A Week of Thanksgiving ~ Thanksgiving Day

George Munkenbeck’s study concludes with a celebration of Thanksgiving Day!

Today’s Verse: 1 Chronicles 29:11-13

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. (NKJV)

Discussion

Here David is addressing God before the people at the time of the offering for the temple. He approaches God in a humble and sincere manner acknowledging God’s grace to His people. This is a corporate worship experience and the whole gathering is encouraged to put God at the center of life and the community and His goodness and mercy to those who acknowledge Him and place Him at the center of their lives will know no bounds. David’s address to God before the people is something that is well worth remembering at this time of Thanksgiving as his blessings to our nation and to each one of us, in spite of the fact that we forget Him time and time again, are beyond our compre- hension. On this day of Thanksgiving take David’s lead in the worship of Our Creator and Lord at a critical point in the history of our nation and also to reread the proclamation of President Lincoln made at a time when many in this country had given up hope that there would be an end to the war that tore us apart. There have been and will be bad times but we will weather them through God’s grace and care for each and every one of us only if we turn to Him. Have a blessed Thanksgiving in God’s love and care.

Hymn: How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder Consider all
The world Thy Hand hath made, I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder, Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed; Refrain:
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!

This hymn was added to the Methodist Hymnal in the 1966 edition after a number of church members lobbied for its inclusion. There was also a great deal of resistance to the hymn when the committee considered it for publication. The hymn has a very tortured journey to publication in our hymnal. It was originally composed in Swedish around 1885 by Carl Broberg. Mr. E. Gustav Johnson then translated Mr. Brobergs composition into English in 1925, but it failed to become popular. In 1907, Manfred von Glehn translated the hymn into German and titled it “Wie gross bist Du.” It was then translated into Russian in 1927 by L. S. Prokhanoff, and was published in Lodz, Poland. It was three stanzas of the Russian text that was translated into English by evangelist Stuart K. Hine in 1939 and used in his preaching in England. It was Hine that added the present fourth verse which was inspired by refugees from Nazi tyranny who kept asking the question, “When can I go home?” The hymn became famous in the United States when in 1955, George Beverly Shea sang it at a Billy Graham Crusade. The hymn was a hit and became a regular feature of the crusades.

So what were the controversies that plagued this hymn complicating its inclusion in our hymnal despite its popularity? First, there was a copyright issue and lawsuits due to its rather convoluted origins. After that, there was a controversy about the tune. Mr. Hine says he reconstructed it from a Swedish folk tune, but a number of people noted that the tune resembles the Nazi party song, “Horst Wessel Lied.” After that blew over, others complained that a piece of popular Gospel music would lower the respectability of the official hymnal. Added to that was the concern of the hymnal committee being able to afford to pay the royalty fee for publication. They finally settled on $2,000.00 (a major sum back then as I can testify an Ensign in the Coast Guard made only $220.00 a month back then) and there remained a great deal of concern that if they added other modern songs there would not be enough money to pay all the fees that would be requested. All those controversies aside what we have left is a hymn celebrating new life through Christ’s sacrifice for us. Once again, something unwanted that with a checkered past that was a failure in its first translation into English became a part of God’s plan to spread the Good News years later. This Thanksgiving remember that God’s plans are not ours and it is in His time, and not ours, that He works His wonders for our good. Happy Thanksgiving.

How about ending this study with something light-hearted?

A Thanksgiving Medication from 1863: Egg-Nog

Believe it or not Egg-Nog in the 1860’s was also part of the diet fed to ill or wounded soldiers. The following recipe was found in the 1862 edition of The Manual of Military Surgery written by Samuel David Gross, MD on page 182:

Egg-nog consists of an egg the white and yolk of which are beaten up separately; half a pint of cold water with a little loaf-sugar is then added, together with two tablespoonsful of brandy.

Another recipe for this sick room essential was found on page 19 in The Family Nurse written by

“Mrs. Child” published in 1837 and this was titled “Egg Gruel.”

Boil a pint of new milk; beat four eggs to a light froth and pour in while the milk boils; stir them thoroughly together, but do not let them boil. Add a little salt, sweeten with loaf sugar, and grate in a little nutmeg. Take half of it while warm, and the other half in two hours. Somewhat astringent, nutritious, and medicinal in advanced stages of chronic dysentery where the dis- ease continues from weakness after the cause in removed by physic.

