Give Thanks in the Midst
Psalm 100: A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Thanksgiving is such a funny holiday to me. Most of the pictures in our culture of what thanksgiving is supposed to be fall into two categories. We tend to anticipate either a magazine thanksgiving or a sitcom thanksgiving.
The magazine thanksgiving is found in the pages of Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, or Martha Stewart Living. The centerpieces involve beautiful cornucopias or mason jars filled with cranberries. The table is set with beautiful perfect plates, and the napkins are neatly folded or stuffed into neat homemade napkin rings. And the turkey. The Turkey is 30 pounds, that perfect color, carved beautifully. The pies, the cranberry sauce, and the mashed potatoes all homemade and everyone is dressed in cozy sweaters and big smiles.
The TV sitcom thanksgiving on the other hand is different. A big family coming from near and far to gather around one big table for this one big important meal. Some characters have high hopes for the day and others are already strategizing how they will get through it. Some plan the schedule and organize everything for the food. Others stand in the kitchen and offer not so helpful advice. More sit in the living room and catch up with cousins, siblings, aunts, and uncles that they haven’t seen in a while. Before long everything is going wrong. People get in fights, turkeys are ruined, and last minuet trips to the grocery store to fight over that last can of cranberry sauce are made. The situation dissolves into madness and we get to laugh and give thanks that our own family celebrations will, hopefully, never go that badly.
I think our actual experience of thanksgiving is somewhere in between Martha Stewart Living and Everybody Loves Raymond. Some things turn out, some things don’t. There is laughter and fun but also awkward moments and difficult interactions.
Psalm 100 is all about this kind of thanksgiving. It is a call to praise, a call to thanksgiving and we find it in the middle of these different kinds of Prayers and Praises. Amid the full range of human experience, we are called to give thanks.
Psalm 100 contains seven verbs for how we should respond to God six of those verbs are things we can do. Ways that we can express our thanks. We can shout, worship or serve, we can come into his presence, we can enter, we can Give thanks like we are doing today, or we can bless his name. But right still in the middle of those expressions we are invited to know.
To know that the Lord is God and to know who we are in relation to him. In the midst of these ways to praise God we are called to know, we are called to understand the world and our lives differently than other people do. Despite the circumstances, in the midst of difficulty we don’t have to pretend that everything is fine. We aren’t called to fake it till we make it. We are called to know. To know that God is God, to know that He made us, to be reminded, to know that we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Out of that knowing we can praise and we can give thanks despite the things all around us.
So, this year if you found yourself having a Martha Stewart thanksgiving or an Everybody Loves Raymond thanksgiving.
If you find yourself in the midst of great Joy and laughter give thanks to the God who gives good gifts.
If you find yourself in the midst great fear and uncertainty, if you find yourself recovering from sorrow or pain, if you find yourself alone in a crowd, fighting with your family, and frustrated with your friends, if your thanksgiving did not live up to what you had hoped.
Remember to give thanks for the ultimate gift he gave us, the life of his son, and the chance to be reconciled again to our creator. Remember that he sought after you when you were far away, remember that he drew you back to him even though you were still a sinner.