Count Your Blessings

2019-11-26 – Thanksgiving Service – The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas

James 1:17-27; Psalm 65:1-8; Matthew 6:25-33

  • “On September 8, 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 Spanish settlers founded the city of St. Augustine in Spanish La Florida. As soon as they were ashore, the landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving.”
    • “Afterward, Menéndez laid out a meal to which he invited as guests the native Seloy tribe who occupied the site…”
    • “This was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent European settlement in North America.”
    • “It took place just 300 yards north of the Castillo de San Marcos…This event is commemorated today by a 250-foot cross that stands on the original landing site.”
  • In recent years, there has been some debate among historians about whether to recognize this as the “first thanksgiving” in the United States instead of the one at Plymouth 56 years later.
  • In truth, both are examples of a European tradition with deep Christian roots, recognizing the blessings and provision of Almighty God either at harvest time or after deliverance from significant trouble.

Where Do Good Things Come From?

  • James reminds us that God is the source of every good gift. James 1:17.
    • Every good gift comes from God, even when it appears to come from somewhere else (like our own skill or the hands of our employers).
      • Psalm 65:9-14
    • Thus, God is the one to whom we should give thanks daily.
      • There is an excellent prayer in Morning Prayer for this purpose!
  • We also see from this verse that God is dependable. “…no variation or shadow due to change.”
    • He is the same God today as when he created the universe.
    • His love for us never changes. His provision for us never changes. We can trust that we are always just where we need to be when we are in his arms.

Our Forgetfulness

  • And yet, we forget this sometimes.
    • We forget that God is the one who provides, and we take that burden upon ourselves.
    • We strive after the things of this world, searching for happiness, searching for meaning, searching for peace.
  • Jesus’ words this evening remind us to set our anxieties aside. He tells us that when we focus on the things of this world, we will find anxiety.
    • But, when we focus on God and his Kingdom instead, everything else falls into its own right place.
    • Matthew 6:31-33

Count Your Blessings

  • As these provisions fall into place, we need to remember to turn back and give thanks. This is a key factor in finding happiness and contentment.
    • Brother David Steindl-Rast – “What is the connection between happiness and gratefulness?…We all know quite a number of people who have everything that it would take to be happy, and they are not happy, because they want something else or they want more of the same. And we all know people who have lots of misfortune, misfortune that we ourselves would not want to have, and they are deeply happy. They radiate happiness…So it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.”
    • This is an important thing to remember. If you are convinced that your happiness lies in that thing that is just over the horizon, somewhere over the rainbow, you will never be satisfied.
  • “So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
    Count your blessings, name them one by one;
    Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”
    -Johnson Oatman (1897)
  • So now let us turn our attention to the giver of all good things and give thanks for all the ways he has blessed us this year!

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