“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good, if it is ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” C. S. Lewis, in Letters: C. S. Lewis / Don Giovanni Calabria, quoted in The Quotable Lewis, ed. Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois, 1989.
1 Timothy 2:1-7
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For
there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
6who gave himself a ransom for all —
this was attested at the right time. 7For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Focus verse: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity (vv. 1-2)
We have a tendency to focus our thanksgiving prayers on ourselves, giving thanks for what we have received. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism lists all the things that God gives us, all the things that count as “daily bread” – food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like. These are all the things for which we ask God in the Lord’s Prayer, and they are all the things for which we give thanks on Thanksgiving (and hopefully every day).
Sometimes maybe we don’t agree with the list – do I really have the discipline or health that I want? Do I always consider my children, spouse, friends or neighbors to be “good” much less pious (whatever I might imagine that means)? Some days, maybe especially in the wake of a contentious election season, it might seem like hard to give thanks for government systems. Yet we are called not only to give thanks for them, but also on behalf of them.
The author of this letter to Timothy urges us to offer prayer, supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving, not only for everyone (especially the government officials!), but also on behalf of them! Praying to God in thanksgiving for all that they have and all that they are! It’s a tall order, but it is perhaps intended to be. Such a prayer forces us to set ourselves aside, and try to imagine ourselves in their place. What is it like for a president or governor to hold the weight of responsibility every day, taking blame and receiving little gratitude? It puts us as the pray-er into a position of humility, and requires us to remember that these people, too, are children of God, made in the image of God. The people sitting in the halls of government, and the people gathered around your Thanksgiving table. Even if they make us crazy. Even if they don’t pass the laws we want. Even if they won’t pass the gravy quickly enough. They are, each and every one of them, someone for whom Christ lived and died. For whom Christ was raised. The good news if for each one of them. Thanks be to God!
A Thanksgiving Prayer (perhaps to be used as a Table Blessing):
Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day. By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness, give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience. Help us to see the world through the eyes of others, and remember that they, too, are your beloved children. Give us the courage to see you in all people: in the farmer, the migrant worker, the store clerk, the butcher, the baker, the CEO, the politician (add your own as you feel moved); and in all those whose work makes it possible for us to gather here today for this feast. Bless and keep each one; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (adapted from Sundays & Seasons, Augsburg Fortress Press)
Happy, Safe, and Blessed Thanksgiving to each of you!