What a year this has been. When we started, things were looking good for us. We were trying out new ways to reach out to our community. Our Spanish service had launched, and we were preparing to invite our neighbors to join us as we celebrated our Lord’s resurrection. Then our world was turned upside down. We lost the ability to gather and show our support to each other through the ups and downs of life. We thought it would be just a couple of weeks, but the weeks have turned into months, and we are struggling to see what our future holds.
In our personal lives, those of us with health issues struggle to protect ourselves from this virus that could be deadly, and the rest of us live in fear that we might unknowingly spread the virus to those whom it could harm. Every trip out of our homes carries risk, and the uncertainty about what we are dealing with remains front and center.
Now, as Thanksgiving approaches, some of us may be wondering what there is to give thanks for. Maybe we should just skip it this year. That was the dilemma that they faced almost one hundred years ago. The Spanish Flu had devastated the country and then the stock market crashed.
“Back during the dark days of 1929, a group of ministers in the Northeast, all graduates of the Boston School of Theology, gathered to discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services. Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief. The bread lines were depressingly long, the stock market had plummeted, and the term Great Depression seemed an apt description for the mood of the country. The ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the subject Thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them. After all, what was there to be thankful for. But it was Dr. William L. Stiger, Pastor of a large congregation in the city that rallied the group. This was not the time, he suggested, to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving, just the opposite. This was the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for blessings always present, but perhaps suppressed due to intense hardship.” (Sermons.com)
Even though our situation is not as dire as their’s was, this seems like perfect advice for us today. In spite of all we have lost, there are countless blessings that I can say thanks to God for. I thank God for the technology (which was created by people using their God-given gifts) that enable us to worship and fellowship together. I thank God for each of you who have continued to give to God through TPC so that we can continue to support our mission partners and outreaches. I thank God for the homes and warmth (or cooling) and for the bounty of food and TP we need for our daily bread. I thank God for medical workers, first responders, grocery workers, and countless unsung heros of this pandemic that gave us a sense of normalcy through it all. I thank God for Jorge, Sarah, and Patty for moving the Spanish ministry online. I thank God for the expertise of our various staff members that has kept things going from a distance and that God had assembled the people that we need for this time and place. I thank God for the Session, Deacons and the various Committees that have shared their wisdom and gifts as we find our way through this wilderness time. These are just some of the things that I have to give thanks for at TPC, and my personal list is ten times as long.
So, as we approach Thanksgiving Day, please join me in giving thanks to God, not only for these things, but for the greatest gift of all Jesus who came to throw open the gates of heaven and invite us boldly in before the throne of Grace, where we can find the Grace we need for such a time as this. (Hebrews 4:16)
Pastor Steve Ranney