Now I do not think that it would be something that you would want to use in the sick room but Egg Nog will be a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal, but go out and buy it. Do not forget the nut- meg though, I think some also add cinnamon rather than nutmeg.

Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation lists many things that we as a nation should thank God for on Thanksgiving Day and for that matter every day. After reading this I hope you will be able to agree with my mother’s regular statement that was repeated many times when I was growing up – “God is in His heaven and all is right with the world!”

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 National Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been main- tained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the the- atre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national de- fense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settle- ments, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our benefi- cent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fer- vently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hun-dred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward, Secretary of State

A Blessed Thanksgiving to you all – George Munkenbeck

Thanksgiving Eve Service

In years past, we have shared our Thanksgiving Eve service in person.  This year we invite you to participate in the safety of your homes.  We have plenty to be thankful for this year, despite all that has happened.  Praise God for His unending blessings!  A special thanks to George Munkenbeck for this service.  A blessed Thanksgiving to all!

A Week of Thanksgiving ~ Tuesday

George Munkenbeck’s study continues with a psalm and a song of praise!

Today’s Verse: Psalm 100

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (NKJV)

Discussion

This is one of my favorite Psalms as I managed to memorize it in Fourth Grade so I could earn my King James Bible. I was lucky to have my cousins and aunts as the Sunday school staff as they knew I had problems with memorization and at the time, public speaking, so with the contrivance of my father and grandfather I got assigned this Psalm. I got my Bible and still have it. This Psalm is a hymn of procession to be sung by the pilgrims to worship at the temple on the high holy days. Jesus and his parents sang this as they came to Jerusalem to make sacrifices at the altar. In the first verse the whole earth is called to worship in joy as the Lord is the King of all nations, and not just Israel. The Psalmist goes on to tell us that service is also an expression of worship and that is emphasized in the Hebrew as the word for worship is literally “service” and St. Paul pointed out in Romans 12:1 that they belong together. In letting God into our lives and making Him the center means that there must be a major change in the life of the believer – the believer who has let God rule in and be the center of his life will display that in daily life. God in your life means that you have joy in the knowledge that He will provide for your needs and while the life the world sees might be one of difficulties He will give you joy in His sure promise of forgiveness and take up your burden of sin. In verse three the word “know” has a deeper meaning for a believer as it means we have done more than saying or even consenting to have God in our life but rather we incorporate God and His char- acter into how we live our lives and act towards others. This hymn was a corporate processional hymn meaning that all the people approaching the temple sang it in unison and that means our wor- ship, our thanksgiving must be more than just private but also corporate in nature. It means that the joy of living through Christ and following God’s will is a community effort. Goodness, mercy, and truth are the characteristics of God and his holiness and they also must be central to our daily living a life of holiness and thanksgiving. It is a requirement that we pass the Good News on to others in the example of our lives. His promises last eternally and we are responsible for doing our part to ensure that all hear of His love and care and see that in our way of living and interacting with others.

Hymn: We Gather Together (#131 in the hymnal)

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known. The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing. Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Written anonymously in the late Sixteenth Century it celebrates the freedom of the Netherlands from Spanish control and domination. Finally published in 1626 as a prayer of thanksgiving it was translated into English by Theodore Baker in 1894. While originally a Dutch nationalistic hymn it became a hymn used to thank God for the blessings He has bestowed on our nation. The tune’s name is taken from the last name of Elvard Kremser who arranged an old Dutch folk tune to fit the words. It first appeared in the 1935 edition if the Methodist Hymnal.

A Week of Thanksgiving ~ Monday

George Munkenbeck’s study continues with a look at Hebrews
and the famous hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

Today’s Verse: Hebrews 12:28-29

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (NKJV)

Discussion

What is it we should be thankful for? St. Paul tells us that we are receiving a place in God’s heavenly kingdom. We did not and cannot earn this by anything that we do or could do but that gift comes to us through the grace of God provided for by and through Christ. Our sin is a burden for us but Christ has atoned for our sins at Calvary and God has judged us and forgiven us by the sacrifice and covering of Christ’s blood and in that we experience God’s refining fire so our sins are cleansed and forgiven. By that and that alone are seen as pure and worthy in His sight.

