Monday, November 26, 2018

Home for Thanksgiving

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)


Home for Thanksgiving

“Give thanks in everything…Thank God no matter what happens.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

          Ordained in its sanctuary on May 8, 1977, I preached at the Forty Fort United Presbyterian Church on November 25, 2018.

          I hadn’t preached there in over four decades.

          So many memories.

          David Meeker and I used to fill in the o’s in the bulletin to make it through the services.

          Mrs. Mante would march into the service with children in tow within seconds of the call to worship; preparing me for worshippers who must feel it’s rude to be on time.

          Her husband who endured me in Confirmation Class before enduring David and me working on our God and Country Award as part of Danny Evans’ Troop 122 before guiding me through college and seminary to ordination always yelled out, “Blessings on you!  Keep the faith!”  When I asked Rev. Mante what he meant by that, he said with a smile, “I want God to bless you even though you don’t deserve it and I want you to stay faithful in gratitude for those blessings.”

          Then there was Miss Grace Blanchard who taught a boys only Sunday School class until she was 104 and convinced me that retirement is only for those who can’t or won’t anymore.  She’d say once a month, “O.K., boys, today is SOS Sunday!  Same old stuff!”

          Today, they have a wonderfully faithful pastor, The Rev. William Lukesh, who is a part of the remnant still believing in Jesus by the book.  I am so thankful for him being my parents’ pastor.

          Not long after ordination, I went to New Jersey as pastor of Clark’s Osceola Presbyterian Church.  Aside from the officers, staff, and membership only being rivaled by our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main when it comes to loving Jesus, loving America, and praying and working to make America Godly again, there were two sacred moments that have shaped my undershepherding-to-the-Good-Shepherd ministry.

          The first was a meeting of clergy and rabbis about the uproar generated by a local public library that put a manger scene in front of its lawn sign from just before Thanksgiving to just after Christmas.

          Not long after the meeting started, I got up and said, “We’ve got to be honest before we’re going to get anywhere on this.  We’ve got an irreconcilable difference in this room.  Christian clergy believe Jesus is Lord and rabbis don’t.”

          An old rabbi stood after I spoke and said, “My young Christian friend is right and I’ll be damned if he’s right.  But I’m betting my soul that he’s wrong just as much as he’s betting his soul that he’s right.”

          It cleared the air and we negotiated coexistence.

          The second shaping moment occurred during the Community Thanksgiving Service at the Cranford Presbyterian Church in 1979.

          Because I was the new kid in town, I had to preach.

          With rabbis and other non-Christians present, I said, “Well, I’m all for Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  I love America and what we stand for.  I like health and wealth and all of that stuff.  But everybody knows health and wealth and even our country could disappear overnight.  So I guess I’m going to reserve my highest thanksgiving for eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus that can never be taken away from us and helps us to overcome anything that life throws at us.”

          It was a big hit with the Christians in attendance.

          Come to think of it, I was never invited to preach at another community service.

          Can you guess why?

          Well, I haven’t changed over the years.

          I still love the advantages of living in America with so many freedoms and opportunities and those Bill of Rights.

          I’m glad Massachusetts Governor William Bradford made that first Thanksgiving Proclamation back in 1623: “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest…spared us from pestilence and disease…granted us freedom to worship God…listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

          I’m glad President George Washington proclaimed November 26 as a National Day of Thanksgiving in response to God’s granting American independence from the English.

          I’m glad President Abraham Lincoln revived the national observance of Thanksgiving in 1863.

          I’m glad the United States Congress sealed the deal in 1941 and decreed the 4th Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving to God from whom all blessings flow.

          Pero I know Thanksgiving is shallow if it’s just about heath, wealth, nationalism, and other stuff that can become dust in the wind so quickly.

          Thanksgiving only means something if its about Someone who provides an eternal cause for praise and thanks that no one nor no thing can take away from us.

          No matter what happens to us in time, we have cause to praise and thank God for eternal life in paradise by grace through faith in Jesus that lasts infinitely longer than any accumulation or advantage fixed in time.

          That’s why Paul wrote, “Give thanks in everything…Thank God no matter what happens.”

          No matter what happens in time, it ends.

          No matter what happens in time, it does not change our heavenly inheritance by grace through faith in Jesus.

          Paul was right: “I consider that our present sufferings…[or treasures that expire when time’s up!]…are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

          While I may be wrong but wouldn’t say it if I thought I could be wrong, it seems to make a lot more sense to praise and thank God for eternity with Him in paradise than 70 or 80 or even over 100 years of the best that life affords.

          I spent a week with Eugene Peterson back in October 2011.

          I’ll never forget how he said, “Churches don’t need motivational speakers because you don’t have to motivate Christians.”

          Well, Eugene went home to Jesus on October 22, 2018.

          Not long before graduating, his son Eric asked how he felt about having only a few months left on earth; and Eugene said with that calming, certain, and infectious smile, “I feel good about that.”

          I am reminded of how David Redding explained our blessed assurance: “Anyone who feels sorry for a dead Christian, as though the poor chap were missing something, is himself missing the transfiguring promotion involved.”

          So, yes, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving.

          Let’s eat turkey and stuffing and cranberry relish and watch football until our eyes are glazed and we drift off to sleep.

          Most of all, while praising and thanking God for every blessing in time, let’s reserve our highest praise and thanks for the ultimate blessing of faith in Jesus.



          By grace through faith in Jesus, everybody goes home for thanksgiving.


Blessings and Love!


Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!

Shatter the sound of silence!

Salt! Shine! Leavenate!



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