoritism because that thing or person as impacted your life. What they did caused you to notice them. Like the person who held the door open for you when your hands were full of groceries, you said thank you because you noticed them and they impacted your life by making your life a little easier. When you say thank you, you provided favor because you took the time to notice and appreciate what the person or thing did in your life.
Psalm 100:2 states, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” The LORD is God and because we know this, we know that He has made us. If God was willing to take the time to make you and you and you and you, then we should be willing to show Him favor: we should be willing to give thanks to Him in “all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Do you favor the LORD?
Lastly, charis means kindness. When looking up definitions of favor, kindness was mentioned. One definition read that favor is an “act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.” The Greek word for “kind” is chrestos meaning ‘useful.’ To be kind is to act humbly in the presence of others. Kindness involves action: it involves a state of being useful for someone else. Kindness is that gentle reminder, like saying thank you, that let’s others know that they have been noticed and are appreciated for what they have done. When you say thank you, you are offering kindness where kindness is deserved.
What I appreciate about charis meaning kindness is the connection that it offers to the Fruit of the Spirit. Paul writes in his epistle to the Galatians, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Isn’t that what we are offering and saying when we say thank you? I hope your answer is yes! When you take the time to truly and honestly say thank you, you are sharing with others what God has, is, and will give you. God will give you the Fruit of the Spirit when you take time to confess, to offer grace, to show favor towards, and to be kind to others. When you say thank you, you are showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to the person who has made your life just a little bit easier.
Psalm 100:3 reads, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.” When you enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise give thanks to him for everything that he has done, is doing, and will do in your life, remember that you are confessing to the one whom you favor and show kindness towards: God is the one who deserves our true thanksgiving. Because he brought together the people of 1621, we, today, are able to gather with family and friends around a common table where love and joy are shared in unison. Saying thank you is more than something we say: it is an act of kindness that shows others that they are favored by and deserve God’s grace just as much as we do.
It’s time to mean what we say. It’s time to say thank you in the way that God intended his people to do so—with praise, with thanksgiving, with love and adoration. It’s time to fully acknowledge as the Psalmist writes, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). For this Thanksgiving I challenge you to mean what you say when you say thank you. Give thanks with a grateful heart to the hands that helped prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Give thanks with kindness, grace, and favor to all those whom you gather with. Give thanks knowing that God’s love endures forever. Give thanks for things you are thankful for. Give thanks because God is good. And give God the thanks the thanks that He deserves. So for the last time, “Have you ever thought about what you might be saying when say thank you?”
Let us Pray…Dear Heavenly Father, help us to remember to give you praise and thanksgiving. It is because of you that we are here today, so let us be thankful for everything that you have done, are doing, and will do for us. Help us to confess and offer grace and kindness as we give you our favor. In your name we pray, Amen. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
As you pause this holiday season whether to eat more leftovers or just to relax, take time to give thanks, and to remember what you are saying when you say “thank you.” Remember the charis—the grace, favor and kindness—in your life. What are you thankful for? In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace and thanksgiving as you live wisely and well in God’s world. Amen.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!