Hymn: For the Beauty of the Earth (#92 in the hymnal)

For the beauty of the earth For the glory of the skies, For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies. Refrain
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.

Follet S. Pierpont was inspired to write this hymn in 1864 as he sat on a hill that overlooked Bath, England. In the verse that came to him that day he recounted the gifts of God as he viewed the city in its setting. In his verse he included a paraphrase of the post-communion prayer found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This prayer is still found in our hymnal today now used before distribution of the elements. We can see echoes of this prayer the words, “praise,” “offering,” and “sacrifice” in the verses. This hymn first appeared in our hymnal in 1905 and today’s hymn text has had some minor changes since the original publication in the Methodist Hymnal.

Sunday Worship Service ~ November 22, 2020

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Good morning, everyone!
Welcome to our 37th online service.
We hope and pray that it is a blessing to you!

We are now worshiping both at home and in person.  We will continue to post Sunday services indefinitely and want you to stay safe!  Mary and Joanna are working mostly from home.  Tanae is updating our Facebook page, while Rebecca is in charge of our Instagram page and Jack has adopted our Twitter account.  Every day we add a new post right here on the website that automatically pops up on Facebook and Twitter as well.  If you missed any of this week’s posts, just scroll down to see them!

Our Thrift Shop is open Saturdays only; please contact Tracy to help on Saturdays or anytime during the week.  Wednesday morning Bible study (led by Rich) normally meets at 10 a.m. and Wednesday evening Bible study (led by Steve) at 7 p.m., but each will be off this week for Thanksgiving.  Our Thanksgiving Eve service will be online only this year; thanks George!  A new Sunday School lesson is posted today on the Sunday School page.

CALL TO WORSHIP: Psalm 100:2, 4 and 107:1, NIV

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!
Worship the Lord with gladness;
COME BEFORE HIM WITH JOYFUL SONGS.
Enter his courts with thanksgiving
AND HIS COURTS WITH PRAISE.

UNISON PRAYER

IN TIMES OF SCARCITY
AND IN TIMES OF ABUNDANCE,
MAY WE OFFER OUR PRAISE TO GOD.
IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE, GOOD OR BAD,
MAY WE LIFT HIGH HIS HOLY NAME.
HE REMAINS FOREVER CONSTANT,
COVERING US WITH BLESSINGS
SEEN AND UNSEEN.  AMEN.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE: Hebrews 12:28, Good News Bible

Let us be thankful because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory forever.
Amen.

OPENING SONG:  “We Gather Together” (The Hymns Ensemble)

A beautiful rendition recorded during lockdown ~ welcome to a week of Thanksgiving!

CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)

Lord Jesus, in a world of disease, argument and turmoil, help us to find our way to thanksgiving.  Open our eyes to the blessings around us.  Fill us with gratitude for the ordinary, everyday things that continue to exist, as well as for your love which will never end.  Remind us that you are God, and that all creation rests safely in your divine hands.

Bless Marty, Janet, Eleanor and Ursula with continued strength and recovery.  Be with Jane, Barbara and Liz throughout their chemo treatments; ease their discomfort and increase their calm.  Drive this disease from their system, and fill them with your healing, loving grace.

We pray for others in our church family who are going through times of need:  for Amy, Pat, Jim, Sue, Joan, Lois, Dannie, Kathleen, Lily, Ken, Bunny, Dawn, Harriet, Diane, Laurie & Steve, Paul, and Ruth; for all members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.

We come to you now in silent prayer …

Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts,
Attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.

HYMN:  “For the Beauty of the Earth” (Audrey Assad)

SCRIPTURE LESSONS: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a, Philippians 4:6-7, Good News Bible

Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances.  Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.

SUNDAY MEDITATION (Short video followed by notes ~ Additional Blooper Reel at end of service!)

