Thanksgiving is my favorite secular holiday. It doesn't involve much overdone commercialism and it's free from all the consumer-driven anxiety of Christmas. Thanksgiving is a day to remember and be thankful to God for all the graces and blessings in our lives. We gather together with family and friends and share a meal. Many of us may go to Church as well. We'll come together before the altar of God and offer our thanks to Him for the precious gift of our salvation: His Son, Jesus Christ. And we'll ask God to forgive us for our sins. We do this at the beginning of every Mass because there is such a strong connection between forgiveness and thanksgiving. We can't approach the thankfulness of Holy Communion until we've approached the Lord for mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession. This is God's plan for us. And so, during this Thanksgiving week as we prepare the pies and the turkey to share with the people we love, let's also prepare our hearts by forgiving those in our lives who have wronged us.
Forgiveness is at the heart of our salvation. Through Christ, our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to the Father. Nothing we have ever done is so heinous that God's mercy is denied us. What a wonderful thing to know! This alone is more than enough to fill our "things I am thankful for" list a thousand times over. Our salvation journey starts when we acknowledge our sinfulness before God and beg His for-giveness. But we grow in our faith when we extend that forgiveness to the people in our lives. This is so important that Jesus included it in the perfect prayer He shared with His friends: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"(Luke 11:4). As we receive God's mercy we're called to extend it to other people. We must be conduits of forgiveness. But we also know how difficult it can be to forgive some-one, don't we? Everyone reading this has been hurt by someone and found forgiving them hard, or even impossible to do. We've held onto the pain they caused us and maybe we've let it simmer like a poison inside us for months, or even years. In fact, the root meaning of the word "grudge" is "to murmur"---isn't that what unforgiven hurts do in our hearts? They murmur and echo in the small dark closet in our soul where we harbor our secret pains. And it saps the joy out of what God means for us to have. We need to forgive to fully live our redeemed lives.
So, suck it up and forgive somebody. Especially this week. How can we gather in thankfulness if we have those murmuring hurts and angers? Christ says, "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Fa-ther in heaven may forgive you your sins"(Mark 11:26). That's how important it is for us to let go--we have to forgive so that God can forgive us. In fact, God has only one solution to the problem of our sin and that is forgiveness. "To forgive" means "to be gracious." We are called to give grace to one another as God has given His grace to us. But what if that other person has been so mean, so hurtful, so awful that you just don't believe they deserve to be forgiven? Newsflash: none us should hope to get what we really deserve. Mercy is NOT getting what you and I deserve for our sins (i.e. punishment) and grace is getting what we DON"T deserve (i.e. mercy). As Chris-tians we live in the sweet grace of knowing that we NEVER get what we deserve, thanks be to God! None of us deserves forgiveness so it's mercy when we extend that to someone who has hurt us. Forgiveness isn't about fairness, it's about grace. And here's something else to consider: forgiveness isn't a feeling, it's a decision. If you wait until you feel like doing it, you never will. God doesn't tell us to forgive them if we feel like it. We read in Hebrews how God forgives: "There sins and their lawless acts I will remember no more"(10:17). God chooses not to remember our sins. We should imitate Him. We make the choice to forgive and then we pray for God to help us live out that decision.
As you gather to share Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks for God's great love and mercy in your life. In the end, what we have in this life is each other. The Lord has forgiven your sins and offered you eternal life in Jesus Christ. At the cen-ter of that love and grace is the Cross. This Thanksgiving, lay the burden of your un-forgiveness at the foot of that Cross. And be thankful.
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace."---Ephesians 1:7
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On any given Sunday about twenty-five percent of Catholics in America attend Mass (Georgetown University CARA Study, 2012). That means the great majority of us AREN'T in the pews. Some legitimate reasons we might miss Mass include hav-ing to work, being sick or caring for someone who is ill or infirm, caring for an in-fant, and severe weather that makes travel dangerous. There can be other valid reasons for missing Sunday Mass, too. But it's hard to imagine that 75% of us are missing Mass for one valid reason or another. The Church teaches that we must at-tend Mass on Sunday and some holy days--for our own good. Coming together to worship God and celebrate the Eucharist dates back to the first years of the Church.
