First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, – 1 Timothy 2:1 ESV
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, officially the best American Holiday in my book. I say that mostly for all the cliched reasons. It’s a day of hearth and home and football. It is a day that connects me with a childhood soundtrack that includes farm reports on the local AM radio and the end of harvest worries. It’s a day that doesn’t demand much. Christmas always tries to bum rush everything before it. Today the only thing standing in its way are the ghouls of Halloween. I never thought I’d find myself cheering for the zombies. Given two months run up, what is under the tree, even if it is a literal golden horde, doesn’t meet the hype. With Easter the American commercialization machine tried with the Bunny and some Cadbury Eggs to Santa Claus the Holy Day, but it just wasn’t able. The Schools moved breaks such that if you get Good Friday off you are fortunate, which I took as the cultural white flag. Easter remains a Holy Day, not a holiday. But that also means it isn’t really shared other than within the church. All Thanksgiving ever promised was a good meal and a pause. A pause that you can fill with whatever wells up within you.
Thanksgiving itself is of course a completely natural expression of the faith. If the people of God would not bring forth praise and thanksgiving, the stones would cry out. But the American Holiday isn’t technically on the church calendar. So every year when I think about a Thanksgiving service it is mostly about those hymns of harvest, hearth and home. But the big book of strong suggestions – that Altar Book – provides at least three modes of thanksgiving. There are texts and prayers associated with a simple Harvest Observance. There are texts and prayers stipulated for a Day of Thanksgiving. And there are texts and prayers for a Day of Supplication and Prayer.
I take those three categories as general buckets of what wells up within us. There is an internet invective – “Touch Grass” – that I find funny. It is telling the too online to log off and go outside. We were made to tend a garden originally. Even for the most city mouse imaginable, there is good in being connected to the rhythms of life. And one of those rhythms is the harvest. Knowing that when you sow, you will also reap. Knowing that you plant a seed and we know not how but it germinates and grows and provides a harvest – 30, 60 even 100 fold. Unless we have cut ourselves off from all things vital, a harvest celebration wells up good things.
The Day of Thanksgiving is more official. If the harvest is bottoms up, the Day of Thanksgiving is tops down. The American Presidents have a tradition of issuing Thanksgiving Proclamations. They existed prior of course, but George Washington issued a famous one. And these are completely appropriate. We can get wrapped up in work and play and life – like the 9 lepers – that we never stop for a second to reflect and return. Jesus, the King himself asks “where are the other nine?” Having a leadership wise enough to say “today, stop, take stock, enjoy the blessings and return appropriate gratitude” is good and right.
It is the last category that maybe we – the children of materially fat years – pass over too quickly, that day of supplication and prayer. Satan’s tricks are many. We don’t think about it, but the Northern Kingdom of Israel was the worldly successful one. They were fat, dumb and happy. It is the world before the flood. It is Sodom knocking on Lot’s door, so attractive that his wife turned around in lament even knowing what would happen. It is the merchants crying over Babylon in Revelation. They are no longer connected to the source of the rain that produces their prosperity. They no longer have officials wise enough to remind them to give thanks. But the prophet Joel shows up and tells them, “Yet even now return to me with all your heart…the LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…who knows whether he will not turn and relent and leave behind him a blessing, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God. (Joel 2:12-14).” Thanksgiving in prayer and supplication is a renewal of the covenant. And the providence of God is always enough for his people.
Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wonderous things has done, in whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms Has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.