.
Paul writes, “Things to be thankful for.  The so-called simple things that we all take for granted.  Let’s face it, before the year 2020, how many of us thought about these things as blessings?  A roof over your head.  A job.  Family.  Friends.  A sense of purpose.  The freedom to worship.  Your health.  And the memories of those who are not with us anymore.  For the simplest of things, like being able to feed yourself, using a knife and a fork.  Showering, or just jumping in the car and going for a ride somewhere.  And for me personally, I am very thankful for the gift of time.  When I was diagnosed with ALS, I was told I had about three years left.  So my expiration date has come and gone a couple of times.  I would like to try to use the extra time I have been given to accomplish something meaningful.  Try to get as much life out of each day as I can.  And if somewhere during the course of that day I can make someone else’s day just a little bit brighter, then I feel have won.”

Rich writes, “For many people, it’s hard to be thankful during a pandemic ~ and yet, the apostle Paul writes, ‘Be thankful in all circumstances.’  The very act of counting one’s blessings, whether in a gratitude journal, blessings jar or simple list, can be a counterbalance to all the negativity that threatens to steal one’s joy.  No matter what challenges we may face, we still have the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is ready to carry us when we get tired.  We have the incredible, beautiful world that God has created.  And we have each other.  Paul writes that when we thank God with grateful hearts, we receive God’s peace.  Our hearts and minds are at peace, and we are kept safe through the One who loves us and has promised never to leave us or desert us.”

This Thanksgiving, may we all be able to count our blessings, and never run out; may our cups overflow with God’s grace as we praise and thank Him!  Amen.

OFFERING

Please use this time to make out a check to the church (Sayville United Methodist Church, 164 Greene Avenue, Sayville NY 11782).  Thank you to all who have been contributing during this time, and helping the church to pay its bills!  As you write, please enjoy this new thanksgiving song from Chris Tomlin and Florida Georgia Line!

OFFERTORY PRAYER (from “Godspell”)

All good gifts around us
Have come from heaven above
So thank you Lord, thank you, Lord
For all your love.  Amen.

BENEDICTION

We go forth as the people of God, blessed and redeemed.  May our redemption fill us with joy, and may our joy sustain us through every valley, drought and storm.  May our souls be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, now and forever, Amen.  

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Thank you to Kaitlyn and Lee for helping with today’s online service!
And thank you for worshiping with us!  We wish you God’s healing and hope!

Bonus Blooper Reel

In our first attempt, we stopped filming after two minutes because Rich was covered with goats and more goats were eating Kaitlyn’s clothes while she was trying to film.  Here’s what it looked like!

A Week of Thanksgiving ~ Saturday

Thank you to George Munkenbeck for this multi-part study!
Today we look at Psalm 95 and another famous Thanksgiving hymn!

Today’s Verse: Psalm 95:1-6

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (NKJV)

Discussion

The first six verses of Psalm 95 are meant as a hymn for public worship. This portion of the Psalm is still found as a call to worship today. In this portion the psalmist works hard to stir up the congre- gation and for that matter all others to publically worship and praise God. This Psalm though not titled or ascribed, is often attributed to David and uses the Temple confessional offering as a Thanksgiving to God. In this Psalm God is named in the Hebrew version in three ways that describe His characteristics. As in all name use in the Bible they have special meanings. God is –

El, a name that honors God’s strength. This comes from a root word meaning “might, strength, power” and is used in the Bible over 250 times.

Jehovah, a name that honors God’s very being and essence. This is the form of the Hebrew YHWH and the pronounceable version is written as Yahweh. This translates into English as Lord or Master and is first found in Genesis 4:2, and is a reference to His divine nature. There is still some controversy today on exactly how this was pronounced in Hebrew as written Hebrew does not use vowels and in the third century it was ruled as a word that should not be pronounced so as not to take the Lord’s name in vain, so the original pronunciation has been lost.

And Elohim, a name that honors God’s covenant relationship to mankind. This is the plural of El and is the name used for God the Creator and is found in Genesis 1:1 and Psalm 19:1.

The first two verses are an invitation to enthusiastic and exuberant praise in worship because this praise is warranted as God is the sovereign Creator (V. 3). In verses 4 and 5, the psalmist uses the opposite extremes of dry land and sea to include all things on the earth. Verse 6 tells us that the proper way to worship is to approach that worship in humility and supplication.