Worshipping together was a crime punishable by death from about 64 AD (under Nero) until 312 AD (under Constantine). Even being accused of being a Christian could lead to execution. But it really wasn't individual Christians that the Roman Empire saw as a threat to the state. It was their assembly together at Mass that the government saw as an act of treason. This same assembly is viewed by the Church as the way we fulfill our membership in the Body of Christ. For both Church and Empire, the way you know someone was a Christian is if they shared regularly in worship. How many Catholics today could meet this definition of being Christian?
Of course, just going to Mass doesn't guarantee a deep and rich relationship with God and our neighbor. Like the old saying, going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. But the Church in her wisdom knows that NOT coming to Mass on Sunday is a sure way NOT to be a Christian. Worshipping together is central to our Christian lives. "It is the liturgy which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist 'the work of our redemp-tion is accomplished'" (Constitution on the Liturgy). During the Roman persecu-tions, the government focused on killing the clergy and confiscating property and homes used for worship. The Empire thought that by depriving the Church of a means to come together in corporate worship they could stamp out Christianity. Yet the Roman Christians regularly risked their lives to come together for the celebra-tion and sacrifice of the mass. They believed with all their hearts that in the Mass they encountered the very Person of Jesus Christ in the ultimate expression of His redeeming love. This is why the Church obligates us to come to Mass---not because the Church loves making rules, but because the Church knows that our salvation is through the saving work of Christ and in His command that we receive His Body and His Blood in the Holy Eucharist. "Do this in memory of me"(Luke 22:19).
When we miss Mass on Sunday for no good reason, it's as if we are turning away from Christ's sacrifice of love on the Cross. Mass is the public prayer of the Church where we gather as members of His Body to ask forgiveness of our sins, to thank Him for His love for us, to learn how to be close to Him and to share in the Eucha-rist, which is Christ Himself. The Eucharist is how we allow the Holy Spirit to "work out our salvation"(Philippians 2:13) in us. That process within us continues through-out our lives and so at least every Sunday we need to participate in this eternal journey. Saying "no" to Sunday Mass without a good reason is saying "no" to the process of redemption that Christ died to give us. We turn away from the sanctifying grace we need for eternal life. If you've been away from Mass, come back. Let God know you're sorry for being away from Him. Most parishes offer the Sacrament of Confession each Saturday, or you can call your local parish office for a private ap-pointment with a priest. God loves you and wants you to come back and worship with His family, with YOUR family (Romans 8:35). We're blessed to live in a country where we can still freely worship Christ without fear. He is waiting for you.
"...All who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice and to eat the Lord's Supper."
---Constitution on the Liturgy
Charlotte McGuffey , Salem Baptist Church
I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and most of all, I hope you took time to reflect on all you have to be thankful for. In the hustle and bustle of cooking, eating, visiting with family and shopping, we sometimes overlook what Thanksgiving really means. Actually, every day should be Thanksgiving. Let’s try to be thankful every day.
Our attendance was down a bit on Sunday. Some were traveling and some were gathering with family. Hopefully, next week everyone will be back.
Our deepest sympathy is extended to Joe and Barbara Barger and family in the death of his sister last week.
I’m glad to report Reba Payne is home from the hospital and recovering from her recent surgery.
Bill Davidson’s brother, James, remains critically ill. Other cancer patients who need prayer are Mary Eslinger, Kathleen Lewis Williams, Kay Rymer Jack Ensley, Rev. Wayne Hamrick, Sandra Higgins and Haley Stone. We are still praying for Jack Pennick and Susie and Archie McNish and others.
Steve and Donna Ensley and children vacationed at St. Simon’s Island last week.
