“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The following story, the Children’s Sermon, always makes me smile:
“A pastor was giving the children’s message during church. For this part of the service, he would gather all the children around him and give a brief lesson before dismissing them for children’s church.
On this particular Sunday, he was using squirrels for an object lesson on industry and preparation. He started out by saying, ‘I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.’ The children nodded eagerly.
‘This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…’
No hands went up.
‘And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…’
The children were looking at each other, but still no hands raised.
‘And it jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…’
Finally, one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor breathed a sigh of relief and called on him.
‘Well,’ said the boy, ‘I know the answer must be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!’”
The story is entertaining, and the concept is very simple: There are certain answers or phrases that you are expected to provide if you are calling yourself a “Christian.”
However, it is very possible that our religious traditions have become so engrained that they almost become meaningless and lose their significance.
I equate it to speaking “Christianese” (no, that’s not a typo for Cantonese). There is also “churchese,” which is simply a “language” that those of us who were raised in the church may fully understand, but will appear as very foreign to others.
Pastor: “Thanks for being here today to share in communion with our congregation!”
Church visitor: “Thank you. This is the first time I’ve been to church in 40 years”
Pastor: “Well, you should know that we’re all sanctified and redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ.”
The result becomes an automatic answer of “Jesus” whenever any question is asked from anyone associated with any organized religion.
Think about it: If someone were to answer with anything less, they would appear less holy than the next. While I personally believe that Jesus truly is the answer to most, if not all, life issues, 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that this message may appear as foolishness to anyone who has not accepted or decided to follow Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
One thing I have learned from conversing with my daughters is to not just ask a question and accept the answer, but to also ask, “Why?”
For example, if I simply ask, “How was your day?” then I’m going to get the answer of “Good!” “Fine!” or “Great!” If I follow it up with, “Why?” then I force each of them to reveal a specific detail about their day that was not originally volunteered.
How does this apply to Thanksgiving?
For example, when asked what I am thankful for, I may say, “I’m thankful for my car.”
Now, before anyone makes a snap judgment and starts preaching that it’s a material possession, the car will break down, blah, blah, blah, I want you to ask me, “Why?”
I am thankful for my car because it helps get me to work, which allows me an income to serve others and provide food, clothing and shelter for my family. I use it to bless others in their time of need, especially when they have to move. My car saves time when compared to walking; therefore, I have more time with my family. It keeps me dry in the rain, warm when it’s cold and cold when it’s hot. This plays a direct role in the longevity of my health. My car also allows me to take friends, family and neighbors to church with me.
Who knew that a material possession could have such an eternal impact on one’s life?
This holiday season allows for self-reflection on the topic of thanks. This year, I want to encourage each of you to not just list or reflect on the “church answer” of what you should be thankful for, but to also provide an honest answer as to WHY you are thankful for it.
Grand Canyon University faculty and staff are writing about what they are thankful for this holiday season. For more information about GCU, including our degree programs and Spiritual Life, request more information from us.