Every fourth week of November, we tell ourselves that Thanksgiving should not just be a once-a-year thing, but a way of living every day. Ephesians 5:15-20 is a call to remember that belief. This brief text sums up with “giving thanks to God the Father at all times.” At all times! What if we held a thanksgiving service here in the middle of August? Turn to the hymns we usually sing in November and be reminded that gratitude isn’t confined to a season. Yes, many of those hymns are harvest related, but the bounty of God’s providence can be seen at all times. And here in August, in many parts of the world, gardens are beginning to produce, and we can be thankful even for the abundance of zucchini!
But remember the “at all times” part of the text. This isn’t just about being thankful for food and plentiful harvests. It is about finding blessings in everyday living. Of course, since the text invites it, there should be plenty of singing in this thanksgiving in August service; “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your hearts.” Gratitude is to be found all over the hymnal and our song repertoire; it is one of the dominant themes of worship music.
One of the purposes of such a worship experience is to move our thinking away from what we think we don’t have toward what we have already been blessed with. It is shifting from a scarcity mindset into a realization of the abundance of God’s providence. But even as we do so, we should take time to acknowledge that there are many who are left out of the abundance, not because of the lack of resources, but due to unequal distribution. That is why we are invited to share what we have, so that all might have something. So, lifting up feeding and helping ministries from a gratitude perspective is an appropriate way to be thankful. At the same time, we can advocate for more just policies in our town or city or nation, as we seek to lift from poverty those who have been left aside.
The Ephesians text talks about the times being evil, and it is often hard to argue about the brokenness of the world around us. But haranguing what we identify as societal ills will not likely lead to an experience of gratitude. Certainly, the kin-dom we proclaim is not yet fully here, which is what the author of Ephesians is warning readers about. Yet we can see glimpses of that reality around us if we begin to pay attention and call out what is right in our world, what is reflective of God’s grace and kin-dom living. Even more is the call to be the sign of God’s grace in the world, to be the example that living by kin-dom values is not only possible but preferable to the values of a broken world. This is how we give thanks at all times, by living our gratitude each and every day.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.