Oct 28, 2021

Giving Thanks


Giving Thanks for Times to Gather (and Eat Together) [1]

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7 ESV

It’s quite hard for me to believe that we’re in the month of November and that Thanksgiving will be here before I know it! October has flown by and as we anticipate cooler weather and the conclusion of another year (unless Christ returns—Oh, come Lord Jesus! [Rev. 22:20]), it is good to pause and reflect upon God’s blessings, giving thanks for His grace and preservation. If you would like to be reminded of the first Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims and have younger children, take a look at Eric Metaxas’ book Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, illustrated by Shannon Stirnwells. Older children would enjoy the biography of William Bradford, published by YWAM (Youth With A Mission), in their tremendous series Heroes of History. (Check out the large selection of Christian Heroes Then & Now too). Adults may enjoy both William Bradford’s personal account of Plymouth Plantation and Edward Winslow’s Good Newes from New England.

As I look back just at the month of October, there is much for which to give thanks to God. The Gathering is up and going on Tuesday evenings, having just finished our 4th week; a good size group gathered at First Fruits Farm to help harvest some 40,000 pounds of potatoes; God has graciously brought a number of folks who came to the New Members’ class; and the women had a special gathering of their own in the middle of the month!

But what makes all this different from the local Rotary Club that meets weekly and enjoys a meal before getting on with their business, and even gathers to help the community in works of charity? Certainly, a Christian can both participate in an organization like that and also give thanks to God that others are being helped in practical ways. But we, the Church, God’s Family, have something that no other earthly gathering has—God’s own Presence, Love, and Grace! And our gatherings are not limited to occasional times to do good for others; we gather each and every Lord’s Day by God’s grace to worship and enjoy Him.

“It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament.” – Dietrich Bonhoef-

What joins us together as a Family? From a human perspective we can answer in two ways: first, we can see that birth brings us into a family, but second, we know that we live in a broken world and that what makes a family must include love, so that when a child is adopted into a family they are truly a part of that family! What joins us together as God’s Family? Both the new birth (see John 3:3) and our adoption (see Romans 8:14-15)! As Jon Walker writes, “God’s love in us makes genuine community possible. Like our salvation, this community is a gift from God. We cannot create it on our own….. We are in visible fellowship with each other because Jesus connects us to each other—period[2].” Just being in the same room with each other doesn’t cut it. We can relate to this when our own families are broken; just because we eat at the same time or even around the same table doesn’t mean that we love and care about each other. In fact, sometimes family gatherings can be tense and troubling, and we can be anxious and eager to leave quickly because of the hurt of the past and the harmful words or silences in the present.

One of the things I tried to stress in the New Members class was that we are a true church, but not yet a perfect church! We are full of sinners saved by grace, forgiven and free from the penalty and power of sin, but not yet free from its presence. We need forgiveness when we sin against each other, but that means that we need to recognize when we’ve sinned against a brother or sister in Christ, and we (you and I) need to repent when our sin is pointed out. As God’s Word and the Holy Spirit convict us or another courageously comes to us to share how we’ve wounded them, we must humble ourselves and run to the cross, then seek to be reconciled. However, we should also be examining our lives and relationships—asking God to help us recall when our words or actions or even attitudes have been sinful—so that we can go ask forgiveness and show repentance (see Matthew 5:23-24).

As the adage goes, we are not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners! But let’s not forget what the hospital is there for—to get folks better! So while we’re not sinless, we definitely want to be a healthy church. There are a number of ways that we can understand and strive toward becoming more and more healthy [3], but the one I’d like to encourage us to think carefully about this month (especially as we celebrate Thanksgiving with our church family and our natural families) is the exhortation by the Apostle Paul to Christians in the community: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29 esv).

How are the words coming out of your mouth? Are they edifying (building others up)? Or are they tearing others down through your carelessness, coarseness, or constant complaining? Are your words like a healing balm that soothes and strengthens the spirit of another? Do you speak the truth in love? Are you demonstrating the reality of your salvation by bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) in your speech? Do we not only encourage one another to live as becomes the followers of Christ, but are we helping each other to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) with the questions we ask and the way we talk?

Not every conversation will be light and happy; hard things must be talked about too. We need to weep with those who weep as well as rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). But in every gathering, even when two or three get together, we remember that Jesus Himself is in our midst (see Matthew 18:20, which is promised in the context of our need for reconciliation and discipline).

I thank God for each and every one of you; He has brought us here together for His glory and our good and also that we may shine brightly in this present darkness, showing the way of salvation to the lost. And one of the consistent testimonies of those who want to join LRPC is, to the praise of God, that we are a welcoming congregation. Thank you for welcoming those who come for the first time! And give thanks to God that we have so many opportunities to gather together to get to know each other, to bless one another and grow together (and to eat together) [4]!

May God grant all of us a blessed and happy Thanksgiving,
Pastor David

1 – Often the sweetest fellowship (both literally and figuratively!) happens around a table, whether we’re sharing a home-cooked meal, a cup of coffee, or eating together at a restaurant. Please practice hospitality!

2 – Jon Walker, In Visible Fellowship, kindle location 128.

3 – See Thabiti Anyabwile’s What Is a Healthy Church Member and Mark Dever’s What Is a Healthy Church?

4 – Read the Gospel of Luke with an eye toward how often Jesus shares a meal with others; Tim Chester is very helpful in understanding and applying this in his book, A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission around the Table.