You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy.
Normally when I think about Thanksgiving I find myself looking back. This year I am working on balancing the remembering with hopeful looking forward. God’s presence and actions will lead to times worthy of thanksgiving in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.
What you believe about God changes how you live. I believe God is calling us into God’s preferred and promised future. That makes me thankful as I look forward trusting that God is pulling, pushing and encouraging us day after day. God is working in our midst. God is leading and guiding through dark nights and storms into better days. God breathes new life into us when we are crushed and despairing. While I treasure each step and season of my life, I want to keep my eyes open for the presence and work of God in our midst now and in the days to come.
In Psalm 16, the psalmist shares this Good News. “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy” In all the complexity of life, God seeks to open our lives so that we might flourish. In the confusing twists and turns of history, God wants to set us free to be joyful and fill our lives with meaning and purpose.
Thanksgiving Day is a time to remember great feasts of the past and enjoy one in the present. It is a time to engage in funny and serious storytelling that helps us remember who we are and also whose we are. Thanksgiving is a time to remember and bask in the accomplishments and stunning surprises of God’s grace that snuck up on you last year. It is a time to remember the gifts of our literal ancestors and many others who contributed to the rich life we enjoy.
Some of our family and friends will gather to lament in the midst of a bittersweet Thanksgiving. They will give thanks and lament losses that have been survived. Tragedies, though costly, will be remembered. People will express gratitude that the damage was not worse. We will be struck by the cost of aging as we look at one another and notice the loss of our loved ones who no longer remember well or at all. The cross is a reminder that even in the hardest of things in life that no person or place is Godforsaken. In fact, God often shows up with all of God’s resurrecting grace to reverse the situations that looked like they might destroy us personally and communally. God shows up to lighten our darkness with hope. So keep your eyes and ears open for the work of God even in the sadness of life.
As you gather on Thursday with friends or family or even if you are alone, remember and give thanks for the wonder and mystery of life. God your creator is calling you into God’s future and your many vocations. Jesus invites you to follow him in practicing love, forgiveness and showing others with grace. The Holy Spirit shows up to agitate and push and bend us toward God’s deepest longings for life and for you.
One of the places I see the work of God and give thanks are in the amazing young people in our synod. These folks pictured are leaders in the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO), but they are a reminder to keep your eyes open for what God is doing in the lives of all of our young people, young adults, middle aged and even the elders, too.
+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA
1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand re pleasures forevermore.