A Week of Thanksgiving: The Rewards of Gratitude, Part 2 – Communal Celebration

Happy Thanksgiving!

In today’s post, I continue to reflect on some of the rewards of gratitude.

During my sixteen years as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, one of my favorite events was our annual Thanksgiving Eve worship service. We gathered to sing songs of gratitude, to offer prayers of thanks, and to be reminded of God’s goodness to us.

My daughter, Kara, sharing her thanks in the Irvine Presbyterian Church Thanksgiving Eve service.

One of the best-loved parts of this service was an “open mike” time when people in the congregation shared briefly that for which they were thankful. Children often thanked God for their parents and their pets. Teenagers offered thanks for their friends and their youth leaders. Adults lifted up gratitude for health, jobs, church, and family. Sometimes we laughed; sometimes we cried. On more than one occasion, we were deeply moved when someone would say something like, “I thank God for being with me this year even through the death of my husband.”

It’s a wonderful and worthy thing to go into your “prayer closet” and thank God in private for all of his blessings. Yet, there is something grand about sharing your thanks to God in the presence of others. In Psalm 57, for example, David says, “I will thank you, Lord, among all the people. I will sing your praises among the nations” (57:9). When you consider how David’s prayers of thanks in the Psalms have echoed throughout time and history, you’d have to say David was right about this, though I’m pretty sure this isn’t what he had in mind. Rather, David was talking about offering thanks among the people of Israel, among those who had shared with him in God’s grace.

One of the rich rewards of gratitude comes in the community of the faithful. As we share thanks to God with each other, we are inspired to new expressions of gratitude. Moreover, we grow in relationship with each other as we open our hearts in thanking God. Our celebration of gratitude is richer when it is shared with others.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day, may you share your gratitude, not only with the Lord, but also with others. And may you share richly in their thanks as well.

Let me close with a beloved hymn of thanksgiving:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free! Amen.

“We Gather Together,” 16th century, English translation by Theodore Baker, public domain.

P.S. You can find more of my writings on Thanksgiving at this link: Thanksgiving: Not Just a Day But A Season.

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