Saturday, June 28, 2008


Pay your sacrifice of thanksgiving to God
and render him your votive offerings.

Mark this, you who never think of God,
lest I seize you and you cannot escape;
a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me
and I will show God’ salvation to the upright
(from Psalm 50).

These verses from the psalm in today’s Office of Readings awakened some thoughts that often orbit my mind. Sometimes I am so aware of God’s mercies that almost everything around me becomes a reason for thanksgiving.

We have been viewing DVDs of some old Masterpiece Theater series. (It started when Dwight Longenecker gave his commentaries on Brideshead RevisitedStanding on my Head, blog archive from February ‘08.) In the past few months we have watched The Jewel in the Crown, Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy, and now we are in the midst of the Foyle’s War series. I have also recently finished re-reading a history of the opening and settlement of Kentucky and Ohio. In all of these there is a common element of the brutality unleashed among people caught up in social conflict, religious differences, and nationalism. The horrors suffered by people trapped in the worst of such times and places is beyond comprehension as I sit in my leather recliner, watching and reading in the security of a comfortable home.

Thus the thankfulness. As I prayed the psalm this morning, thanking my Lord that the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places (Psa 16:6), I also found some of those orbiting questions: Why do I deserve to escape violent social chaos like that which hit India in the partitioning of Pakistan? Why can I live my life with no fear of blanket bombing as London experienced? Why do I live in a place where I can go out into the country for a walk without escalating the percentage of my being killed by a marauding gang?

The truth is, of course, I do not deserve it (and in the world we live, the relative security I have could end with one dirty bomb exploded in the U.S. by terrorists). But for now, every gift of relative security I’ve been given is also a responsibility. How am I giving back to my Lord as He has given to me?

One way — explicitly revealed by God through the psalmist — is thanksgiving. As I live in a society that has been shaped by the “right” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I face an ongoing battle with a spirit of entitlement that suggests I do deserve the best life has to offer and am thus invited to go for it. To embrace that spirit is to turn from the kind of thankful heart that God desires in His people.

While never think of God, as the psalmist warns, is not a likely accusation for me — given the grace already worked into my life — I do know it is possible for the keen edge of my spirit to be blunted by all the allurements around me, telling me that “more” or “bigger” or “better” will make me happier.

I am learning that a thankful heart gives true joy, and seeking and trusting the Lord leads to a thankful heart.

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