Thanksgiving Sunday, Oct. 11

Welcome and Announcements


Thank you for celebrating Thanksgiving with us. We are very happy to have you worshipping with us today. May God’s blessings overflow with you and your family today and many days yet to come.

We are asking you to pray for many people in our congregation. Please keep each other in mind today as you give God thanks. If you can, please, call and fellowship with each other.

We thank you so much for your gifts of Saturday Lunch Take-outs. At the moment we have an overabundance of puddings. If you can help us with apple sauce in small serving cups, fruits or fruit cups, single packages of granola bars or individually wrapped cookies, that would be great.

Please remember YWCA shelter. We are collecting single bed sheets, socks, pajamas, underwear for women and children, and other personal care items. They have to be new and in original packaging. We are collecting these until the first week of December.

The session will meet on Wednesday, October 14 at 7 pm.

Meditative Hymn: O the deep, deep love of Jesus



Call to Worship:


Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.

Hymn: Come, ye thankful people come



Prayer:


O, dearest Lord, we come to praise and worship you on this Thanksgiving. Our hearts are full of gratitude in response to your gracious presence with us. Our minds are filled with thankfulness as we ponder the year that is past seeing your everlasting love in our lives. Our spirits are brimming with joy of gratefulness every moment we think of your steadfastness.

Come and receive this worship. As we take this time to offer you all that we are, be glad and be glorified. All these things we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

Offering (Anthem: Amazing Grace)



Offering Prayer:


Here, O Lord, are small gifts we have brought as our thanksgiving. These gifts are not only symbols but also the display of our love for you. May you be pleased that we bring them and lift them up as our offering. May you graciously receive them and bless us regardless of the size of the gifts we bring. Through them, may your love reach many who are seeking for hope, searching to return to you, and restarting their lives in your new creation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 65


Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

Sermon: Spiritual Thanksgiving


In the past few weeks, we as a society have been thinking about this topic a lot. There have been many public discussions about whether or not people should have Thanksgiving dinners as usual having all their family members at the table. Everyone has an opinion on this very important issue. After all, Thanksgiving Dinner is all about how we express what is important to us in life.

Last week, as we pondered the meaning of communion, we reminded ourselves how today's troubles make us really see what is important in our lives. This pandemic lockdown has been an occasion for us to return to the very basics.

Unlike Thanksgiving of recent years, this year under the threat of COVID 19 infection, we have an opportunity to examine and reevaluate our spiritual lives. Of course, for us Christians, as soon as we speak of being spiritual, we think of being the people of faith, hope and love. Faith, hope and love have been so dominant as key pillars of our spiritual life, we automatically assume that we know what we need as spiritual people. We say faith is our belief or trust in Jesus Christ, hope is that our future will be with God due to Jesus’ death and resurrection and loving God and for neighbours is the essence of what we do as we glorify and enjoy God.

Faith, hope and love are definitely the signatures by which we are known in the world. In deep reflection, we find that though they are the essential marks of who we are as Christ followers expressions of these three depend on our sense of gratitude. Everyone’s depth of faith depends on how we experience God in our lives and how thankful we are to God for who we are. Our ability to persist in hope even through the most difficult circumstances depends on how grateful we are to God’s presence with us. Our ability to love unconditionally is the expression of our thankfulness to God for how God loves us. Let’s look at these more closely.

Faith is our voluntary willingness to set our hearts on, rely totally on, and trust fully God who created us and breathed life into us. At least, this is the metaphorical way we talk about how we came into being. In this understanding of faith, as Christians, we humbly acknowledge before God and humanity that we are sinners. When we say we are sinners we mean that we live life as we are the masters of the universe requiring no God. (We regard ourselves as having abilities to create, shape and exploit the world around us for our own benefits only. Our will, not the will of others--especially the will to live inherent in nature--the will to live is imposed on others and nature in which we are part.) Faith helps us to realize that we are not the masters, but stewards of this world. How good stewards we are towards other human beings and to nature depends on how grateful we are to have lives that we are given in this world.

How much of our hearts we have set on God is shown on how we are willing in seeking God’s will rather than our own. If, indeed, we accept the notion that our lives are only possible because God created us, then, setting our hearts on God or making God the centre of our lives is what we do willingly in our own freedom. We receive our lives from God and are glad. In this joy is our gratefulness. Our hearts are fixed on God because God has entrusted us with life. In receiving this trust our hearts are filled with thankfulness. We express this gratitude in setting our hearts on God fully.

As our faith in God is shown through our full reliance on God, we rely less on our own abilities to create, shape and build. This is not to say that we are not going to create, shape or form. We do so as God’s stewards who are doing so within God’s will. That is, we do not act like God ourselves. Rather, we work within the bounds of God’s will. Ethics and morality are not blunt weapons to use against others who disagree with us: they are tools by which we continually explore, search and discern God’s will humbly knowing that our will can easily overshadow, distort and corrupt God’s.