Hymn: Now Thank We All Our God (#102 in the hymnal)

This hymn was originally written in German by Martin Rinkart as a two-stanza family table grace during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). The original printing and text have disappeared so the date given for this hymn is usually given as 1663 which is the date for the oldest existing printed copy of the words. The inspiration for this was Sirach 50:22-24 one of the books of the Apocrypha. The hymn was translated into English in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth and it is this translation that entered the Methodist Hymnal in 1881. The tune we sing the words to is entitled “Nun danket” was originally written in 1647 by Johann Crueger and the tune was harmonized by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840 and it is in this form we sing it today.

A Week of Thanksgiving Begins!

Thank you to George Munkenbeck for taking the reins for a week of Thanksgiving!

Introduction to the Study

For many this year is one to forget. Filled with concerns and often fear of unseeable enemy. We are practicing social distancing and wearing masks, hiding smiles and cannot get close. There are many who are still afraid to even go out to buy groceries and there is a general feeling of unease and isolation. All of us feel restricted and nothing is normal. When we worship, we sit apart and many of those we are used to seeing in the pews or at coffee hour are worshiping at home on the Internet. To put it mildly, 2020 has been a Topsy-Turvy year; but before we succumb to the general gloom and doom, we should not forget that God is always with us. This is not the worst year faced by our nation – one year that was worse, and it was in that year that a President proclaimed that the fourth Thursday in November be a day of Thanksgiving. Our first national Thanksgiving was proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, a year where the very future of the nation was still in doubt and there was a general sense of weariness at the then “new normal” of death and destruction. While many trace the origins of Thanksgiving back to the Pilgrims that celebration gave birth to some state sanctioned days, but it was Abraham Lincoln who decided that the nation needed to look to the blessings God had bestowed on the United States. Blessings lost in the news reports and death notices from the battlefields of a war which was tearing at our national fabric. His proclamation is one that we need to read today and is included at the end of this study.

A Family Celebrates That First National Day of Thanksgiving Amidst Loss

On that first national Thanksgiving Day a family gathered around the table at 109 Madison Street in New York City (then only Manhattan) on the last Thursday of November of 1863 but as far as the parents were concerned this was not a year to be thankful for anything. They had decided to return to England after being in America for fifteen years. They had to emigrate from England in 1847 for political reasons and had not only to leave a handicapped daughter behind but were forced to give up a successful tailoring business in London. Here the best they could do was to make common clothing for seamen and others in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Their oldest son, Edwin, had defied the wishes of his father and mother for him to learn the family business and instead after graduating from school apprenticed in the office of a ship broker and ship insurance company as a clerk learning the business of shipping and sea trade. He then further defied their wishes and joined the Army in 1862. He wrote home and told his parents and siblings about what he had experienced, and that this was not the glorious sadventure that he expected. He fought at South Mountain and Antietam and then contracted Typhoid Fever which took his life in April of 1863. So on this day of supposed thanksgiving all they could think about was the loss of their son. To make matters worse they could not afford a grave and had to bury him in a grave borrowed from the undertaker as it would be years before they could afford a grave for him. His parents still wanted to return to their comfortable middle-class lives in England, but Edwin’s four brothers and his sister would not leave the country he loved – besides only one of them had been born in England. Edwin’s siblings would take up their brother’s desire to be a success in business and they prospered, never forgetting the sacrifice of their brother. While the parents mourned a son lost that first national Thanksgiving Day, his siblings celebrated the gift that Edwin’s sacrifice gave to the family and his adopted country, that he loved more than anything else. That gift inspired his brothers and sister to give back to the nation he died for and stay here in this nation. Over the years many of the family inspired by the desire to give back to the United States would serve in the Armed Forces of Edwin’s adopted country to de- fend the liberty he died to protect.

This is a true story and Edwin’s family still gives thanks for his sacrifice in service to the nation 157 years after his death. The family that sat around the table in 1863 was mine – Edwin’s last name was Munkenbeck and his sacrifice is why I am an American today. Thank you, Uncle Edwin.

