In the United States today is Thanksgiving Day. Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving on October 8th. Other nations have their versions of this commemoration. The Feast of Tabernacles which we just observed in the Northern Hemisphere makes us reflect on our blessings, as well.
I want to let you all know how thankful I am for every person in the United Church of God and for everyone with whom I work and have contact. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” What a statement of love! He set an example to all in leadership to highly value and be grateful for the people who they care for. We have so much to show gratitude for in our relationships, friendships, family and workmates. We live in a time of prosperity and relative safety. We can thank God for every such day that He provides for us. We know that those conditions could change.
Let me share a poignant story of thankfulness with you. While visiting in western Ukraine in 1992 one year after it declared independence from the Soviet Union the economy was in shambles. Goods and food were scarce and unemployment widespread. We were guests at a home of a Sabbath-keeping family. Earlier in the day they asked me to stand a in bread line and get two loaves of bread for the family for the week. Bread was rationed. Everyone in line was entitled to two unwrapped loaves from the back of a truck. I pushed forward in a crowded line and was met by a large woman who pushed two loaves into my chest and grabbed my money. Then she pushed me aside for the next “customer.” This was an unforgettable experience. The family that I stayed with was so thankful for this extra food for the week.
That evening was the Sabbath. When sunset came, the entire family of six knelt down and included me for the prayer welcoming the Sabbath. Everyone prayed. It was touching and brought tears to me because all the prayers were deep expressions of thankfulness for all God had done for them the past week as well as for their family. Parents expressed gratitude for children, children for parents and to their siblings. They recounted specifics about each other in their prayers. When it came to me, I could hardly say anything because I was so moved by this family’s poverty, yet gratitude for what was important to them. I lived in Pasadena, California at the time and had everything one could want. What I did learn that they really had a LOT to be thankful for. They had one another and their relationships were most important. There was nothing material to clutter and distract their lives from what’s most valuable in their lives.
We have so much to be thankful for. Praise and thank God for the most important things which are our relationship to Him and to one another. In the Church of God, we pay special attention to this day as it celebrates our most essential values. So, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!