Next Thursday is already Thanksgiving Day.
Origin of Thanksgiving…how it started. Most of you already know.
The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on September 6, 1620 sailing in a small ship called Mayflower. They were looking for religious freedom… worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ freely. For over two months, the 102 passengers sailed in storm-tossed sea. They finally landed in Massachusetts in late November.
After a worship service, the Pilgrims began building hasty shelters. However, unprepared for the starvation and sickness of a harsh New England winter, nearly half died before spring.
Yet, persevering in prayer, and assisted by helpful Native Americans (Indians), they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer. The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. This was America’s first Thanksgiving Festival.
They did not have turkeys or pumpkin pies then. For our Thanksgiving
we must have turkeys and pumpkin pies. Without them, no meals or feast.
Are these turkeys and pumpkin pies, the center of the thanksgiving? Of course not.
We do not worship turkey or praise pumpkins on this day. What then do we do? We thank our Lord Jesus Christ on this day for all His provision, everything He gives us.
Every year on Thanksgiving Day, we invite people to our house, especially those single people living alone. It is because others spend good time with their families, those living alone are not often going anywhere. If you don’t have places to go, please come to our home next Thursday.
Thanksgiving is one of 3 major holidays in US.
Christmas, Easter, and then Thanksgiving.
They all are Christian holidays, celebrating Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Christmas: celebrate birth of Jesus, Easter: celebrate Resurrection of Jesus,
On Thanksgiving Day we celebrate Jesus, I said, but what do we specifically do on this day? What is the main purpose of this special holiday. Let us find out. Please look at today’s Scripture; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
We see 3 significant points here for Thanksgiving.
1. Rejoice always
2. Pray continually
3. Give thanks in all circumstances.
1. Rejoice always. It’s easily said, but hard to do sometimes…especially when you are in trouble, suffering, in pain, can you still rejoice? How do you rejoice in these unfavorable situations?
I found a book showed me following good points:
+ Rejoice if you don’t receive everything you want. It is because you need to wait for thigs you don’t have. If you got everything, what do you look for? No fun, yeah.
+ Rejoice if you don’t know things….you have a chance to learn a new thing.
+ Rejoice if you are in trouble.…because you would grow the most. When you are in trouble you will get closer to God.
+ Rejoice when you are afraid being in unknown place....you get a chance of challenging a new way, new things… that will build your personality and confidence.
+ Rejoice when you fail… because it gives you a valuable lesson. You can learn so much through mistakes.
Always rejoicing is difficult because joy tends to fade away easily. For example:
When you first got married, you are happy for a while. But soon you will lose happiness. Why? Get bored, or, you may find more burdens.
I met a man bought an expensive yacht (sailboat). He was happy for only 2 days he said; the first day he’s got a sailboat, and the day he sold his boat… Only 2 days. That’s why I don’t want to buy a sailboat. Well, I can’t afford it anyways.
Materialistic joy does not last very long. Once you obtain it, no more joy. It is said, happiness is related to happening…If good thing is happening, you are happy. If nothing is happening, you are not happy.
How can you be continually rejoicing? Rejoice always.
“The answer, my friend, is blowing the wind… “ Bob Dylan got Nobel prize.
I say the answer my friend is to rejoice God. What do you mean by this? How can you rejoice God?
Think about and rejoice what God did to you through Jesus Christ….God loves you and cares for you. God blesses you and gives you abundant grace.
God forgives all you sins; past sins, present sins, and future sins.
He loves you so much. God puts you here today because of His love.
God truly enjoys your presence. You are very very important and valuable for God.
When you rejoice God, you may not be influenced by any other things...You are not vulnerable any more. You can rejoice always because His love is not fading or ceasing.
2. Pray continually.
Rejoice and prayer are connected, not separated.
A. Through prayer we can be connected to God. Conversation between God and us…that’s the prayer. If you pray continually, then you are connected with God continually.
We pray before each meal, but rather short, maybe a half minute, or even a few seconds. But pray continually means 24/7. Day and night, sleep or awake, all the time.
