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Thinking about Thanking

20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.                 Romans 1:20-21 

This week we observe a distinctly American holiday.  While many nations observe Christmas and Easter, only in America do we set aside a day to offer up thanks to our Creator.  From our nation’s earliest days at Jamestown and Plymouth, we have felt it appropriate and essential as a people to pause and acknowledge our absolute dependence upon God.  And as well, through proclamation of legislatures, governors, and presidents, we have been called upon to offer up thanksgiving in times of peace and calamity. 

In today’s text, the Apostle Paul sets forth the consequences of not giving thanks to God or honoring him.  As Paul outlines the moral history of the human race, he notes that when people do not “give thanks” to God they “become futile in their thinking,” and their minds are “darkened.”  I reflect upon our recent history and wonder at the darkness and futile thinking that seem so pervasive in our culture.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the word “think” and the word “thank” both come from the same Proto-European root.   The Dictionary traces the etymology of the two words and demonstrates that in Old Saxon, German, Norse, Danish, Frisian, and Dutch, there was an interconnectedness of giving thanks and  thinking.   Somehow they knew that to give thanks is to think right, and to stop and think leads to thankfulness.

I am encouraged by the work of Dr. Robert Emmons, who is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology.  Admitting that scientists are latecomers to the idea of gratitude, Dr. Emmons and various researchers are demonstrating the positive effects of the attitude of gratitude.  They are finding in all kinds of experimental comparisons, that people who keep a daily gratitude journal feel better about their lives, report fewer physical symptoms, and are more optimistic. 

In one sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, they found that a “21 day gratitude intervention” resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of connectedness to others, more optimism, and better sleep for the control group.  The old song was right after all  – counting blessings is better than counting sheep!

But in the end, Thanksgiving isn’t about us.  And the attitude of gratitude is not about how well it serves us.  It’s all about the one simple fact that God is God, worthy to be praised.  As usual, the old psalmist says it well: 

1It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
   to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
   and your faithfulness by night,
3to the music of the lute and the harp,
   to the melody of the lyre.
4For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
   at the works of your hands I sing for joy. 

Psalm 92:1-4

 

Something to think about this Thanksgiving.

Tim Smith

 

  • ROMANS 8:  THE PINNACLE OF GRACE

11:00a.m. – Noon

Bible scholars have described the eighth chapter of Romans as “the mountain peak of Scripture,” and the “chapter of chapters for the Christian.”  Another commentator has said, “If Holy Scripture was a ring, and the Epistle to the Romans a precious stone, chapter eight would be the sparkling point of the jewel!”  You’re invited to join us in an exploration of Romans eight and the heights of God’s grace! 

  • EXPLORING ECCLESIASTES:  A BOOK FOR OUR TIME

7:00 P.M.  – 8:00 P.M     

The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the Bible’s most enigmatic, yet most relevant and beautiful books.  Ecclesiastes asks the hard questions about the meaning of life, grief and loss, pleasure and profit, money and accumulation, and applies godly wisdom to everyday realities.  You’re invited to join us in this study of what is most important in life and how we can live more rich and fulfilling lives.

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