Monday, September 24, 2007

Danket dem Herrn!

There’s a German song that my family would sometimes sing as a table grace when I was growing up.
Danket dem Herrn!
Wir danken dem Herrn,
denn er ist freundlich
und seine Güte währet ewiglich.
I know that doesn’t mean much to many of you readers. It comes from a number of places in the Old Testament. You can find it at Psalm 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34; 2 Chronicles 5:13; 7:3; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Jeremiah 33:11. What it says is:
O give thanks to the LORD,
for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.

We are coming again to Thanksgiving Day. Various days of thanksgiving have been observed in Canada since the explorer Martin Frobisher and his party held a ceremony to give thanks for surviving a long journey of exploration in 1578. Over time different days of thanksgiving were observed at different times. Starting in 1879 Thanksgiving Day was observed every year but the date or time of year could change from year to year. Finally in 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed: "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed ... to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October."

But giving thanks is not confined to one day nor is it a recent phenomenon. The table grace above is a few thousand years old and appears in a number of places in the Bible. The Jews observed, and many still observe, the Festival of Succoth which is a seven day harvest festival that falls roughly during our month of October.

Beyond specific festivals of thanksgiving we can give thanks to God every day of our lives. The berakah is the simplest and among the oldest of prayers: "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, maker of all things, for you..." It is essentially a single sentence of praise and thanks to God, and adult Jews are enjoined to pray a prescribed number of berakoth every day. An ancient berakah is the model for Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, and indeed the model of our Great Prayer of Thanksgiving over bread and cup. In the berakah, prayer simultaneously becomes proclamation, since God’s mercies are recounted while others listen in. And that is the pattern as well for our discipleship, is it not? Christians live their lives in the hope and expectation that others are listening in!

As we live our lives with an attitude of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us and given to us others listen in. They hear our thankful words or notice our thankful attitude and they might recognize our faith in God. O give thanks to the LORD. Our prayers, which are often filled with asking for things from God, out to be filled with at least as much, if not more, thanksgiving. What exactly are we thankful for? Well, each of us can only speak for ourselves, but we can thank God for forgiving the sins that we confess. Some people actually list things for which they are thankful and use that list in prayer. Mark Allan Powell writes: "You might list big-ticket items that we tend to take for granted (that I am alive, that I am healthy, that I live in a country where I am allowed to be free, that I have a job, that I have a house to live in, that I have a bed to sleep in at night), or smaller matters that we simply tend to overlook (that song on the radio, the taste of red wine, the feeling of my toes digging in wet sand, the sound of my cat’s purr, the pleasure of a good night’s sleep, the smell of burning wood)."

All good gifts around us are sent from heav’n above.
We thank you, Lord, we thank you, Lord, for all your love.

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

I'm finding that keeping a "gratitude journal," even just once a week, is a positive experience...also a good reality check to the constant bombardment of news and infotainment designed to tell us how bad things are.