Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a special Thursday set aside for giving thanks.
When I consider Thanksgiving Day there are a few mental images that always make their way into my thoughts. First my mind’s eyes revert back almost half a century to the third floor windows of my 5th grade classroom. Those windows looked out across a bleak and bleary poor coal town in eastern Pennsylvania. In my memory those November days were always cloudy. Though some were undoubtedly clear and sunny that is not the way I remember them. When my memories of thanksgiving take me back it is not that poor mining community the windows display, instead I see the brightly colored turkey feathers. Each individual window pane in that room held one student’s artistic rendition of a thanksgiving gobbler in all of its Crayola splendor. When I think of that I am thankful. It is not the paper turkeys I am grateful for but rather the woman that stood at the front of the room. That woman, our teacher was an amazing person. She loved us all and wanted the very best for us. Her name was Phyllis Biga and she was the best teacher I had in 13 years of public education. I was schooled in six different towns in three different states and across them all she was the best. Miss Biga taught me the importance of a solid vocabulary, she was the one who helped me understand that people would judge me by the words that I used and so those words mattered. She taught me a love for history and though some of it was ugly and downright wrong to have been a part of our countries story, she taught us that if we viewed it correctly we could learn from it and become even stronger as a people and a nation. She taught me the importance of our political system and I have never been uninterested in a presidential election since the one she introduced me to in 1976 where Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford to become the 39th President of the United States. So when my mind’s eye looks back through the years and through those 3rd story classroom windows I am thankful for Miss Biga.
Another perennial picture that comes to mind on thanksgiving is one most of us have seen. “Freedom From Want” is a Norman Rockwell painting that actually first appeared in the New York Post on March 6, 1943. Many of us don’t recognize the name of the artwork but know very well what it looks like. It is the iconic Thanksgiving painting depicting a family all gathered around the table as the matriarch settled the platter holding the perfectly cooked turkey into its place on the linen tablecloth below while her husband looks on. That image, though painted 23 years before I was even born, has always made me think of a particular thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother and grandfather Brown’s home. Actually it is reminiscent of almost every thanksgiving meal I ever partook of at there, but especially reminds me of just one. On that day my grandmother had placed my brother Gary and I at the foot of the table on the piano bench with our parents on either side. There were likely no less than 20 people gathered into the crowded dining room. For reasons I have not yet settled in my mind, as soon as Grandpa closed his long-winded yet genuinely heartfelt thanksgiving prayer with the “Amen” I picked up my glass of milk and poured it directly into my brother’s lap. The chaos that ensued was incredible! All at the same time mom looked at me like I had lost my senses, aunts jumped to retrieve tea towels to mop up the floor and my dad whisked my brother away to change his pants. What I remember most though was grandmas voice as she cleaned up the milk from her cherished piano bench I was now standing next to. She laughed as that coarse yet sweet voice said, “We shan’t cry over spilt milk Kenny Jr.” to this day I’m not sure which one of us she was admonishing not to cry, me or her. When I think of that Thanksgiving I am thankful for grandma and grandpa Brown. I am thankful for the things they taught me about the importance of marriage, family, and never crying over spilt milk. I am in great part the man, husband, father, counselor, pastor and Christ-follower that I am because of them and their example.
Today I will gather with my family to celebrate thanksgiving except this time I am the grandpa or as my grandchildren call me, Papa. I am the one who will stand and pray a long winded prayer over the meal and the family. Not because I want to sound especially holy but because I am especially grateful. I am very thankful for the nearly 30 people who will be crowded into the room around the table. I know how good God has been to me, and that I don’t deserve any of it. So my coarse voice will undoubtedly crack as I give thanks for all we have as a family in Jesus and in each other. I will choose my words carefully just like Miss Biga taught me to do because they matter. As a family, are we perfect? No, but as grandma said, “We shan’t cry over spilt milk”. We will give thanks.
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever. That verse is repeated at least five times in the Bible, once in 1st Chronicles and at least four more times in the Psalms. When a particular phrase or verse is repeated in God’s word it can only mean one thing. It bears repeating, so say it with me…Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good and His mercy endures forever… again… Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good and His mercy endures forever… c’mon, one more time…Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good and His mercy endures forever.
So now, with a grateful heart for a God who loved you so much that He was willing to send His one and only Son to die for your sins so that you could live with Him in heaven forever… Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good and His mercy endures forever. With that thought in your heart, and those words on your lips…go be Awesome!