"...he gave thanks..." (Luke 24:30)
In the village of Emmaus, the risen Christ took bread and gave thanks. This was not the first time that Jesus broke bread. And it was certainly not the first time that Jesus gave thanks. The Lord found it necessary to give thanks again and again.
When Jesus fed the five thousand, we are told that "Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated ..."(John 6:11).
During the Last Supper, when Jesus was betrayed, we read that "After taking the cup, he gave thanks ....And he took bread, gave thanks" (Luke 22).
Repeatedly, Jesus who is our Saviour and Teacher, shows us how to live a life of gratitude. Repetition is necessary because thankfulness in daily life doesn't come automatically.
Thanksgiving leads us to experience God - again and again.
Parents need to teach their children to say, "Thank you." In the first few years of planting a church, I was the van driver fetching a group of children from an urban poor community to attend the Saturday English program class coordinated by my wife Lillian. Lillian would be in the van with me. When we arrived at the church, she always told the children to say thank you to the van driver!
During this pandemic crisis we may have lost many "things" in our lives. But let us not lose a heartfelt sense of thankfulness to God.
I'm always impacted by these two short questions posed by Jesus, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?" (Luke 17:17).
Ten lepers were healed but only one came back to praise God and gave thanks to Jesus. One out of ten. This is very telling.
Could this be that many people do not have a grateful heart and lifestyle? We may not realise how often we're stuck in a toxic cloud of grumbling instead of a thankful culture of gratitude.
Let us rediscover a life of thankfulness because everyday life is ordinary and beautiful. As we thank God in three areas (that the Lord is thankful for), we will be led into larger fields of thanksgiving:
1. Daily Bread.
The key word is daily. In the prayer that Jesus prayed, or The Lord's prayer, he said: "Give us today our daily bread." So we learn to be grateful for the daily food on our table. We learn to be grateful for basic needs.
As we learn to give thanks for God's daily provision, we learn to live a life of faith. The Israelites were supposed to learn this lesson. But it turned out that they did not trust God enough to provide them food on a daily basis. Although God provided quail in the evening and bread in the morning for the Israelites (Exodus 16), some did not trust God. They hoarded. And it turned out that the the additional food they gathered turned bad.
We learn to give thanks for our daily food, remembering that God gives us according to our needs, and not according to our greed.
Today, we give thanks for God breakfast, lunch and dinner.
2. Sunny and Stormy Days
We must not forget to give thanks in our sunny days and good times. In Deuteronomy 8, God's people were reminded not to forget to give thanks when they were now in the good land, flowing with the God's abundant blessing. Just like the Israelites, we need to be careful and to acknowledge that all our blessing and wealth come from the gracious hands of God.
Let us give thanks that we are God-made and not self-made people. God gives us the strength and wisdom for our daily life and work.
In stormy days and difficult times of our lives, we pray that the Lord's grace will be with us as we learn to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
In my parents' old age, both suffered major health crises. Our family experienced gale-force storms.
My father, stricken by Parkinson's, was unable to eat from his mouth. The ability to eat had been taken away from him. He was fed by tube. Yet my father used his mouth to declare: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21).
My mum was afflicted by many serious illnesses that incurred huge fees. But she remained grateful always after her appointments with her orthopaedic and haematologist (blood specialist). Amid the storm, God blessed her with two generous private hospital specialists who took a special interest in her medical condition and gave her free consultation.
3. Memory Rocks: Count Your Blessings
Someone once said: "Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies".
In 1 Samuel 7, we read that the Lord God helped Israel to defeat the Philistines as they marched towards Mizpah. The Israelites could not have won the battle without help. And lest they forget the miracle, lest their gratitude wane, Samuel made a monument. He took a large stone, set it up outside of Mizpah, and named it Ebenezer, which means, in Hebrew, "Thus far has the Lord helped us" (1 Samuel 7:12).
That phrase tells us that God aids us, and intervenes for us. He is with us just as far as we've been on the journey. So far the Lord has helped us. And tomorrow he will help us - thus far - again.
As I reflect on this in my Emmaus journey with the Lord, I begin to see how this verse in 1 Samuel became especially real for me during the pandemic. The Lord has provided my family with all essential food and things. He has supplied our needs. And we are assured that he will continue to do so in the coming days.
I will not be stacking big rocks outside my house. But together with Silas (my younger son), we have made a Pandemic Memory Jar which we stuff with pieces of papers and cards written with big and small things that God has blessed us during this Covid period. We do this lest we forget God's faithfulness. Less our gratitude wane. This is our little way of living out the words of the hymn: "Count your blessing, name them one by one."
Lord, we are thankful for the Emmaus journey where we can experience the God who teaches us to live out a life of daily gratitude. Today we pray the words of George Herbert, "Thou that has given so much to me, Give me one more thing, a grateful heart". Amen.