4523 Six Forks Rd. Raleigh, NC 27609 919-787-7590
The American Holiday of Thanksgiving
Dear Members and Friends of Saint Timothy’s,
For what are you thankful? For Americans it is the month of November in which we focus on giving thanks for all God has provided us. The American holiday of Thanksgiving brings thankfulness to the fore and it is this month that bears the holiday. There’s also a way in which “thankfulness” marks the whole of the approaching holiday season. We are to examine our lives and remember all the ways God has blessed us; All Saints’ Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas naturally lead us to how grateful we are for God’s blessings.
If we wonder back to that first Thanksgiving we find the reason those “Pilgrims” celebrated the first of what would become our treasured holiday. According to Edward Winslow, a recorder of events in the Plymouth colony in New England, here’s a passage from his journal on December 11, 1621, Our Corne did proue well, & God be praysed, we had a good increase of Indian Corne, and our Barly indifferent good, but our Pease not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sowne, they came vp very well, and blossomed, but the Sunne parched them in the blossome; our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more speciall manner reioyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst vs, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed fiue Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour, and upon the Captaine, and others. And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with vs, yet by the goodneses of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty. It is the praise and rejoicing to God that is the center of their attention. They hold the “goodness of God” as the source and distributor of the harvest. It is to Him that the thanksgiving is offered. God is the center of their faith and the One to receive all praise and thanksgiving. A good lesson and reminder for us, not only as we celebrate Thanksgiving, but through the entirety of our spiritual lives. This is a good exercise for every Christian.
Our spiritual lives as Christians are centered on prayer and worship both corporately and individually. We are taught in our confirmation classes that our private prayer lives need to be balanced. By “balance” in our lives we mean that to be healthy our personal prayers need to contain prayers of petition, intercession, confession, thanksgiving and adoration. We should ask God for things for ourselves (petition); we should pray for and ask for things for others (intercession); we should confess our sins (confession); we should simply praise God and adore Him for who He is (adoration); and we should make sure we include thanking Him for His many blessings (thanksgiving). It is the “thanksgiving” part that has the center of our prayer lives this time of year. With thanksgiving as such an important part of our private prayer lives, we move very easily into having thanksgiving as part of our lives of corporate worship as well.
The center of our spiritual lives as the Church, of which all baptized members are a part, is Holy Communion. Thanksgiving is the center and purpose of our worship each time we celebrate Holy Communion, or The Mass, or The Lord’s Supper, or The Holy Mysteries, or The Eucharist. There are many names for this central act of worship, but the focus and ground of the worship is thanksgiving. In fact, eucharist is the Greek word used for the act itself and means “thanksgiving”. When we participate in Holy Communion, by our offering of “our selves, our souls and bodies” to God, we are giving thanks for all that He has done and accomplished for us in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross and in Jesus’ Resurrection. God has made the spiritual benefits of those most holy acts present to us in time. We unite ourselves to Christ, we have our sins forgiven and we are promised the future glory of heaven. No wonder “thanksgiving” is the correct attitude to have in worship as well as the very act of worship itself.
There is an important aspect of stewardship that includes thanksgiving as well. As we are in our Every Member Canvass we need to remember two areas of the Christian life that benefit from our thankfulness. The individual’s spiritual life benefits and the Church benefits. As we’re praying and thinking about our commitment to Saint Timothy’s for 2017 in the form of a pledge, we ought to recall in prayer all the ways God has blessed us in our lives. Again, this is a good spiritual exercise, and when done well, can deepen our love and devotion to God. The more we think about, and actually list the things for which we are thankful, the more we appreciate how God has watched over us, protected us, and sustained our lives by His blessings. The more we begin to realize the small and large blessings God has given us, the more we come to love and adore Him.
Our giving ought to be done out of that sense of thanksgiving and not just a sense of “doing our duty” or pledging because we feel an obligation to “give something”. We do have an obligation to give to the Church and it’s set out clearly in both the Old and New Testaments. This is one of the reasons to give to the Church. It is a Christian duty “to work, pray and give for the spread of the Kingdom of God”. I’m told by those who know a great deal about Christian stewardship that when persons really do give out of thankfulness to God, that the amount they give tends to be even larger than the amount that they give when done out of a sense of obligation. I think this is true.
The individual’s spiritual life benefits, but also the Church benefits. We need Saint Timothy’s Church to survive and thrive, and when it does, we will be working, praying and spreading the Kingdom of God. Think of all the ways we are ministering right now inside the parish and outside the parish. This is only possible because faithful, practicing and giving parishioners like our members at Saint Timothy’s are giving. Our ministries can be expanded and improved if our giving is increased and each member is taking part in the Every Member Canvass. The Church in this part of the world called Saint Timothy’s benefits from our thankful response and others benefit in the community and still others will benefit for generations yet to come.
When thanksgiving is practiced as part of our spiritual lives, our souls are made glad, the Church joins itself to the praises of the Saints, and the Church’s work in this world is strengthened and continued. Let’s make thanksgiving a joyful time at our Thanksgiving dinners here in November. Let’s also make thanksgiving the proper part of our spiritual lives and our lives of service here at Saint Timothy’s.
I am certainly thankful that I have the privilege of serving here at our beloved Saint Timothy’s Church.
Yours faithfully, in Christ,
The Reverend Jay C. James