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Tom Letts, Sr. Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, graciously shares his thoughts about Thanksgiving. Trinity is also one of the few Anchorage churches offering a Thanksgiving Eve service, followed by a pie social where 1/2 of the pies are given to organizations servings those in need. More information HERE.
Stewart Center was the biggest, strongest guy on our freshman football team. One day I made the mistake of attempting a solo tackle on him in practice. Details remain fuzzy decades later but people tell me I had the wind knocked out of me. I do remember my mouth opening and closing, but no relief of air, just need, fear, pain. All I could see, feel, was my need for air. Nothing else, I was blind to everything but that one need.
We were created, not simply to inhale, but to exhale as well. We only inhale, we die. Such a simple and basic truth it seems silly to mention it. We go through our days with no thought to our next breath. Yet, if we take just a moment it becomes obvious that there is no absolute promise for air to return to our lungs after this next exhale (that became utterly clear to me on the practice field many years ago).
Ok, easy. But try this, “We were created, not simply to receive all good gifts from God, but to offer them back as well.” We only receive, we die. Like having the wind knocked out of us, self-ish-ness crushes our capacity to see anything but our most immediate ‘need.’
Why is this so hard for us? Why so afraid to simply, freely offer everything back to God, to needy others, just give it away. Lets look at breathing again for a clue. We don’t worry about breathing because we simply trust that the next breath will come, we have a lifetime of experience to ‘prove’ it. So, experience teaches us to trust. There you go, if we practice giving like we ‘practice’ breathing, we’ll learn to trust the Giver. Jesus said it in Luke, chapter 6, “Give, even to those who have no means of returning the favor. Then you will be like your Father in heaven who lavishes sun and rain on the good and bad alike.” [my paraphrase] Wow, God’s own eyes.
We are being offered the very character of God and settle for trinkets; our most immediate needs ‘filled’ we are blind to everything else. The Thanksgiving holiday is placed at the cusp of the Christian season of Advent for a reason. Our fore-bearers in faith saw the direct correlation between returning all we receive in gratitude and having eyes to see God (even God lying in a manger).
Can’t see my point? Selfishness creates blindness, all it sees is its most immediate ‘need.’ Offering back to God (in large part by giving to those with less) creates a clarity of vision. Father David Steindl-Rast puts it this way, ‘Thanksgiving, where it is genuine, does not look primarily at the gift and express appreciation…it looks through the gift to the giver and expresses trust.’ When I look through all gifts, into the face of the Giver, I regain true sight. I trust. I give. I receive. I see the Giver. I trust. I give... Easy. Like your next breath.
I pray the gift of returning thanks, by giving, creates in you the eyes to see The Gift this Advent.