This weekend, I am preaching at a service honoring one of our alumni who is now the Senior Pastor of a church in San Jose. I apologize that I will not be with you, but I am very grateful for the prayerful support of the Cathedral Congregation in all of our ministry endeavors. Dr. Gary Moncher will be bringing a powerful message from the Word of God this morning.
This week our nation will pause to celebrate the Holiday of Thanksgiving. Like many traditions we tend to forget the reason we have this holiday. Beginning with the Pilgrims, who in 1621 set apart a day for thanksgiving at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest; and continuing through George Washington and other U.S. presidents, a day for giving thanks was observed throughout the colonies and the young nation. It was not until 1863, however, that at the height of the Civil War, a national holiday of Thanksgiving was finally formalized by President Abraham Lincoln. In the midst of the most grim and bloodiest war in American history, Lincoln said:
“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… the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God... 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 voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
--Abraham Lincoln, 1863
In many ways, gratefulness is a barometer of one’s soul. The more prideful we are over our good fortune or bitter over our misfortune, the less we will be able to express thanksgiving with any measure of authenticity. Lincoln offered this declaration during times of great personal and national loss; recognizing that God was not to be blamed for calamity, but that it was His Mercy that brought bounty.
How is your soul today? This has been a very difficult year for many, and yet we are called to be filled with Gratitude. As we begin this Holiday Week, please consider the words of Lincoln and celebrate the transcendent worth of THANKSGIVING!
Dr. Tobey Montgomery