Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

The Sermon, part 18: Forgiveness

Read Matthew 6:14-15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:4, NLT)

unidos-en-la-fe-imagenes-cristianas-con-la-cruzAs was mentioned in the previous devotion, Jesus sets the model for how we should pray. Included in that model is the act of forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” Jesus prayed. Debts, obviously, is a term that indicates finances are involved. Those of us who have ever taken out a loan, or borrowed from a friend, are all too familiar with what a debt is. Similarly, those of us who have loaned stuff out and waited for it to be paid back, know what it means to have debtors beholden to us.

I think it is important that we look at Jesus’ words in the Lord’s Prayer, so that we can best contextualize them as well as understand the words that follow them. In the prayer, Jesus prays that God forgives our “debts” (ὀφείλημα, pronounced of-i’-lay-mah) just as we forgive our “debtors” (ὀφειλέτης, pronounced of-i-let’-ace). The Greek word for debt means “something that is owed”. With that said, the word is not so black and white, as it can also mean a sin or a moral fault. In other words, debt (ὀφείλημα) can be taken in both the literal sense of one owing someone money or property, and it can be taken in the spiritual sense of one owing God reparation for his or her sins.

There are some that want to merely see sins in this verse, and there are some Bible translations that choose to interpret this verse as “sins”; however, it is important to point out that in doing so, these translators are taking a stance that matches their theology as to what Jesus is saying here. So, if one sees Jesus’ primary mission as saving people from their sins, he or she will translate this word as “sins”. Conversely, if a translator sees Jesus’ primary mission as standing in solidarity with and liberating the oppressed (including impoverished people who are in debt to those oppressing them), then he or she will translate this word as “debts”.

Both positions, as I see it, are gravely mistaken because they both fail to see the poetic subtlety in Jesus’ words. How do we know this for sure? Because in verses 12-13, Jesus chooses a word that explicitly means debts (though, more subtly, it could mean sins); however, in verse 14-15, Jesus uses a word that explicitly means sins. The use of the two words in reference to forgiveness tells us that Jesus doesn’t see this as an “either/or”, but a “both/and”.

Jesus’ mission was both to save people from their sins, and it was to stand in solidarity with and liberate the poor. The two missions are not mutually exclusive of each other; rather, they are an intertwined and connected purpose with in the same mission. Salvation from sin equals a liberation of the poor and the oppressed, for sin is what leads to the evil of oppression and abject poverty.  If people didn’t sin, they would oppress others, nor would they hold people indebted to them to the point of impoverishment.

What’s more, without sin people wouldn’t have the corrupt notion of “owning” property and goods for everything that we possess is, theologically speaking, given to us from God. That is why the early church members gave all of their belongings to the whole community, to be shared in equally with each other for the good of the whole community. These earliest Christians were making The Lord’s Prayer a lived reality in their communities. And this is what we are called to do as well.

Jesus couldn’t be any clearer, if we forgive those who sin against us (spiritually or physically), then we are in line with God’s forgiveness and will receive it; however, if we harden our hearts to forgiving others, then we are not in line with God’s forgiveness and we have hardened our hearts to the forgiveness God wishes to give to us. Hardened hearts will not receive forgiveness because they refuse to, just as surely as hardened hearts refuse to forgive. So here’s the key truth for us to reflect on: FORGIVENESS IS THE KEY TO BEING CHRISTIAN.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
To offer forgiveness is to show thankfulness to the infinite times God has forgiven you. Happy Thanksgiving!

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to forgive. Amen.

Thanksgiving Day

Read Psalm 100

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7 NLT)

FirstThanksgivingBigWell, it is getting to be that time isn’t it. Tomorrow is the holiday that we in America call Turkey day…I mean Thanksgiving Day. After all, not all of us eat Turkey, and all of the turkeys that survive T-Day are ever thankful for that! All jokes aside, this is the holiday that begs Americans to remember the story of the Pilgrims. When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts in 1620, they were not prepared for life in the wilderness and they did not really know what to grow or when to grow it. Enter in the Native Americans, namely the Wampanoag tribe, who taught the settlers how to survive (including how to grow and harvest their food) in exchange for protection against tribal enemies.

