Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Paul knew there were troubles in the world. There always have been and there always will be, until Jesus returns. But even in the deepest, darkest hours there are still things to be thankful for. We just have to look very hard sometimes to see them. There are always blessings though sometimes it seems like they are hidden.
We live in a world full of challenges. As the pandemic continues, more and more people are finding themselves without work which in turn jeopardizes their ability to purchase needed food and medicines. It also puts them at risk for losing their homes. This morning on the news they showed lines at food banks across the country, some up to 2 miles long. In other parts of the world people are living in crowded refugee camps. Many in the Caribbean and Central America are experiencing homelessness due to hurricanes. Other people have lost everything, including loved ones.
For us, there is much to be thankful for. There are no hurricanes in sight. We are not shoveling snow, fleeing from fire, or sheltering from tornados. By the grace of God, we are safe. And we are able to help others. I am thankful for the many ways this family of faith makes a difference, as individuals, as groups and ministries, and as a family. Every Monday morning a group of very dedicated women gather in fellowship hall to sew quilts. But they aren’t just any old quilts. These quilts are stitched together with great care, out of fabric that is varied as the people who will receive them. There are dozens of patterns and colors of fabric that make up these quilts. It is a feast for the eyes! Hardly a week goes by without someone arriving at church to donate thread or fabric. In fact, sometimes the fabric that arrives here is more than they know what to do with. But please don’t stop bringing it.
Yesterday morning we blessed the quilts that are headed out all over the place. Some go to Lutheran World Relief. These quilts are often shipped overseas and are given to people who have little to nothing. The quilt becomes warmth for the cold nights and shelter from the hot afternoon sun. But the quilt is also a gift of God’s arms wrapped around people most of the world has forgotten. Part of the blessing for quilts goes like this. “Lord, we know that these gifts alone are only ordinary things…fabric, thread and such…but through your power and love they become extraordinary.”
Everything we give to another is ordinary until God gets involved. Then it becomes extraordinary. The small boy had an ordinary lunch…5 small loaves of barley bread and a couple of scrawny fish. But in Jesus hands they became enough to feed a huge crowd. Extraordinary! Bread and wine were ordinary things. They were readily available, and every home had them. But in Jesus hands they became the meal we eat to remember Him and how He paid for our sins so we would have eternal life in Him. Fabric and thread are common, ordinary things. Until they get made into dresses for poor kids or bags that hold essential items for a homeless person, or quilts.
I am thankful for common, ordinary things. And I am thankful for the chance to watch God do extraordinary things with them. I am thankful for the men of this family of faith who every year, faithfully, gather the Friday and sometimes Saturday after Thanksgiving to decorate the church property for Christmas. We arrive the first Sunday in Advent to wreaths hung, the nativity set up, lights on the building, a Christmas tree inside. It takes time and energy and effort and while it is a labor of love, it still is work. I am thankful for those who continue to keep the property looking great, from the landscapers we hire to the volunteers who seem to always have more than enough to do. I am thankful for the faithful folks who clean the sanctuary after every service to help us stay safe.
Many of these things just happen and we do not notice. We just assume things are happening, or we take for granted that the church will be decorated, and the grounds will look nice. We get preoccupied and wrapped up in our lives and we fail to see all the blessings we have been given. Thanksgiving is two days away. Get out a piece of paper and begin your list of all you are thankful for. It should probably be a big piece of paper. There are certainly some big things we are thankful for, but there are many more that we forget or don’t even notice because they are small or ordinary. God often works in the small and ordinary…just for you and me. And I am thankful.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W