Thanksgiving Day (Psalm 100)

By Rochelle Blumenfeld

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
    Serve the Lord with gladness;
    come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him; bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever
    and his faithfulness to all generations. (New Revised Standard Version)

On this day, many of us Americans will engage in our annual rituals. Several verbs characterize our activities. We will:

  • “Shout” at that crazy uncle
  • “Serve” the food
  • “Come” to the table and eat
  • “Know” how much preparation went into such a big spread
  • “Enter” the living room with praise because the Dallas Cowboys lost the game
  • “Give thanks” for food, family, and football

And at the end of the day, when everyone has finally quieted down with food comas, and crazy Uncle Frank is mercifully asleep in the recliner, that underneath it all, there really is love and gratitude for everything and everyone – even Uncle Frank and his now crazy snoring.

Today’s psalm is filled with verbs, actions for both believers and unbelievers, for the animate and inanimate, for the entire earth. When the psalmist, David, and other Hebrew writers penned their poetry, they centered what they most wanted to draw attention to in the middle, so that what came before it, and after it, pointed to that central message.

The center of Psalm 100 is this: Know that the Lord is God. There are three verb imperatives (commands) that come before this central encouragement; and then, three imperatives come after it. All six verbs help us to know God better. 

The three verbs that lead up to knowing the Lord:

  • Shout or “make a joyful noise” to the Lord
  • Worship or “serve” the Lord with gladness
  • Come into God’s presence with joyful songs 

The three verbs which follow the exhortation to know God and point back to it:

  • Enter the Lord’s gates and court with thanksgiving and praise
  • Give thanks to God
  • Praise or “bless” God’s name

To “know” God is more than to have some information or some understanding of theology; it is to take that knowledge and fully internalize the Lord, to have an experiential knowledge through relational intimacy. 

We know God by God’s historical work in Holy Scripture, God’s work in other people’s lives, and God’s work in our own lives. 

It’s important to have public opportunities of praising the Lord because it strengthens everyone’s faith. And gratitude to God centers us personally and corporately so that complaints and bitterness don’t take center stage.

Our stories of God’s work helps each other to know the Lord. And knowing God is what brings about life, purpose, hope, and love.

The Lord is worthy of all the praise, adoration, and worship we can offer. So, let us do it with heartfelt thanksgiving and some emotional flavor!

I am thankful for a great many things and a great many people. I am thankful for God’s Holy Word.  It literally is my food and drink. I cannot imagine being without it. I eat it every day and have a steady diet of the Spirit teaching me. 

One of my favorite places in the Bible has to do with knowing God:

I want to [experientially] know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10, NIV)

Everything in the Christian’s life, whether good or bad, is designed to help us know Jesus better. Sharing our experiences with each other encourages us to keep living for Jesus.

So, in between all the turkey and stuffing, the family drama, and the football games, let us intentionally give thanks today, out loud, for all the ways God has worked and revealed grace to us.

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks that demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments that satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he conquered death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Psalm 118:26-29 – A Guided Meditation into Gratitude

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
    We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
    and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
    up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever
. (New Revised Standard Version)

Today, take some meditative time to connect with the Lord. Allow yourself some space and grace to meaningfully get in touch with God and your own deep spirituality.

Make yourself comfortable… either sit down, stand outdoors, or recline in your favorite easy chair…. whatever posture helps you relax and relate to God.

Take several deep breaths in and out…

Give yourself permission right now to focus on your relationship with the Lord…

Make God and you a priority…

There is nowhere else you need to be…

You are deserving of this time…

If you get distracted by a thought or sound, simply acknowledge that it occurred and release it. Do not allow it to take you away from this time. For the next several minutes, focus on you and your God….

Imagine you are a kernel of corn, snuggled in the ground…

Although you are small, the Lord has given you everything you need within yourself to become a tall stalk with many ears of corn…

Breathe in, feeling your lungs expand as you inhale… and as you breathe out and exhale, stretch your arms slowly over your head, as if you are breaking the ground…

Slowly bring your arms down…

Lift your face toward heaven…

Imagine feeling the warmth of the sun and the light of God upon you… basking in the Lord’s grace for you…

Feel the refreshment of a gentle rain from heaven falling on you… giving you God’s steadfast love…

Sense your created self and all the potential within coming out… growing… lifting toward the immense sky of the Lord’s favor…

See yourself standing as a nine-foot tall stalk with multiple ears of corn…

Bask in the reality that you are a gift to a hungry world… that you are blessed to be on this earth, and to be a blessing to many… know that you are enough and express your gratitude to God using the following practice:

Look around you. Identify and name:

5 things you see…

4 things you feel…

3 things you hear…

2 things you smell…

1 thing you taste…

Express your thanks to the Lord for each of those things you identified.

End your time by slowly saying out loud with flavor:

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
    you are my God, I will extol you.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 138 – Humility and Hubris

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
    I will sing your praises before the gods.
I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
    I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
    by all the honor of your name.
As soon as I pray, you answer me;
    you encourage me by giving me strength.

Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord,
    for all of them will hear your words.
Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways,
    for the glory of the Lord is very great.
Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble,
    but he keeps his distance from the proud.