In this sense, demonstrating faith in God means to express thankfulness in response to God’s trust. After all, God entrusted us with life. This is not only a privilege but also an honour beyond our imagining. To be tasked to be stewards not only of our own lives, but also lives of all living things is the source of our gratitude that is expressed through our faith in God. With great care, in full thankfulness, we set our hearts on God, we rely fully on God and we trust God totally. Faith is the first expression of our gratitude for God’s gift of life in and through us.

The second of these three expressions of gratitude is hope. Hope is the realization or actualization of the future. The trouble is, though it is near, the future is not yet. Tomorrow is constantly knocking on today. How, then, can hope or life as it will unfold in the future be realized or actualized today? Is it not impossible for us to know what will happen tomorrow? Is it not true that only God knows the future? Even Jesus himself refrained from speaking about when that tomorrow (or day of judgment or God’s coming) will be.

One thing Jesus did, however, was to give us glimpses of what tomorrow may be like. He spoke in parables. He described scenes of judgments. He explained what the new creation would look like. Ultimately as we discussed last week, he enacted the communion as the very symbol of tomorrow unfolding in this broken world. Still, the immutable knowledge about the future is that we do not know how tomorrow will unfold no matter how strong our faith is. The most courageous thing we can say is that hope is “committing our future confidently in God.” (Living Faith 10.4) Hope is not knowing that we will end in heaven or on earth. It is not worrying over if we will be rewarded or punished for life we lived. It is not fussing over what we have accomplished while we lived. It is not even about whether we have been good or bad stewards. It is all about being able to confidently commit our future in God. The amount of confidence in this case depends on how grateful we are in what God has done for us in Christ. Without this gratitude, our confidence is nothing but a fleeting emotion here now but gone later. If we are thankful for God’s grace shown in Christ, our confidence in God grows. In this way, the amount of hope we put in God arises out of our thankfulness.

We now come to the most important of the three: love. Paul put it well in 1 Corinthians 13,

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

em>Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Knowing this about love does not guarantee that our hearts will love. How we live this love out in humanity depends on the way we have experienced this love from God and from others. Without such experiences, our attempt to love remains hollow and without meaning. Only in grateful response to this love we have received from God and others, we are able to love with passion and commitment. Once again the degree to which we live out our lives in love depends on our gratitude to God’s love that was given to us in Christ. Of course we experience this love from all kinds of people near and far. Sometimes, we discover that we have been given love even by strangers in times of need. Other times, we come to realize that we are given it even when we do not deserve it.

Now it is time to put faith, hope and love as expressions of our gratitude on this day as we give God thanks. As we stripped away all the fluff, we are left with these three--faith, hope and love--displaying our thankfulness not only to God but to all those around us. We tend to forget that how much faith we have, hope we live with and love we carry out are based on the amount of gratefulness we have in our hearts. Rationally we know our hearts should be full. In broken and troubled hearts, covered by experiences of disappointments, sadness, despair, anxiety and fear, we are quick to express anger, sorrow, hurt and hatred rather than thankfulness. It is essential that we open our eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to think and hearts to feel the trust God has shown in us, the future in the eternal God has promised us, and the unconditional love God has given us. Only then, can we have faith, hope and love as expressions of our thankfulness in response to what God has made us to be in this broken world.

On this Thanksgiving, then, rejoice with the psalmist reciting how God sustains us in life as the poet sings of earthly bounties given to God’s people to enjoy and prosper. After all, those who are full of thanks will praise God joyfully as they express their gratitude.

Prayer:


O God, we give thanks for all that makes life good, all that sustains us through bad and all that enriches life even in the time of despair.
We give you thanks for all that sustains life not only here but also all over the world, for all people who have been loving their neighbours as they are called to do especially in helping those who are afflicted by the virus, for all who contributed to make life flourish under these difficult circumstances.

We give you thanks for strength, courage, talents of gifts by which we have been able to encourage, build up and assist others as we do the same for ourselves.

We give thanks for family and friends, who share your love with us. We thank you especially for the grace by which we have been upheld, sustained, nourished and cared for in times of distress, despair, difficulties and confusion. We thank you that you have not abandoned us in times of sickness. Continue to bless and keep us in your care.

As we bring you thanks, we are mindful of those who are ill among us. There are so many. Turmoil of the like we have never imagined are afflicting many of your people--illnesses without cure, sickness without signs of healing, sense of lostness as death hovers over them, and powerlessness to bring meaningful change to their loved ones with deep pain. Be with each and every one. Give them this day your steadfast presence. Do not leave them alone.

All these things and more, we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

Hymn: We plough the fields and scatter



Benediction:


May your lives be filled with the grace of Jesus Christ, with the love of God and with the presence of the Holy Spirit in all that you do now and always!