Meditation – We Give Thanks for Where We Live
John Muir was also known as “John of the Mountains.” The 19th century Scottish-American naturalist helped preserve places such as Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. He was the founder of the Sierra Club, committed to preserving our nation’s wilderness areas. The John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada is named after him.
He was also a writer, and his writing often had a spiritual nature to it. He inspired activists to protect ‘the beauty of the earth’ that we just sang about.
Muir writes in “The Yosemite”:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
The earth upon which we live is pure grace. Its seasons and sunsets; its smells and sounds; the rivers and oceans and streams and puddles. Grace – gifts of God.
For the gift of the earth today we give thanks.
Let us thank God either silently or aloud for the gift of creation…
Let us pray.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, who in your self-emptying love gathered up and reconciled all creation to you. Innumerable galaxies of the heavens worship you. Creatures that grace the earth rejoice in you. All those in the deepest seas bow to you in adoration. As with them we give you thanks, grant that we may cherish the earth, our home, and live in harmony with this good creation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Meditation – We Give Thanks For Christ’s Church
German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his book Life Together after the Gestapo shut down the seminary where he was teaching. It was important to him to preserve this vision of Christian community that was lived out at the seminary.
The book opens with a quote from Psalm 133: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” Throughout the book, Bonhoeffer talks about the church as a community of love. But it is a community of love that has a purpose beyond itself.
Bonhoeffer was frustrated with the church in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. He found it unconscionable that most pastors in the church declined to act in opposition to the Nazi treatment of Jews.
He writes: “The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.”
For Bonhoeffer, the church is that it is a community of love centered on Jesus Christ which through prayer and discernment acts not for its own sake, but for the sake of the world.
For Christ’s church today we give thanks.
Let us thank God either silently or aloud for the ministries of Good Shepherd which reach beyond ourselves…
Let us pray.
Gracious God, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.
Meditation – We Give Thanks for God’s Grace
Gordon MacDonald once said, “The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church…You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.”
By and large, MacDonald is right. Where else can we go and be certain to find grace?
Grace is hard to define …but we know it when we experience it.
Philip Yancey tells the story of getting stuck in Los Angeles traffic and arriving 58 minutes late to the Hertz rental desk.
He asked the clerk, “How much do I owe?”
She responded, “Nothing. You’re all clear.”
He said, “But I was late…”
She smiled and said, “Yes, but there’s a one-hour grace period.”
Not a bad definition of grace is that “even though you’re supposed to pay, you don’t have to.”[i]
Grace happens rarely in the world.
It happens all the time with God.
In Martin Luther’s small catechism he defines grace
In his explanation of the 1st article of the Apostles’ Creed.
He says, to believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,
Is to believe in a God of Grace.
What does this mean? Luther says it means that:
“I believe that God has created me with all that exists.
God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.
In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing,
Food and drink, house and farm,
Spouse and children,
Fields, livestock, and all property –
Along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life.
God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil.
And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy,
Without any merit or worthiness of mine at all!
For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him.
This is most certainly true.”
For the gifts given by God’s grace we give thanks.
Let us thank God either silently or aloud for all of God’s gifts given to us without any merit or worthiness of our own…
Let us pray.
God of grace, you have given us minds to know you, hearts to love you, and voices to sing your praise. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may celebrate your glory and give you thanks in spirit and truth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Meditation – We Commit Ourselves to Live Thankfully
In a few moments, we will sing the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God.” The words were written by Martin Rinkhart in the refugee city of Ellenburg, Germany during the 30 Years’ War.
Rinkhart was one of the last surviving pastors in the city, and because of the plague, was officiating at nearly 50 funerals/day.
He wrote these lyrics for his family to sing before dinner – a dinner which was meagre at best, for Rinkhart was giving as much as he could to care for refugees.
Listen to the words we will sing:
Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms, has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
In each of our lives there are years when perhaps we are not
feeling all that thankful at Thanksgiving.
It’s hard to think of ‘wondrous things’ worthy of rejoicing.
Family relationships are strained;
A loved one is being treated for cancer;
We’re anxious or angry about the state of the world.
It is in times like these that gratitude becomes less of a feeling
than a commitment.
As Martin Rinkhart says,
For God has blest us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.
No matter what,
God is ours.
And so no matter what,
We give thanks.
Even now, thank we all our God.