1 Samuel 7:2b-12
The people were gathered together in Mizpah–called by their prophet Samuel to repent of their faithlessness and return their hearts to God. And just as they finished their prayers of confession, they looked up and saw their greatest enemy. The Philistines were marching toward them, ready for battle. The people were outnumbered, they were unprepared and–most terrifyingly–they were guilty. They’d just acknowledged how they had sinned, how they’d abandoned the covenant and betrayed God–again. And now they needed help. They needed God to save them–again.
And God’s response was thunder from Heaven. Not against them, but for them. Israel was saved, not by their plans or skill, but by God’s power.
And immediately after the battle-that-wasn’t, Samuel built an altar of stones and named it Ebenezer which means the Lord helped us here. And every time the people saw that stone they would remember that time that God saved them from danger. Not because they were good, but because God is good. The people would see the stone and worship at the altar giving thanks–because the stone made them remember that God helped them.
This November, we are giving thanks in worship. Because for people of faith, thanksgiving is not a holiday. It is a spiritual practice. It is a habit that grounds us in God’s goodness and trustworthiness. And this month, we are inviting you to practice thanksgiving with us. Because knowing and understanding is the booby prize of faith–transformation happens when what we know begins to shape how we live.
So–give thanks with us. Literally, grab a pen and paper and make a list of how God has helped you in the past. Will it seem awkward and artificial and fake at first? Maybe. But if you struggle to believe that God loves you, if you struggle to trust that God is for you, if you worry that you’ve disappointed God one too many times and you can’t turn to him anymore until you get yourself together–well, giving thanks will pull you out of that shame cycle. Giving thanks will ground your faith in who God is, not who you are. Giving thanks will give you peace.
I hope you’ll join me in the practice of giving thanks–not just thinking about it, but actually doing it. And then I hope you’ll take a picture and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Because giving thanks together will grow the Grove in beauty and maturity. And, much less importantly, it will help me not lose a bet.