Thanksgiving 2018


Psalm 116 is an ancient poem sung or recited each year during the celebration of the Jewish Passover. It is located within a larger collection of poems referred to as the “Egyptian Hallel.” The Egyptian Hallel (Psalms 113-118) offers a retelling of Israel’s gospel when they were delivered from the slavery that had bound them in Egypt for hundreds of years.

I can faintly remember listening to my mom play a record of the Walton’s Thanksgiving when I was kid. I can still hear the voices of the Walton’s talking around the dinner table, the clinking of dishes, and skipping as the record spun around the turn-table. The memory of anything more specific escapes me, expect that the Walton’s seemed to possess a simple joy of being together.

When I read Psalm 116, familiar voices from Israel’s past can be heard, outlining the drama of Israel’s gospel:                         verse 3: The snares of death encompassed me;                         verse 8: For you have delivered my soul from death;                         verse 17: I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the                                           name of the LORD. The beauty of poetry is its ability to soar to the heights and plunge to the deepest depths. The lyrics draw our attention to the individual psalmist’s dramatic life experiences and the LORD’s deliverance. The poetry holds individual’s life against the backdrop of the communal, large-scale redemption of Israel from Egypt.   Between the claims, “I love the LORD” (v.1) and “Praise the LORD” (v.19) the psalmist articulates a short summary of personal deliverance from the from bonds of “distress and anguish” (v.3) to unadulterated thanksgiving because the LORD has “delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (v.8). The Psalmist asks a provocative question one raised with a deep sense of gratitude, “What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me” (v.12)? This is the question posed when the Jews celebrate the Passover. It is the question we wrestle when we gather at the LORD’s Table during Holy Communion. I certain that the Walton’s might have mentioned the words, “the LORD’s bounty” on their album. On this Thanksgiving before your plate is loaded with calories ask yourself, “What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me” (v.12)? When your plate is scraped clean ponder further, “What shall I return to the LORD” (v.12)? The psalmist fills the second half of Psalm 116 with first-person statements attached to verbs:        verse 13: I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD…        verse 14: I will pay my vows to the LORD…        verse 17: I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the                     LORD…         verse 18: I will pay my vows to the LORD… I wish for you to have a happy Thanksgiving. However, my prayer is that you will respond to the LORD’s graciousness, righteousness, and mercy (v.5) and ask one more time, “What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me” (v.12)? Before the food coma hits plot the practical steps you need to make to fulfill your vows of thanksgiving and praise to the LORD.   Blessings, Nicholas Perry, Pastor