Let us also remember that at the Thanksgiving table we should also celebrate the sacrifice on Cavalry that gave us a gift of life and liberty from sin. During this busy season take a few minutes to sit down and consider the gift of life eternal that Christ has earned for us. Let us resolve this Thanksgiving to be inspired by this gift of God’s grace through the sacrifice of Christ and take inspiration from that gift to give back to God our worship, both private and public, our service, our testimony and our support.

Today’s Verse: Psalm 107:1

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. (NKJV)

Discussion

This verse is the first one in the fifth book of the collection of thought poems we call The Psalms. It is basically a sequel to the last Psalm, number 106 of the fourth book and is both a hymn of thanksgiving and also wisdom. Written after the Exile, this Psalm is a call to the people to thank God for his redemption. Both Psalms 106 and 107 make it clear that the cause for thanks is the good char- acter of God. Here He is being thanked for a temporal delivery – the return from exile and reinstatement to the blessings of the Promised Land. God did this despite the transgressions of Israel that put them into captivity. God has replaced thier misery with joy at His mercy in restoring to the peo- ple their birthright. This first verse begins a call for thanksgiving to God for His redemption of Israel and this call for thanksgiving continues through verse 3. On our own day of Thanksgiving let us be thankful for His redemptive grace to each one of us through the sacrifice of Christ.

Hymn: Come Ye Thankful People Come (#694 in the hymnal)

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home; All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied; Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

This is used as one of our traditional Thanksgiving hymns, but Henry Alford wrote this as a harvest hymn based on Mark 4:26-29 and Matthew 13:36-43. It was first published in 1844 in four stanzas headed by the title heading, “After Harvest.” Over the next two decades this hymn was revised by the author and by others and what is in our hymnal today is Mr. Alford’s 1867 version. We have since seen further changes in the words of the hymn as in the latest hymnal the words have been made “gender neutral.” The harvest referred to in the hymn is the harvest of souls when Christ re- turns to the earth. The tune “St. George’s Windsor” was written by George J. Elvey in 1858 and was joined to this hymn in 1861. Elvey was the organist at the Chapel of St. George, which is the royal chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Heavenly Banquet

This past Tuesday I had the honor of participating in Raynor D’Andrea’s 7th annual Candlelight Memorial Service at New Life Community Church.  This service took on new meaning in a year when many have been unable to mourn as they normally would, adding another layer of grief to incredibly difficult losses.  Many have reported that the inability to hold full funerals has robbed them of a sense of closure.

The section I read was taken from the Reform Judaism Prayer Book:

We Remember Them by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer

At the rising sun and at its going down;
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter;
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring;
We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer;
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn;
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends;
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as
We remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength;
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart;
We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make;
We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share;
We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs;
We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as,
We remember them.

The service continued with prayers from various faith traditions and the lighting of five candles: Grief, Courage, Memory, Love and Hope.  The lighting of candles was reminiscent of the Menorah and the Advent wreath.  Congregants were then invited to come forward to light candles of their own.

As the holy days approach, we miss the loved ones who are no longer with us.  Sometimes the losses are fresh.  Sometimes the losses are old, but feel as fresh as when they first occurred.  We remember times spent with friends and family at the Thanksgiving table and around the Christmas tree.

It’s okay to remember and to grieve, but it’s healthy to do so with hope.  We believe in a God who takes care of our loved ones.  Those of us who have lost many loved ones may imagine a large get-together in heaven, where our loved ones are gathered together, saying that they miss us too, but are looking forward to seeing us.

There have been many artistic depictions of the Heavenly Banquet, but they all seem a bit formal to me ~ nothing at all like the warm gatherings of my youth.  I prefer to picture a Heavenly Picnic or Heavenly Barbecue.  The photo above provides an idea of what that might look like (that’s a real installation in Switzerland), while the photo below depicts the basket that God might bring (an actual Ohio building in the shape of a picnic basket).  Our friends and relatives will bring the meals we miss, many which we thought we’d never taste again.  God will bring some fresh-baked manna (which tastes like honey wafers).  Jesus will bring the best wine (even for Methodists).  I’m not sure how the meat thing is going to go, but let’s just say that if anyone is able to perfect a meatless burger that tastes like an actual burger, it’s God.

