I have often addressed issues involving social concerns and current events because as Christians we can’t – or shouldn’t – isolate ourselves from the world around us; abdicating our role as salt and light to those living in darkness and the shadow of death. (Luke 1:79 & Matthew 5:13-16) But we must take care to be sufficiently informed concerning the issues and politics of the moment so that our defense of the gospel and reasoning about behavior are biblically correct, ethically sound, socially informative – and sensible. (Which not only entails an understanding of what we stand for but what we stand against, and yes – there is a difference.) And yet, having said all that, I have no desire to be a social watch-dog or political commentator, my sense of right and wrong – however flawed it may at times be – based on the study of scripture and my ability to comprehend what it means.
I have written as well about holidays, specifically noting how many had their start as holy days; the incremental changes to their observance dramatically altering their message and purpose. (Even as their secularization is meant to broaden their appeal, making them more universally observed.) But I have intentionally refrained from doing so lately as I don’t want to appear to be constantly harping about how some observe and enjoy these special times of year.
Even so, I read a Thanksgiving prayer printed in our local newspaper1 that struck a chord with me that I want to share, albeit a week late. (By doing so, posing the question: Should we ever stop being thankful, reserving our public displays of such to one day or season of the year? A question likewise appropriate for the celebration of Christ’s birth and then his death, worship in general and serving others in particular.)
This prayer expresses nothing new nor is it particularly profound, but its message speaks volumes precisely because of its simplicity; being reminiscent of an unknown author’s lament, “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” Maybe more than that, it parallels Jesus’ pronouncement of a blessing or a curse on those who see opportunities for service and either respond generously or, for whatever reason, withhold aid to the hungry and thirsty, the stranger (or alien), the sick and ill-clothed; even the prisoner. Jesus making it extremely personal by saying, “…whatever you did – or did not do – for one of the least of these, you did –or did not do – for me.” Matthew 25:31-45 (And incidentally, nothing is ever said about us checking to see if “the least of these” are, according to our own estimation, deserving of sympathy and help; although we admittedly must make the best use of the resources available. Jesus responding to all of us, “While we were still sinners,…” and thus likewise undeserving of his merciful provision. Romans 5:8
Jesus’ command for us to love others in practical ways should never be confined to a particular day of the month or season of the year, but is to be practiced at all times in every situation. (See John 13:34,35 & 15:17 – loving a “brother” or “sister” in the faith sounding easy but sometimes hard to do. Jesus’ insistence that we love a mere “neighbor” or even our enemies in Matthew 16:19 & 5:44 harder still.) Sentiments this simple prayer embodies.
Oh, heavenly Father: We thank thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service, that thy gifts to us may be used for others.
1Appearing in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, by Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby fame.
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