In college, I worked for J.C. Penney’s in the credit, catalog, and customer service department. Anyone who has worked retail knows this is a place to come for all manner of reasons within the department store. If you need to pick up or do store or catalog returns, you would wind your way through the lines. If you have questions about J.C. Penney’s charge card or want gift wrapping, you would wait patiently on the line. If you have customer service needs, you would offer your stumper to customer service. And generally, people did. Now, behind the register area was a warehouse of received catalogue orders and returned items. Most catalogue items came in bags or boxes packaged carefully, sealed, and labelled. But the most exciting packages were those large items- area rugs, floor lamps, and chairs. You often got a view of those items, even if just a peek.
One day, as we unpacked the shipment, something caught my eye-an elegant off-white chair. I imagined this piece placed in a living room or a library. The chair was saran-wrapped on the palate, and as we took it off, I noticed a chip on the paint of the arm. It must have happened in the transport somehow. We would offer a percentage off to the customer – standard procedure. Week after week, I watched the chair sit in the warehouse waiting for the one who ordered it. The robo-call reminded the purchaser once, twice, three times. It had waited in the warehouse for over a month – no customer.
My manager was ready to pack the chair up and send it back, when she noticed that I occasionally sat in the chair. She offered me the chair with the chipped paint reduction, my employee rate, and an extra 10% for good measure. It was still more than I had paid for almost anything, except my car. I took money out of my savings account paid for the first piece of furniture that I had bought outright. I took the chair to my room at my mother’s home. From that original purchase to now, it has lived in nine homes, each time, reminding me to pause and be grateful. We have since have the chip on arm fixed to allow the beauty to shine. It allows me to give thanks in all circumstances.
Many scholars believe the first letter to Thessalonica was Paul’s first letter in 52 CE, not very long after the death of Jesus. The apostle wants the church plant at Thessalonica to thrive and remember everything he shared with them about Jesus. Previously in this chapter, he speaks about imminent coming of Christ giving the believers in Thessalonica encouragement and hope, even as challenges are inevitable.
Paul did not want the believers to be surprised, but rather to be sober and aware. He advises in verses 4 and 5: “But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.”
How do we do that, preparing for the coming of Christ, here and now as well as then and there? Paul gives us the answer in verses 14-22: “admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets,[e] 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.” Today, we focus on: “Giving thanks in all circumstances, for this is will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.
God’s will and way for you is gratitude. WOW! If we embraced that, think about how we would live differently? Notice that passage does not declare to give thanks FOR all things, but rather to give thanks IN all circumstances. We are not called to give thanks for times of challenge and trials, however we called to look within that moment to give thanks. God is already present. I would like to share a video of one man, who is giving thanks with a regular reminder. Let’s take a look.
(show Thanksgiving chair clip)
My only wish is that we could hear his dialogue. Giving thanks is contagious. When we hear one person expressing gratitude, we want to join in. In the same way that his daughter at the end is placed in the gratitude chair for her thanksgiving gratitude, we learn from those around us and want to have some consistency. Giving thanks in everything is a high value.
The Greater Good Science Center at University of Southern California in Berkley has led the charge on research on the effects of gratitude on the body, mind, and spirit. Studies by Emmons and his colleague Michael McCullough suggest gratitude strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health. Grateful people sleep better: They get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep. Gratitude makes us more resilient: It has been found to help people recover from traumatic events, including Vietnam War veterans with PTSD, victims of natural disasters, and people living under violent, political conflict. Gratitude strengthens relationships: It makes us feel closer and more committed to friends and romantic partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.(1)
We are a people of habit. This is why we prefer to sit in the same seat every time we come into church. We know who sits around us. We know when they are here and when they are not. We miss them when they are traveling, and then, we rejoice when they return. We know that it takes twenty-one days to create a habit that sticks with us. Twenty-one days for a new habit to take hold. I am inviting you to make a new habit. Starting today, give thanks daily through December 8th.
Starting today, think of a chair in your home. It can be a kitchen chair or an easy chair. It can be a desk chair or straight back chair. Think of a chair in your house that you like to sit in. One that you would not might spending a few minutes a day sitting in. A chair where you can imagine yourself taking 3 minutes each day to give thanks. Giving thanks for your family and friends. Giving thanks for your health or health providers. Giving thanks for food and shelter. Then, letting the image of chair flash with you throughout the day. Whether the chair image pulses into your mind, let that be an invitation to say thank you to God throughout the day.
The thanksgiving chair is something that can be done by young and mature, able and differently abled, those with free time and those scrambling for a free second. Take a moment to sit and give thanks. Thank God for being with you, even if you cannot thank God for the circumstance.
You could sit in the chair in the morning.
You could sit in the chair during the day. Whether you have the flexibility in your schedule to do so at midday or at another point, pause to give thanks.
You could sit in the chair before bed.
May giving thanks in all circumstances, shape you in image of Jesus as a faithful disciple with a healthy heart, physically and spiritually, with relationships, that reflect God’s goodness.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that 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 Testament Lesson: 1Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Meditations For Your Week Sunday, November 17 ~ Saturday, November 23
Sunday: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.” Psalm 100:1. Creation praises God in beauty. When you give thanks, look to the vibrant fall mums, painted sunsets, and the frosted grasses in the morning for inspiration. They are shouting God’s praises.
Monday: “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before God with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2. Daily worship invites us into a space of saying thank you to God. What music opens your heart to God?
Tuesday: “Know that the LORD is God. It is LORD who made us, and we are God’s; we are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture.” Psalm 100:3. When we seek to live in gratitude, we acknowledge the realities of our dependence on God and our need for others. Pray for both our communal need for God and dependence on each other.
Wednesday: “Enter the LORD’S gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise” Psalm 100:4a. How would you be changed if the first words you shared with anyone were praise? Praise God before you share any complaining. Thank a friend before you launch into a rant. See if God’s gratitude doesn’t change you.
Thursday: “Give thanks to God and praise God’s name.” Psalm 100: 4b. Praise God in song today! Whether you sing in the car, the shower, or out in the crowd – sing praise!
Friday: “For the LORD is good and God’s love endures forever; LORD’s faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5. Where, when you look back, can you see the faithfulness of God in the last decade or generation?
Saturday: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Giving thanks in all circumstances does not pretend that everything is perfect, or even okay, when it is not. Giving thanks in all circumstances reminds us that best of all, God is with us.