The church service is well under way. Mr. Richman occupies his usual place in the audience. These Thanksgiving services, he thinks, are pretty much routine, not much different from the Sunday services, actually quite drab and lifeless.
He listens while the minister reads the text and begins his sermon. And then after a bit his mind wanders. The stock market has been very unsteady. Unemployment seems on the increase in the country, especially now with the soldiers returning from Vietnam. This unrest in the Middle East creates a lot of uncertainty. Real problems all of these.
The minister is saying something about being thankful in everything. Wonder if this is the same sermon he preached a year ago with a different text placed over it.
That fellow can talk. He has a steady income, free rent of the parsonage, retirement pension for himself and his family when he cannot work any more.
I had better stifle this yawn that is coming up; it doesn’t look too well to those round about me. The service is just about over anyway, and then to the car, and home.
Yes, that car. It is really only a year old and still in good shape. Maybe I had better put it on the market. I would like a better one anyway.
Ah, now the service is finished. Dinner will soon be ready.
Mrs. Grateful also came to church this morning with her family. She woke up this morning with a song in her heart:
How good it is to thank the Lord,
And praise to Thee, Most High, accord,
To show Thy love with morning light,
And tell Thy faithfulness each night;
Yea, good it is Thy praise to sing,
And all our sweetest music bring.
Now she bows her head in silent prayer for the minister, but no less for herself.
“God is good,” she thought, as she looked about her, first at her husband and then at her healthy, growing family. So much has happened through the years since she and her husband had stood at the altar and vowed to each other before God: “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and health; to love and to cherish, ’till death us do part.” There had been times when it was hard to suppress the thought, “I never imagined that it would be this bad.” And yet, God had always made all things well and taught them many valuable lessons.
Yes, there were still problems,—growing children bring bigger problems every day. But she is even grateful that the Lord had entrusted this responsibility to her. And she is sure that the Lord will dissolve all her problems as morning mist before the rising sun.
Wholeheartedly she joins the congregation in singing praise to God. A thrill passes through her soul as her voice mingles in harmony with all the rest. Young and old, men and women, all together tell of their Maker’s love and Fatherly care.
How easy it is to pray along with the minister. She imagines her prayer joined with all the rest and arising as smoke from the altar before the face of God.
What an unusual text for Thanksgiving: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
The minister wants the word Gift capitalized, as referring to Christ in Whom all fulness of blessedness dwells even for us forever. How carefully He outlines this beautiful truth. How clearly she sees it.
She hopes that her husband is enjoying this service as much as she is. Her thoughts wander a moment to the children, and her lips form a faint smile as she sees them attentively listening. How much do those little minds grasp of this great mystery of salvation?
She looks up with surprise that the time has flown so fast. But her heart rejoices in God, her Savior, also today.
Mrs. Ne’er-do-well sits a short distance from Mrs. Grateful. They nodded to each other as she came in church, barely on time. They are not exactly friends, but they do pass as acquaintances.
Mrs. Ne’er-do-well remembers that it is Thanksgiving. She tells herself as she sits there that she actually has much to be thankful for. True, the corn crop was not so good this year. Last year they had a bumper crop, but what a time they had to dry it out for proper storage. This year was the summer of the drought. The grain crop was fair, but the corn had turned yellow already by the end of August. But I shouldn’t complain. Things could be worse.
I must remember the three points of the sermon. My husband likes to ask me about them on the way home.
The minister is bringing Jesus and the cross into this sermon. On Thanksgiving! That makes it sound almost like Sunday.
Yes, I really have much to be thankful for today. I’ll put aside the many things that keep coming up, the unpleasant things, for which I certainly am not-thankful. I’ll concentrate on the pleasant things. I don’t want to spoil the day.
Now he is up to his second point. He is speaking about all things working together for good.
Nice that the relatives can come today. So glad to have them over. Yes, there will be twelve of us around the table this noon. Wonder if that won’t be a bit crowded. Set up another table?
John is nodding a bit. I won’t nudge him. Poor man, he is so tired, and he did get to bed late last night: He is a good husband, I’ll say that for him.
Now the third point. This is always short, so we’ll soon be going home. And there are just dozens of things that must be done before the company comes.
Out near the front of the church sits Mr. Deacon-aid. He looks lonely out there by himself. A year ago his wife was still with him; now he is all alone. She was all he had of kith or kin.
He looks at the empty spot next to him and breathes a sigh of thanksgiving. She was a good wife, always patient in her suffering, always patient with his many faults. Now she is rejoicing before the throne! How wonderful that must be. Heaven seems a bit closer now that she has gone to join Christ in His glory.
Realizing even now his own sins and unworthiness, he attentively keeps his eye on the minister. He is carried along to the cross, to Christ in heaven. His soul rejoices as the minister speaks of Christ bestowing upon us all His merited grace and all His benefits. How wonderful it is to be a son of God, righteous in God’s Beloved, and heir of salvation. If that God is for us, how can ever anything at all in this vale of tears be against us? Truly, God is good to Israel, to all who are of a clean heart. And after all the weary night is past, I shall awake in Thee, to behold . . . Thee!
Occasionally he catches himself nodding in agreement. He breathed the prayer: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”
Yes, Reverend, how wonderful those Scriptures are! Fountains of living waters flow from them upon a dry and thirsty soil. How they lift our hearts from depths of despair to heights of hope and Glory!
A little that the righteous hold is better far than . . . any other thing. For they have GOD.