Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and Canada. It is a special holiday when people should celebrate. In both Canada and America, family and friends gather for a feast on Thanksgiving. Traditional fare in America often includes turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Parades and football games also have long associations with the holiday. Since I grew up and live in South Eastern Europe I remember the time when I was studying English as a kid. Sometimes we had lessons called – Thanksgiving Day. I was sad because we in Serbia do not have this holiday. Yet I also understood how important deeper meaning of this holiday is. How important is to think really deeply about all the things we are thankful for. To think about all blessings and everything that God has done and is doing in our lives.
When I started preparing this sermon I was investigating a bit how many thanksgiving verses we have in the Bible and I found that there are more than 100 of them. In Psalm 95:1-2, King David wrote” I will enter and give thanks to the Lord”. In 1 Chronicles 16:34 it is written “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever”. More than 10 years ago when I was living in an Orthodox Christian monastery trying to become a monk for many months I was reading orthodox Christian books in order to learn as much as I can. Even though I declare myself as an old catholic since 2016 when met father Michael, I remember that there are some good things I learnt from Orthodoxy. One thing is Thankfulness. If you ever go to Holy Month Athos in Greece where only monks live you could hear very often them saying ”Slava i hvala Gospodu” which means “Glory and thank be to the Lord”. Also one important thing that I learnt I would like to share here with you. As a young man, when I was in my early twenties I spent two years learning Greek language, I also worked in tourism sector in Greece. I remember one very important word that we all use in Christian churches. This word is Eucharist or in Greek – Evharistia. This word actually means – thankfulness. In Greek language evharisto means thank you. So, it is very important to make this relation between Eucharist and giving thanks to God.
When we participate in the holy Eucharist we also participate in thankfulness for the salvation that Jesus had given us though his the most holy sacrifice. When we eat brad and drink vine, we eat Jesus` body and blood. We show thankfulness to his sacrifice, we are thankful for His most holy body that is given to be sacrificed for the sinful humans and when we drink his blood we show thankfulness to God for the purest blood that was given to wash away our sins of everyone who believes and accepts Jesus as his or her savior.
Another definition of the biblical meaning of thanksgiving is that Thanksgiving means to respond to God’s goodness and grace with gratitude. The word for giving thanks in the Old Testament means to raise hands to God in gratitude. We can show gratitude through Eucharist but we can also show our gratitude through our prayers. From time to time it is really useful to all of us to think about all the things that we have and to become aware how blessed we are. Usually when we pray we ask God to do something. We pray for success at work, we pray for good health, we pray for better salary, we pray for many things. But I personally believe that the most powerful prayer is not to request anything from God. Just stay in His presence and say one sincere “Thank you. Thank you for all the good things that you gave me. And thank you even for allowing bad things to happen because those might be lessons and I may learn something from those. Thank you God for everything, for every breath I take, for every heart bit, for giving me this life, for giving me love, for allowing me to get to know Jesus. Thank you for the gift of salvation, for the love, the hope and the faith. Evharisto!”
I remember one old school friend when I was in my Secondary school. That friend unfortunately always lived in a very bad financial situation, as many people in Balkan do. And she always kept asking every single person for some small money. We were all helping her, sometimes when we could and as much as we could. But after some time, we were trying to skip seeing her in the school. All students knew that this girl would be complaining about her finances and ask for some financial help if you stop her to say hello. Students started seeing her not as a true friend, but as a material person who always asks for some material help.
I often remember this situation when I pray. I know it is written that we should ask for many things in our prayers but it is also written that Our Heavenly father is giving food to birds and water to flowers in fields and He knows what we need even before we ask for it. But human nature is strange, it seems that we always want more and more. My prayer for today on this Thanksgiving is let us all to stand for a moment and not to ask for anything new in our prayer. Let us just pray to good with the mouth full of thanksgiving. Let us think about all the things that we have already and let us be thankful for these.
In Philippians 4:6-7 there is a verse saying: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This does not teaches us that it is not good to have requests. We can have requests for our God. But those requests should be there with thanksgiving. God loves when we show gratitude and when we say:” Thank you, God”. As a result he can grant us more than we ask him to. And there is one more Bible verse talking about that. In Luke 17: 11-19 it is written: “Out of the ten lepers Jesus healed, only one went back to thank Him. This man, completely free from illness but full of faith, knelt at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for showing mercy. Because of his gratitude, God healed him far deeper and more than the other nine men were”. With this story in our minds and hearts let us all be thankful on today`s Thanksgiving Day, and let us celebrate thanksgiving every day in our hearts. Thanks be to God forever. Amen.