B. In prayer we leave everything to the Lord, we commit all to Jesus…then we will have peace and joy in our heart. And then, our burden will be gone and change into joy.
“Why these things happen to me one after another?” We all experience problems like this. Even situation like that, you keep trusting in the Lord, committing everything to Him. Then things will turns into good for you, and your joy will be restored.
My own experience.
I lost my left eyesight. Right now with left eye, I cannot see anything… that happened several years ago… One day after church service, I started to see flushing light in my left eye. And soon everything got blurred. My eye doctor said it can be corrected by a surgery. So I went under surgery. It was good for a couple of weeks and got even worse. Doctor has no explanation about this, but just stopped seeing me. I was left out to partial blindness. I thought I was in hell…so dark inside.
I shouted to the Lord, by the beach (make sure no one;s around)
“Why? Why this happened to me? I want to serve you more, I want to do your ministry. But with my eye like this I cannot even drive a car. What is your purpose for this?”
I have not yet received His clear answer about this question. But every time I pray I think about this.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
If I put it the other way. It changes the whole view. How blessed I am! I can still see some with my right eye…although this side has other problems but still can see daytime. I forgot to thank Him for what I still have.
God shows me several things through bad eye sight.
God teaches me patience. That I don’t have.
Eugene Smith said, “God, give me patience…but quickly.” That’s me. No patience at all.
Another lesson God teaches me is to know other people’s pain…sick people, disable people, I can relate with them a little better now. I can even feel other people’s pain, better than before.
I still do not know God’s purpose for my eyes completely. But this passage has been comforting me.
God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Scripture is always teaching me good lessons. So probably sometime later, I will find out His ultimate purpose.
C. Prayer changes us as well.
Through prayer we are changed into joyous, thanksgiving person. God curve your face into joy. I read a funny story about “Jack-o-lantern” - home made pumpkin lantern. It has some resemblance with God’s work on us.
Years ago I made a pumpkin lantern, “Jack-O-lantern” with my daughter, Erika.
God treats you this way if you are to be a pumpkin.
He chooses you, lifts you up, cleanses you. Then He opens up inside you. In depth are dirty things, ugly things, He gouges them out and removes them.
Those are: unbelief seeds, haters, Ego, lust, envy, jealous, angers, and so on.
He makes your new face… “Smiling Face” by curving your face.
Inside you He puts a light, a burning candle. So that you can shine in the world. And that other people sees you and experiences joy. He changes you completely, inside and outside.
Christians in this world, should shine the light, and distribute joy to the world surrounding. We are like the Jack-O-lantern.
God changes us and gives us a new joyous face.
3. Give thanksgiving in all circumstances.
You need someone to worship for. Many people worship the sun in the sky.
In winter in Seattle, they have no sunshine for 3-4 months. After long dark winter when the sun first appears, people often says, “What is that thing shining in the sky? Is that the Sun we forgot?”
Feels like you are out of a jail after long period of time.
Seattleites love the sun so much,…when the sun comes, students do not go to classes. No class, or class met outside.
In the end of Edo period in Japan, about 150 years ago…toward the end of Samurai time. Christianity was still prohibited.
A Christian man was caught and brought to a judge. The judge said,
“The sun brings all good things, so you can live, and all trees, animals, and man live because sun shines. Worship the sun.”
Christian man replied, “God created the sun and the moon. We only worship God, not created things.”
“You fool, you cannot even see your ‘god’. Forget that.“ said the judge.
Christian said, “Thanking the sun is wrong. It’s like you thank a lantern at night, rather than thank the man holding a lantern.”
Judge could not reply because his answer was appropriate.
What do you thank for?
What can you thank on Thanksgiving day?”
Not turkey or pumpkin or other foods you consume. Not a man or, environment, or weather. We worship the creator who made everything on earth and the universe. He is the creator in heaven and earth. Let us thank Him, praise Him, and pray to Him.
We are now worship this only God right here in the church.
We praise toward God. He is the center, He is the feature, He is the ultimate hero.
Let us thank Him, pray to Him, rejoice Him.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks to all things.”
We do these things on the Thanksgiving Day.