“Make America Grateful Again” – Pastor Raphael

 Thanksgiving is a great holiday for people of faith, because scripture speaks so much about being grateful forall that God has done for us. It is mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament and over 70 times in the New Testament.

With all this emphasis on “Thanks,” we should be the most thankful people in the world.

From 1st Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Even beyond Thanksgiving, our celebration of gratitude should last all year long. When we consider God’s love for us, His protection and provision in the big and small things in life, our best response is to say “Thanks.”

As we give thanks, we are expressing a heart of gratitude to God and to those to whom we are grateful. Gratitude is contagious. It’s hard not to be grateful when youare around someone who always is.

The word gratitude has its origin in the words “gratus” and “grace.” This is why “thank you” in other languages sounds so similar: Latin: “gratias,” Italian: “grazie,” Spanish: “gracias.”

“Thanks” and “grace” go hand-in-hand. This is why we often refer to the “giving of thanks” before a meal as “saying grace.” Many families give thanks, or say “grace,” before every meal, some only on holidays like Thanksgiving. Others don’t say it at all.

I grew up in a Catholic family that said grace before dinner every evening. We were a large family of six sons and six daughters. My mother would sit on one end of the long table, my father on the other. We were lined up on benches according to age — boys on one side, girls on the other, oldest to youngest. No one could touch the food or eat a morsel until my father said “grace,” which was always the same:

“Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.”

After the “amen,” it was a free-for-all of food, plates, silverware and serving-dishes being passed around in a wonderful frenzy that lasted until the final portion was eaten and every casserole dish was empty. It was crazy and chaotic, but we were all grateful.

Today, I carry on this tradition with my small family, but we offer a more casual, less-scripted thanks, and there is not nearly as much food consumed.

I have found that it’s not the “saying of grace” that’s important, but having thankful hearts. Having “thankful hearts” means that we remain in a posture of receiving and recognizing God’s grace. When we recognize the nature of grace, it’s very easy to be grateful.

Jesus gave thanks

Jesus was always giving thanks. Both times that he fed the multitudes with fish and bread, he began by “giving thanks.” On the road to Emmaus after the resurrection, he initially fooled the apostles he was walking with into thinking he was someone else, but he was recognized by them by the way he “gave thanks.” During the Last Supper, which was essentially a Passover Seder meal, He broke bread and served wine. Before breaking the bread, and passing the cup however, He gave thanks. (Baruch a Ta Adonai … .)

Jesus also appreciates being thanked. There is a story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 17, where Jesus healed 10 lepers. Of all those who were healed, only one returned to say thanks. In Luke 17:17 “Jesus asked, “Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine?” He was told that only one of those who were healed returned to him to give thanks. This is the one whom He blessed.

Sometime it’s difficult to be grateful when circumstances are hard and things did not go our way. There are times when we face tragedies and grief and it seems impossible to utter anything that even remotely sounds grateful.

These are the times when we need to receive “grace.” Grace is God’s free gift to us of His love, compassion, mercy and understanding. When we understand the depth of His grace toward us, in spite of circumstances, it’s easy to be grateful.

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