We may feel alone, but we’re not alone; we’re surrounded by the presence of God.  We may feel that our loved ones are gone, but they have not blinked out of existence, just moved to another plane of existence.  We remember them because they were with us, but also because their memory is with us, and because they are somewhere else.

May these thoughts provide you with solace and hope.

Beginning tomorrow, George Munkenbeck will be filling in for a week-long study called A Week of Thanksgiving.  This study will culminate with the online Thanksgiving Eve Service that George has led faithfully in person for many years.  This will give me a chance to store up inspiration for Advent ~ thank you, George!  I’ll be back with new posts the day after Thanksgiving, when we will also post George’s Advent study on a separate page.
Sunday worship services will continue to be posted as usual.  ~ Rich

The Solution to Everything May Be Simpler Than We Thought

This weekend I read a great short story by N.K. Jemisin called “Emergency Skin.”  The story was first published on Amazon and won this year’s Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novelette.

The premise of the story:  climate change has ravaged the earth, and a large group of humans has left the planet because they find it unsustainable.  Years later they return to see what happened to the planet.  To their surprise, they discover that Earth is doing great!

When they ask what happened, they are told that the earth never needed new technologies to save them ~ they only needed people to care about each other.  When all the rich, selfish people left, the rest banded together and formed a sustainable society based on kindness and cooperation.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking (because I thought it too) ~ we can’t just shoot all the rich, selfish people into space (although maybe we could trick them into leaving on an Elon Musk ship).  But we can start to concentrate on caring for others.  These is one of the two main principles of our faith (along with loving God).

Think about it for a minute.  Would caring for each other stop the coronavirus?  It would.  Would caring for each stop the political impasse?  It would.  Would caring for each other solve the problems that have led to protests?  It would.  Would caring for each other end war?  It would.  Would caring for each other end poverty?  It would.  Would caring for each other end disease?  Maybe not, but it would make an impact, and people suffering from diseases would feel less alone.

Turns out Jesus was right.  So was Jackie DeShannon back in 1965:  what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.  The solution to everything may be simpler than we thought.

It’s Getting Hard to Keep Track of All the Good News

… but let’s try!  This is one day of news.  A second vaccine was announced with even greater results than the first (94.5% effective).  The stock market again hit an all-time high.  The Giants won.  The Jets didn’t lose (they had the week off).  A young man with Down syndrome became the first to overcome this challenge and complete an Iron Man race.  Skies are clear, and the meteor shower is at its peak.  Four people won the right to be shot into space for six months, where they will likely avoid the rest of the pandemic and return for beach season.  (They may even see a McNugget.)  A new study says that playing video games is good for your health (gamers rejoice!).  Even more retailers joined the growing trend of offering Black Friday deals throughout the season, beginning now.

But today I’d like to focus on one big thing that happened and one big thing that didn’t happen.  On Sunday night, with 11 seconds left on the clock, Arizona quarterback Kyle Murray heaved a Hail Mary the length of the field, and his receiver caught it in the end zone between three defenders.  It was the first Hail Mary to win a game in five years, and sportscasters are already calling it the Hail Murray.  The same night, my TV screen suddenly turned blue and started buzzing, warning me that a tornado warning was in effect and I should get in the basement right away.  This was very annoying because I was trying to watch the football game.

You may quibble with my assessment of the first story as a “big thing,” but it has big implications, namely, keep trying, you never know what’s going to happen.  Just because no one has ever done something before, or no one has succeeded at something for a while, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  Maybe you will get that job.  Maybe that person you like will say yes.  Maybe that treatment will work.  Maybe the seas will part and you’ll walk safely through (it did happen before!).

As for the second, the tornado never materialized.  Sometimes the things we fear, even though we’re certain they will occur, don’t occur.  This Sunday in church, we heard about someone who didn’t have cancer.  Sometimes we live.  Sometimes couples stay together.  Sometimes we don’t lose the farm.  Sometimes the storm doesn’t hit, or the seas are calmed (this has happened before as well).

Life is filled with good news, and we often worry too much about bad things that may not occur.  Even when bad things do occur, we have God, which is the best news of all.  From God’s perspective (as well as that of the International Space Station, seen in the video below) even a storm can be beautiful.