Message from the Pastor

Rev. Sundar SamuelS

Dear Members and Friends,

It was a few weeks after the birthday celebration and the mother constantly had been after her 12 year old daughter to write her “thank you” notes. The relationship between them had become quite strained when the girl finally sat down to “do her duty.” Her first note was to her aunt who lived out of state. The aunt had send her a pin cushion, a lovely gift, but not on the request list of many 12 year olds. The note was brief. She wrote: “dear Aunt Mae, thank you for the pin cushion. It’s just what I always wanted-but not very much!”

I suppose the moral to the story is that you can make someone write a “thank you” note. But you can’t make them be really thankful. It won’t be long before we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. By Presidential proclamation, it will be a day set aside for giving thanks. A president can declare the holiday, but he cannot command gratitude. So, on that day, almost everyone will have a holiday, but not everyone will celebrate Thanksgiving. Probably most will not. But those who do will do so as a result of a decision. Because, finally, thanksgiving is a choice we make. And that choice has far more do with the reality inside of us than with reality around us.

I suppose circumstances do not produce gratitude. They just don’t! You know people as I do, who live in very favorable circumstances, but they are not thankful, instead, they spend their lives complaining that the good is not better. At the same time, we all know people who have experienced problem after problem, yet they live in perpetual gratitude for the blessings they have received. And they joyfully, expectantly await further expressions of God’s love. No, you cannot explain either the presence or the absence of gratitude by looking only at circumstances. Gratitude has far more to do with the inside than with the outside.

Take the Apostle Paul, for example. His was not an easy life. He had been criticized, betrayed, attacked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked. And his enemies were such that he lived continuously under the threat of death. If you were looking for external circumstances likely to produced gratitude, you would not choose the circumstances of Paul. And yet, remarkably, his letters are filled with joy and thanksgiving. Again and again he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” “Thanks be to God”. And, as he wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” From all appearances, his gratitude was in spite of rather than because of his circumstance. But there was something on the inside of him that prompted gratitude..

Of course, we are to give thanks for our obvious blessings. But, according to Paul, our thanksgiving need not be dependent upon our circumstances. He says, “Give thanks in all circumstance!” He is saying that we can decide to give thanks even when in oppressive conditions.

That is exactly what the first celebrants of Thanksgiving did. You know what rough time they had. A storm at sea blew them off course and they came to the wrong destination. Because of that, the winter was far more severe than they had anticipated. The average food ration got down to five grains of corn per person per day. They began with 102 people in their little colony. Only 50 survived that first winter. Then, they had a choice to make. Either they could gather in bitterness and mourn the tragic reality that half their number had died, or they could come together in thanksgiving and celebrate the fact that half of them had survived. You know what they chose. And that choice was made not because something outside of them, but because of something deep within them! They looked for blessings!

That’s the choice that comes to every person. What do you look for in life? Do you recognize blessings when you see them? Do you believe that every good thing in life comes as a gift from God? Do you see the glass half empty or half full? Do you look for and accentuate the deprivations of life, or the blessings of life? If you don’t have the right stuff on the inside, you won’t be able see it on the outside. What you look for in life, you tend to find. We tend not to notice those things we are not looking for. We pass by blessings every day. Even when they are there, we don’t see them because our attention is somewhere else. At the same time, we exaggerate our problems and complicate them if we go out looking for them. We sometimes even see problems when they aren’t there; if that’s what we are looking for. Do you know what else? Our expectations help to produce the very things we expect to happen.

You understand, then, what I mean when I say that we Christians are not at the mercy of our circumstances. Thanksgiving does not come from circumstance. Thanksgiving, finally, is a choice.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving season!

 

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Sundar