Thanksgiving Message

November 23, 2015

from Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster BishopGoodpasterThanksgiving Day cannot come soon enough! Perhaps as much this year as any year, we all need to take some time to step away from the tragic events that flood our news outlets and reconnect with and reclaim a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude opens the way for a recognition and acknowledgement of God’s gracious gift of all of creation, and of life and hope in Jesus Christ overcoming any hint of fear or suspicion. Over the last half-century our national holiday of Thanksgiving evolved, first, into the launching pad for the end-of-the-year buying spree marked by special sales at midnight. Then, not satisfied, suddenly the sales started late Thursday afternoon, and now are extended for an entire month. For many people there is not enough time to clean the dishes let alone to be thankful for what we have; we are too busy planning our shopping attack. It is as if we do not have enough already, and that we must get more things in order to be happy and therefore thankful. Little wonder, then, that in a world dominated by reports of terrorism, we struggle to find reasons to be thankful. Will our week be overshadowed by fear instead of thanks? How shall we live in these days when there seems only endless cycle of hatred, violence, distrust, and greed? On Monday, November 16, Seth Godin’s blog provided a link to a specially prepared Thanksgiving Reader that included stories, quotes, and reflections on giving thanks. Two in particular struck me. The first comes from American author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.” She reminds me that thanksgiving is not about a specific day, or a national holiday, but more a spirit that permeates everything about our life and living. It puts everything into a holy perspective, teaching us to know when enough really is enough and that more stuff will not add to our joy in living. The other quote is one I have carried with me and cited often over my years of ministry. It comes to us from Tecumseh (1768-1813), the Native American leader of the Shawnee: “When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” As I count all the reasons for which I am grateful this year, I start with the relationships and gifts that most of us would name with Tecumseh: life, light, food, family, health and strength. This year, I am including in my list special thanks for the blessings of being given the opportunity to serve God in this wonderful place called the Western North Carolina Conference; for the many creative and courageous acts of God-inspired mercy and kindness exhibited through our churches; and for the privilege of serving Christ in this incredible moment of history with an amazing group of people (lay and clergy) who continually inspire and encourage me. This year it is my hope that we will all pause long enough in the midst of everything that swirls around us to cultivate the spirit of gratitude that will make a difference in our lives, our attitudes, and our behavior. Let us spend this Thanksgiving week remembering and practicing the words of the Apostle Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)