Thanksgiving Sunday 2023

Thanksgiving Sunday 2023

Bible Readings: 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5; Psalm 150

Thanksgiving Sunday is our opportunity as a congregation to pause and acknowledge our blessedness and give thanks to God – and Phil will be reflecting on the next part of David’s story and his ability to praise God and give thanks in all times and all situations.

A shorter sermon today but hopefully still full of depth and helpfulness.  We continue to the David narrative.  Last time we heard how Saul had turned from God, so God has called Samuel to go and anoint a new king – and chose a young man with a humble, trusting and passionate heart – David.  God promised that one day David would be king.  In today’s reading from 2 Samuel 5 we hear the fulfillment of that promise as David was crowned king.  And as we heard in our second reading from Samuel 6 – there was a lot of praise and thanksgiving to God around as they moved into this new era of the Kingship of David.

But there is a chunk of time that sits between David being anointed and David becoming King.  The bible tells us that David was 30 when he became King and our best guess was that as David was too young to be in the army during the story of Goliath, he might have been 16 when he was anointed.  Meaning that there was 14 years between David being anointed and David being king.  14 years of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled.  No wonder they praised God when it happened.  No wonder they were full of thanksgiving.

It’s easy to praise God when things finally go right, isn’t it.  It’s easy to be thankful when things turn out how you hoped them to be.  But as Kevin hinted at before … it is not easy to be always thankful.  Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where it is hard to praise God.

Today I want to briefly join the dots in between these two momentous events in David’s life and see how David discovered to be thankful in all things and in all times.

Initially, after David was anointed by Samuel, things went really well for David.  His trajectory when from an unknown shepherd to a national hero.  His win over Goliath was just the beginning of several events where David was successful in battle and was seen in a positive light by the Hebrew people.   And this is reflected in some of the Psalms:

Like Psalm 66

  • Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
  • Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
  • Come and see what God has done, how awesome are the Lord’s deeds for us all.

And then the Psalmist goes on to list all the things that God has done and that we should be thankful for.

For Psalm 111.

  • Great are the works of the Lord;
  • Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
  • The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
  • The works of his hands are faithful and just;

And after listing all the things God has done … the last line of Psalm 111 is, “To God belongs eternal praise”

And I am just scratching the surface.  I could list plenty of Psalms that David wrote that came from this place – God has done great things … and as such we should give God praise.

Yes – of course we should.  When things are going good, when our needs are met, when we are showered with blessings, when we feel loved and affirmed – then yes, let’s make sure that we declare to God our thanks and praise.

But at the same time that things were going great for David, King Saul had a corresponding nose-dive in his life.  The Hebrew people who used to love Saul and sing about Saul’s success … was now singing about David.  And Saul was not happy and in his insecurity and fear and a desperate attempt to get back to being the hero … Saul decided to … try and kill David.  And David’s life when from hero … to scared and on the run. 

David wrote Psalm 59 during this time.  Listen to these words:

  • Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
  • Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.
  • See how they lie in wait for me!  Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
  • I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.

Or Psalm 13, also written by David…

  • How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
  • How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
        and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
        How long will my enemy triumph over me?
  • Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

It was easy for David to praise God when things are going well, but now that his blessings have vanished, his life is threatened, and his calling of being king seems impossible … can David still praise God?

These are the last two lines of that Psalm I just read, Psalm 13…

David has just cried out to God, accused God of hiding his face from David, admitted he has sorrow in his heart and fear that he will sleep in death … and then immediately after that writes:

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,

    for God has been good to me.

The end of Psalm 59 (the other Psalm I quoted) ends in a similar way…  David is saying the enemies surround him, ready to attack …

16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely

How is David doing this.  How is David in the midst of real difficulties and fear … still declare his trust in God, and give thanks to God, and sing God’s praises.

An article I read last night talked about the Habakkuk principle … this idea based on Habakkuk 3:17,18.  Habakkuk words are amazing …  he writes:

Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

For Habakkuk … and I would say for David too … the idea of thankfulness and praise was a choice.  It was not dependant on what was happening around them, they chose to praise God regardless of their circumstances.  They praised God because God is worthy of praise.

I think that David’s ability to praise God in all times and in all things came from the realisation that while it is good to praise and give thanks to God for what God has done … maybe the core of thanks and praise is less about what God has done and more about who God is. 

The Narrative Lectionary reading for today was not only the reading where David was crowned king … but also Psalm 150 … one of the classic Psalms of thanks and Praise.  And we are going to read this Psalm … together.  (or atleast responsively).  And as we do … notice that David for the entire Psalm (except for one line which can be taken either way) does not mention anything that God has done … but rather it is just about Praising God for who God is.

1 Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise God in his mighty heavens.

Praise the Lord for his acts of power;
    praise God for his surpassing greatness.

Praise the Lord with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise God with the harp and lyre,

praise the Lord with timbrel and dancing,
    praise God with the strings and pipe,

praise the Lord with the clash of cymbals,
    praise God with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

   Praise the Lord.

I am not sure what your day or week or month or year is life.  I know some of your stories, but I am sure I don’t know everything. 

Maybe you are living the dream at the moment – where things are full of blessings and joy and happiness and light.  If so, then I encourage you to praise God.

Maybe things are not great for you, and a bit like David, you are crying out to God for help and wondering why things are not changing.  Maybe you are struggling with a health issue or a personal difficulty or a relationship fracture or life is just hard … and the whole idea being thankful is unrealistic … are you able to do what David did and look beyond the moment and praise God for who God is.  I know it is hard, Hebrews 13:15 talk about a “sacrifice of praise”  … that if we are too continuously give God praise and thanksgiving that sometimes it will feel like a sacrifice – but I do encourage you to praise God today.

Whatever is before us, may we all have the faith, the trust, the ability to declare to God like David did…

“I trust in your unfailing love;

    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

  I will sing the Lord’s praise,

    for God has been good to me.”