By the time of the first Thanksgiving meal, there were only 50 out of 100 Pilgrims alive to share in the meal. Half of them had died during the first winter in the New World. Those remaining Pilgrims invited 90 Wompanoag to share with them in a feast, as a way of giving thanks to them and to God for their alliance and survival. Of course there is a ton more to the history than what I have recounted here; however, this is the gist of the story that the Thanksgiving Day observance in the U.S. is centered on.

Of course, it wasn’t long before more settlers showed up in Massachusetts and it is quite unfortunate that the original thankfulness that the Pilgrims had shown toward their Native American neighbors had all but been forgotten. The rest is sadly history. The European settlers flourished and grew in numbers, while the Wampanoag suffered major losses in their population. The European settlers, unbeknownst to them, brought bacteria and illnesses which killed many within the Wampanoag tribe. On top of that, with the European settlers came Western Civilization and it’s wars. One such war was King Phillip’s war, where the English colonists and their Native American allies fought against other Native American tribes. During that war, the Wampanog lost over 40 percent of its population and many of the surviving males in their tribe were sold into slavery in the West Indies. On top of that, many of the women and children were enslaved in New England. So much for the spirit of thankfulness, huh?

While this may seem like ancient history, the fact remains that the very feast we partake in year after year is rooted in that ancient history. What’s more, like the original Thanksgiving between the Settlers and Wampanoag tribe, our Thanksgiving is so short-lived that we often forget what we were even thankful for before the turkey, or Tofurky, coma settles in. In fact, it seems like our thankfulness is, by and large, nothing more than a trivial tradition that bears little resemblance to true thankfulness.

The challenge for us is become a truly thankful people who do not trivialize such an important part of what we were created to be. Let us begin to truly be thankful for everything we have been given. Too often we express our thankfulness through words, but words are so often very cheap! The first Pilgrims did not express their thankfulness merely with words, but through their actions in protecting their Native American allies and through inviting them to share in their harvest feast! Let us, too, be a people who show God that we are truly thankful by sharing what we have with others, no matter how unlikely it may seem for us to have a relationship with them. God has created us all and has provided all of us with all that we need. If we are truly thankful for those things, and if we truly recognize that everything we have are gifts from God, then we will not hesitate in being generous in our giving and THANKFUL in our living! This Thanksgiving, make thankfulness the meat that you feast on!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melodie Beattie

PRAYER
Gracious God, I thank you for all that I have including my life. Give me the strength take what I have and share it with those in need, so that my thankfulness can move from words into action. Amen.

Black Friday

Read Luke 6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” (Matthew 5:40-42)

Black FridayIt’s the day after Thanksgiving, and if you are reading this there are a few possibilities. 1) You are reading it in a long line waiting to check out at your local department store and have nothing better to do at the moment. 2) You just got home from an all-night shopping and were just checking your email before hitting the sack for an all day recovery nap. 3) You just woke up from a nice sleep after eating tons of Turkey and stuffing yesterday; you are not the type to rush to the store for anything and so you are reading this with fresh and rested eyes. 4) You are reading this from outside of the United States and, perhaps, none of the top 3 really applies.

Yes, today is the day Americans like to call “Black Friday,” meaning that it’s the days that sales go through the roof as people go shopping for Christmas toys and goodies for their families.  Traditionally, black Friday was the day that stores went from being “in the red” to being “in the black”, meaning that they were no longer negative in the bank account after “Black Friday,” hence its name.

Now, people head out on Black Friday with the best of intentions.  They want to buy as much for their kiddies and family members as possible, for the least amount of money.  After all, Christmas is about giving, isn’t it?  The problem is that, en masse, people tend to get out of control. What starts off as a nice idea to buy people things that we can give them, turns into a stampede as people literally push through and over people in order to be the first to get their pick!  People have literally died on “Black Friday” as a result of the herd, and I do mean herd, of people trampling over them.

On the flip side, there are billions of people around the world that are going without food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. There are community outreach organizations that will not be able to reach all of the people in need in their communities as a result of a lack of funding.  So many people in this world, and in our own communities, are deprived of the major necessities and yet where do we spend our money and resources?