We are very excited and happy for the folks at Mt. Peria Baptist Church in Ring-gold as they start moving into their new building. They have been meeting in the American Legion building since their facility was destroyed by the April 2011 tor-nado.
I was sorry to learn of the death of Byron Kell last week. His wife is the former Carolyn Hayes. Our sympathy is extended to Carolyn and family.
YOU WILL NEVER BE SORRY:
For living a pure life.
For doing your level best.
For being kind to the poor.
For hearing before judging.
For thinking before speaking.
For harboring clean thoughts.
For being generous to an enemy.
For stopping your ears to gossip.
For standing by your principles.
For asking pardon when in error.
For being fair in business dealings.
Margie Stringer, North Whitfield Baptist
We had a very good dinner and gathering for our family dinner on Friday at the fellowship hall. All were present except Dale, Sumner and his two granddaughters. We had 27 present.
Bro. Stringer had a good service Sunday morning. I wasn’t able to go, I developed the crud over the weekend but I doctored up and went Sunday night.
Our sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Mrs. Sarah Lowery who passed away on Friday night in Tifton, Ga. They may have a memorial service later.
Glenda Reed passed away last week following a battle with cancer.
Perry Putnam passed away last week following a short illness. He had just lost his wife, Geraldine, two or three months ago.
We will have our annual Christmas supper on December 8th at 6 p.m.
Our drama will be on the 15th and 16th. Saturday night at 7 p.m. and Sunday night at 6 p.m.
Happy belated birthday wishes to Connie Norman on Monday, Nov. 26th. Nancy Westmoreland had her family down on Thursday for dinner.
Remember our sick folks, Tim Key, Edna Allen, Jerry Allen, Hubert Hawkins, Edith Landen, Evelyn McNeese and Ken Hollifield in N.H.C. Also Lucille Brinkley in Woodale in Dalton. Norma and Thurman Headrick, Jerry Stanley, K.B. and James Bryson.
Our sympathy goes out to the Edgeman family in the death of Larry, who passed away on Sunday following a long illness. The family will receive friends at Ponders on Tuesday from 6 to 9. Mr. Kurt Brinkley spent from Thursday till Sunday with Nancy. I think he would just stay in Georgia.
Emma Jo Davis, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church
I hope everyone had a safe and very happy Thanksgiving with their family and friends.
My daughter, Anita was in Chicago as her son, Brandon was marching in the pa-rade with the Ooltewah High School Marching Band. We missed them but I'm sure they enjoyed their trip. Most of the other family members were able to be with us on Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for. Everything may not be as we would like it but we are blessed.
Bro. David preached on Sunday morning "On the Greatest Gift Ever Given". I'm sure we all know that gift was our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to die for our sin.
We didn't have service on Sunday Evening at the Church as a group went down to Marietta for the ordination service for Justin Holcomb, Bro. David's nephew. We are so proud of Justin and wish him the very best.
On Sunday morning December 9, after the service, we will have our Christmas dinner in the church fellowship hall. Make your plans now for this date. We will not have an evening service on that Sunday.
We have missed Dewayne Hill in our services lately, as he has been very sick. Hope he is better soon. Now we know that Harry Hullender can teach, as he taught the men's class in Dewayne's place. Also missed Carolyn Denton and Denise Zinkeler as they went to Chicago with the Ooltewah band, Joel Denton is the band director. We claim Joel as he grew up here with us.
Those on our prayer list this week are: Charles Black, Ellie Pitts, Lula Petty, Louise Clark, Thurman and Norma Headrick, Chason Disheroon, he fell and crushed his heel. Emma Lou Brown, Edna Allen, Jimmy and Joyce Blassingame, Katherine Plemons, Bernice Orr, Johnny Chapman, Cody Silvey, Jan Elliott, Susie and Archie McNish, Kim Owens, our military, our missionaries and our country.
Happy Birthday Wishes to Wanda McAllister, November 30.