“Happiness is wanting more than anything else what you already have.”
After serving as Pastor of this church for 10 years this coming January 2015, some truths I have shared from the pulpit have not changed,... and the above quotation is surely one of them. More than a few Thanksgiving sermons have seen me quote these words, and this Thanksgiving will likely be no different as I have studied the lectionary passage for this Sunday – the story of the Son of Man and the separation of the sheep and the goats on the Day of Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46.
Where do we place our Thanksgiving? Six years ago on the Sunday before Thanksgiving I preached a sermon entitled “Putting Our Thanksgiving in the Right Place.” In that sermon I shared the story of novelist John Cheever whose personal life had disintegrated into complete and total shambles of alcoholism and depression. “Yet through it all,” I said, “Cheever continued to attend church through every bit of the disaster and disintegration of his personal life. Finally, someone said to him: ‘Why? Why do you do that? Why do you continue to attend Worship?’ To which Cheever responded: ‘Well, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t know where to put my gratitude.’ He came to church through all the mixture of his life – the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. He kept coming to Worship because if he didn’t, he said, ‘I wouldn’t know where to put my gratitude ... my thanksgiving.’”
In that sermon I suggested that “all the stuff of our life is an occasion for gratitude, for thanksgiving. And when we put it where it belongs – giving thanks to God in everything – then we’re thankful for what’s good and not resentful or hateful when things are bad.” You see, putting our thanksgiving in the right place – in God – serves as a clue to the nature of the universe, as a defense against the idolatry of self, and always as an opportunity for a new perspective on life. It also inevitably leads us to acknowledge the truth mentioned at the beginning of these comments: “Happiness is wanting more than anything else what we already have.”
This Thanksgiving Sunday we welcome several new members into the fellowship of our church family and also celebrate our annual Harvest of Gifts as we continue to collect Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes as well as Time & Talent Pledge cards. I hope many will be able to join us this Sunday morning and also this Sunday evening as we gather for the annual Community Thanksgiving Service at 7 p.m. hosted this year by Belmont’s First United Methodist Church.