Pastor Jim Jackson
Richmond Hill Presbyterian Church
Chances at least that some of you past age 60 remember your parents urging you to be thankful. I remember such a scene when I was resisting eating my dinner which included green beans. They weren’t from a can; no they were fresh from the garden.
Somehow I imagined they had scratchy surfaces like cockroach legs. Putting them in my mouth was unthinkable, while chewing and swallowing them seemed impossible. I resisted. Then came the demand: “Do realize how many hungry children in China would love to have those on their plate? You should be thankful for what’s set before you.” I never understood how my reluctance to eating green beans would help hungry children in China, I perceived those words of instruction and intimidation as a demand. It was something like: “shame on you, be thankful.”
But think about it with me. How real is thanksgiving offered upon demand?
You might hear it from some ungrateful lips, but it surely doesn’t come from the heart.
Meaningful thanksgiving is voluntary upon our personal recognition of the good that comes to our lives—good that we haven’t earned or even deserved. I speak of grace experienced, grace given to us by God and those who love us without qualification on our part, sometimes grace freely given to us by others. As for me I am grateful to God for loving me when I even have difficultly loving myself. And one of the ways I’ve enjoyed it has been when God’s grace has been extended to me through people for whom I served as pastor, allowing me to simply be who I am, accepting both my gifts and shortcomings. No one demanded: “Now you love those people who make up this church.” No, my thanks comes from the heart, totally unleashed and fully expressed. Thanks to God and to those who served me while I was serving them.
Worship has a way of evoking thanksgiving. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s thanksgiving from a grateful heart. Worship overflows with thanks giving, and that not demanded.
Worship evokes thanksgiving.