This past weekend, I was the guest speaker at the 95th Anniversary of the First Romanian Baptist Church of Chicago. This was the church that I pastored in the ‘80s. I was glad that I was invited to be the guest speaker and I was elated to see people who have come for this occasion from Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, and many parts of Illinois.
What impressed me the most was the combination of themes – we celebrated the 95 years of existence of this church, but under the broader theme of Thanksgiving. Within the membership of the congregation, there are members whose great grandparents came here before the World War and there are members who arrived this year. There are people who know little Romanian because they have lived in America all of their lives and there are new people who are struggling to learn their first words of English.
Under a Thanksgiving theme, there were many stories of thanksgiving. We heard thanksgiving from people who have experienced hunger, but they have come to the United States and experienced the abundance of food. We heard thanksgiving from people who experienced religious persecution and now they can stay and worship as long as they want. We heard thanksgiving from parents who now can send their children to study whatever subject they choose.
Historically, the Pilgrims and the Puritans have come here seeking a better country free of the religious oppression and persecution they have experienced in England. They came here and found a country that was blessed with vast natural resources. They have settled here and they have prospered. The foundation of many people who came on those first ships was the importance of the covenant between themselves as members of a political community and a covenant they made with God. They recognized that they been blessed in creating a country and new type of government.
They have extensively read the covenant that was made between God and the nation of Israel. There were so many similarities between the new arrivals and the people of Israel. In an agrarian society that was moving towards mercantilism and capitalism, they saw that God was sovereign in the affairs of men and women and he blessed a society that remembered that he was the giver of every good and perfect gift.
To all the nations in the midst of prosperity, the words of Moses are appropriate:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then you heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Late last night I picked up my daughter who came home from college for our family Thanksgiving celebration. A couple of days before she left, their floor had a Thanksgiving celebration. She mentioned all the great foods that they had at the table. She was so impressed with the culinary expertise of her new friends. The pastor-father had to ask, “And who gave thanks at this Thanksgiving celebration?” Her answer was quick. “We did not forget to give thanks. One of the Jewish students volunteered to give thanks, saying, ‘Praised are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.’”
It is good to give thanks at Thanksgiving and every day, lest we forget the Giver of every good and perfect gift.