In the end, we like to think that we are teaching our children and our families about giving; in reality, we are teaching our children and families about receiving.  Christmas is very much centered around our families and close friends, making sure that the wealth is shared our own.  Sure, we’ll drop a coin in a bucket on the way into Wal-mart, for good measure; however, what is important is that OUR kids get the presents they want, that OUR family gets the presents we feel they need or would like, and that OUR friends get gifts too.

Jesus had a much more radical view of what it meant to give. For Jesus giving was to be unconditional, which means that we shouldn’t give just based on relation or friendship or any other kind of condition. And, for Jesus, there was no limit as to how much one should give. Jesus gave his entire life, literally, so that others could have the life he gave up.  This devotional is written, not to discourage you from shopping for gifts for your little ones, family and friends but, rather, to encourage you to view the world as your children, family and friends. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world indeed if the poor, the sick, the naked, the destitute, the blind, and all of those in need got to experience “Black Friday”? If you answered yes to that last question, the challenge for you is to do something about it. God bless you as you answer that challenge!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

It is true that to give is to truly receive; however,  you receive so that you may give even more.

PRAYER

Lord, let me be a blessing in the lives of those who need it. Thank you for those who have been a blessing in my life. Amen.

 

A Thanksgiving That Counts

Read Luke 12:1-48; James 2

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
(Psalms 50:23)

A Thanksgiving That CountsAs we approach Thanksgiving Day, it is easy for us to get warm and fuzzy about the festivities that are about to occur. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven, stuffed to its brim with stuffing. Mashed wax turnips, candied yams, and other sides being cooked on the stove.  All of these scents filling the air and blending with the wafting scent of warm apple and pumpkin pie sitting on the cooling racks.

Well, it is no secret to most people that I am vegan. This will be the first year I have not eaten turkey and stuffing and all of the stuff that I mentioned above; however, I am still getting excited about Thanksgiving as well. I just bought a vegan Thanksgiving feast that is complete with all sorts of goodies, plus I am getting excited to make Rosemary-Roasted Winter Vegetables as well.  While my diet has changed dramatically since last Thanksgiving, I am certainly still going to be having a feast to be reckoned with.

But as we sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving and prepare ourselves for the feast of all feasts, as we sit down and say our prayers of thanksgiving to God for the abundance we have, let us not forget that a good many people in this world do not have the abundance, or excess (depending on how you look at it), that we have.  A majority of people in the world are lacking the very necessities that they need to survive.

God gives each and every one of us what we need, but we often end up taking more than what we need in order to supply ourselves with what we want.  In the process, billions of other people are lacking what they need. Is this because God has failed to give them what they need? No. This is because what God has given to all people has been horded by some. The majority of the world suffers as a result of the excessive abundance of a minority.

This is not being brought up to guilt anyone over the disparities of others; rather, it is being brought up as a reminder that praying our prayers of thanksgiving is not enough. God is calling us to something more than empty prayers, God is calling us to act out of our thanksgiving for what God has given us.  Instead of praying and eating our fill, God wants us to take our fill and share it with those in need.

In James 2:16, the author is warning his readers of just that.  It is not enough to tell someone in need that you are “praying” for them without actively seeking to help fill their needs.  That is not to say that prayer is useless, but that empty prayer is no prayer at all…just like empty faith, without deeds, is dead.  We are not a people of a dead faith, nor should we be people who pray dead prayers.

So, with all of that said, enjoy your Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow!  Enjoy your time spent with family and all of the good food and fun that God has given you.  As you pray your prayers of thanksgiving, also pray for God to guide you to fill a need of someone who is in need, just as God has filled you.  If you do, God will surely not let you down!  Remember that to whom much as been given, much is required .  Go and bear the hope, healing and wholeness that God wants you to bring to those who need it! God bless and Happy Thanksgiving! May your Thanksgiving be a thanksgiving that counts!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

A truly thankful person gives out of what there is to be thankful for.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for all you have given me. Guide me to fill the needs of those around me who are in need. Amen.