Though I am surrounded by troubles,
    you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
    and the power of your right hand saves me.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
    for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Don’t abandon me, for you made me. (New Living Translation)

The God of Holy Scripture is no uppity highfalutin Being. However, amongst humanity, those with established pedigree, high position, and influential power tend not to hobnob with the common person. In their hubris, they believe themselves to be above the common person.

Not so with the Lord of the universe. God consistently cares for humble folk. The Lord intentionally seeks the average commoner and draws near to them. The Creator bends down to meet lowly creatures at their level.

Conversely, the Lord stays out on the margins of proud and arrogant people. God stands straight up and looks down from afar on the haughty who believe they are above others. The privileged and powerful in the world will experience divine distance, mostly because their attitudes and actions put the stiff arm toward God.

One of the most frustrating experiences in life is to have someone in power arrogantly misjudge you. Rather than carefully listening and offering gracious attention, the proud already assume they know what’s going on and what is best for others.

So, like a bull about to enter a China shop, or a timebomb ready to explode, human hubris of the heart violates and blows up another’s life based upon misinformation and faulty egotistical assumptions.

Yet, God sees. From a lofty place, clearly observing all creaturely activity, the Lord knows what is truly happening. And God is not okay with injustice perpetrated by cocky roosters and pretentious autocrats. Everyone will experience God’s power. It’s just a matter of what type of power one receives.

The Lord’s saving and sustaining power will uphold the humble of heart. However, the power of God’s wrath is the lot of puffed up peacocks who only care about getting their way. Their own puny power will be eventually stripped away and given to those who will wield it with grace.

The difference between the proud and the lowly is evidenced by their prayers. Megalomaniacs are concerned for material acquisitions, high positions, and fame. And their prayers reflect those ambitions. The meek, however, pray for increased spiritual strength to withstand trouble; enlarged hearts to hold more of God; and acceptance of whatever the Lord wants, whether it is for personal good or ill.

The arrogant may accomplish many good things. It’s possible for them to achieve greatness through outstanding work and incredible feats. Yet, God knows the real score. Jesus said:

“Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter God’s kingdom. The only people who will enter are those who do what my Father in heaven wants.On that last Day many will call me Lord. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, by the power of your name we spoke for God. And by your name we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ Then I will tell those people clearly, ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong. I never knew you.’” (Matthew 7:21-23, ERV)

Self-absorbed people enjoy their own presence and narcissistically believe everyone else should, too. Yet, ordinary people, being attentive to the common good of all persons, rely on the presence and protection of God for everyone and everything.

Whereas the vainglorious person trusts in their own ability to achieve and hold power so that they can smugly boast about their superiority, on the contrary, the meek are content to labor for the Lord in relative obscurity, to try and use their skills and aptitude for the benefit of their fellow humanity. God holds them tightly and securely. But not so with the egotistical. They will fall because they were never in God’s hand to begin with.

If the humble are weak, that’s okay. Because God is strong. If they are in trouble, no problem. The Lord has their back. They can let go, knowing there is a God who doesn’t. And that is the irony to the spiritual life – that in releasing and relinquishing we gain and acquire.

The truly humble of heart shall be vindicated by God from the wicked. For the Lord’s steadfast love will have the day.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are terribly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us so that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Psalm 18:20-30 – Vault the Highest Fence

God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
    I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
    I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
    and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
    when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

The good people taste your goodness,
The whole people taste your health,
The true people taste your truth,
The bad ones can’t figure you out.
You take the side of the down-and-out,
But the stuck-up you take down a notch.

Suddenly, God, you floodlight my life;
    I’m blazing with glory, God’s glory!
I smash the bands of marauders,
    I vault the highest fences.

What a God! His road
    stretches straight and smooth.
Every God-direction is road-tested.
    Everyone who runs toward him
Makes it. (The Message)

I confess I’m tired a lot. Maybe it’s the rigors of pastoral ministry and hospital chaplaincy. It might be from the daily grind of household chores and family responsibilities. It could be because my mind is always a beehive of activity and doesn’t shut down easily at night. Perhaps it’s due to not enough self-care. More than likely, it is a bit of all that. 

I perked up, though, when I read today’s psalm and heard David say that by means of God he can vault the highest fences. Back in the day, I certainly did my share of hopping over high fences. But it’s been a long while since I’ve leapt over a fence. I’m old enough to know better than try something like leaping over anything. I can clearly imagine pulled hamstrings and a messed-up back doing a feat like that.

David was really no spring chicken himself when he wrote this. Psalm 18 is a psalm of praise to God for rescuing David from Saul and all his enemies. This deliverance did not happen overnight; it came over years of David running from the king and being pursued by others. Yet the day finally came, and David was not shy in proclaiming his praise to God.

If God’s deliverance from earthly enemies can energize David so much, how much more can I be invigorated by the reality that I’m delivered from sin, death, and hell through the blood of Jesus Christ? 

Maybe you, like me sometimes, think too much about adverse circumstances and ornery people – which makes the biblical Psalms a great place to go when fixating on personal injustice. They help give voice to our contemporary situations. 

So, today, I’m taking my own advice by reading and meditating on this psalm and getting a leg up on letting gratitude set the tone for my life and ministry. I probably won’t go out and vault myself over a fence, but I suspect my soul will be renewed and energized by contemplating the goodness and guidance of a loving God who always has my back.

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side. We thank you for setting us at tasks that demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments that satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he conquered death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom. Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.