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A Church Thanksgiving

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Psa. 136:1

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Introduction:

Illust.: Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

I.      We Eat of a Great Feast

53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:53 through John 6:58

A.   Made with Careful Preparation

Luke 7:27

27This is the one about whom it is written:

        “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,

        who will prepare your way before you.

- From the book of Genesis, Long before john the Baptist, God was making preparations to deliver His son into the hands of men to be mocked, and spit upon, so that they could receive salvation from sin. While we yet sinners, Christ died for us. This preparation is announced in the protoevangelion of Genesis.

14So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

        “Cursed are you above all the livestock

        and all the wild animals!

        You will crawl on your belly

        and you will eat dust

        all the days of your life.

15        And I will put enmity

        between you and the woman,

        and between your offspring and hers;

        he will crush your head,

        and you will strike his heel.”

Gen. 3:14-15

B.   Made with Costly Dedication

Illust.: It is told that in the First World War there was a young French soldier who was seriously wounded.  His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated.  He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he must go through life maimed.  So he waited beside his bedside to tell him the bad news when he recovered consciousness.  When the lad's eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: "I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm." "Sir," said the lad, "I did not lose it; I gave it -- for France."

   Jesus was not helplessly caught up in a mesh of circumstances from which he could not break free.  Apart from any divine power he might have called in, it is quite clear that to the end he could have turned back and saved his life.  He did not lose his life; he gave it.  The Cross was not thrust upon him; he willingly accepted it -- for us. --William Barclay

C.   Met with Complete Satisfaction

- I never have gone from a family thanksgiving dinner disappointed.        

II.   We Enter a Gathering of Family

1 John 3:1-3

1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

A.   Sharing a Family Ancestry (His-Story)

B.   Sharing a Family Album (Pictures of Grace)

C.   Sharing a Family Anticipation (New Family)

III.           We End with a Grateful Feeling

Deut. 8:10

10When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.

A.   Grateful for the Gifts Given

Illust. I remember reading of a matron in charge of an institution that was giving loaves of bread to the poor children who would gather at the appointed time. As soon as the door was opened there would be one big rush. All of the children except one little girl would try to get the largest loaves that they could find, and then run on. After they were gone the little girl would come up and pick up the loaf that the rest had left then go past the matron and thank her for it. After watching this for several days the matron made one loaf only about half as large as the rest and placed a gold coin inside of it. The next day as usual the rest of the children took all of the large loaves and left the small one for the last little girl, who took it and thanked the matron as usual without one word of complaint. When she got home the invalid Christian mother cut the loaf for their day's meal. When she found the coin, she hurriedly sent the little girl back to the matron with the coin. When the girl returned with the assurance that it was hers, they knelt to thank God who wonderfully provides. --- By William Moses Tidwell, "Effective Illustrations."

Illust.: A farmer went to eat out at a restaurant in town - and, as was his custom, he bowed his head and said a prayer before his meal.

At the next table were some rowdy young men who began to poke fun at him. "Hey, farmer!" said one, "that's out of vogue, man! Nobody prays nowadays!"

"Yes, indeed," said the farmer. "There are some members of my own household who won't pray before their meals."

"Hey, they must be real smart!" said the young man, "Who are they?"

The farmer answered dryly: "They are my pigs."

B.   Grateful for the Group Gathered

Illust.:  A popular book of a few years ago, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, extolled the "virtues" of independence and individuality at any price. The seagull is a popular subject for photography, and many people who vaction at the shore end up with some kind of souvenir bearing the picture of a seagull.  It is easy to see why people like this figure. A seagull exults in freedom.  When flying alone, he thrusts his wings back with powerful strokes, climbs higher and higher, and then swoops down in majesstic loops and circles.

   In a flock, though, the seagull is a different bird.  His majesty dissolves into in-fights and cruelty.  Comcepts of sharing and manners do not seem to exist among gulls. They are so fiercely competitive and jealous that if you tie a ribbon around the leg of a gull, making him stand out from the rest, you sentence him to death. The others in his flock will furiously attack him with claws and beaks, hammering through feathers and flesh to draw blood. They'll continue until he is a bloody heap.

   If we must have a bird as a model for our society, there is certainly a better choice. Consider the wild goose. The V-formation they use in flying enables them to fly with more ease and speed. The point position is the most difficult because of wind resistence, so the geese rotate this position every few minutes. The easiest flight is experienced in the two rear sections of the formation, and the stronger geese permit the young, weak, and older birds to occupy these positions.  It is also probable that the constant honking encuourages the weaker geese.

   The seagull teaches us to break loose and fly alone, but the wild goose teaches us to fly in a "family."  We can fly further with our Christian family than we could ever  fly alone - and, as we fly, our efforts constantly help others in our family.

C.   Grateful for the Good Giver

Illust.: Sir Walter Raleigh was continuously submitting requests to Queen Elizabeth on behalf of convicts. Once the Queen said to him: "Sir Walter, when will you stop being a beggar?" "When Your Majesty ceases to be a giver," was the wise answer. Oh, how wonderful to know that God is the inexhaustible source of blessing!

Conclusion:*

When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his quilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court.

The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?"

When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That'll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit."

Suddenly the judge recognized the famous minister. "You have violated the law," he said. "The fine must be paid -- but I am going to pay it for you." He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner!

"That," said Billy Graham, "is how God treats repentant sinners!" --- Progress Magazine, December 14, 1992

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