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Thanksgiving to the Lord

The churches of Abbotsford are giving thanks to God, together.

by Pastor Tim MacIntosh

The man stood rigid, his well-worn garment hanging loosely from boney shoulders, leaving hands and sandaled feet dusted with the grime of a Judean roadway. He eyes were riveted on those same hands and feet. “My God, how ever did you do it?” What, moments before, had been mangled, stubbed and diseased, now were fleshy, vital, whole. He flexed fingers and wiggled toes. How strange.

He looked ahead, surveying his nine companions, each examining his own extremities. Each stunned, but smiling.

Quickly, they rushed forward, down that dusty road, heeding the Master’s directive to find a priest, to confirm wholeness.  The man’s own feet engaged eagerly, rushing, running, but then suddenly checking, halting.  “What am I doing?” he thought.  “It was the Master’s own words that sparked this transformation.”  Turning, he rushed backward now, falling with health-filled knees at the feet of the one who had spoken such restoration.  “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Give thanks to the Lord – His love endures forever.

This pithy slogan, repeated again and again in the Old Testament, captures the motive-force behind that healed leper’s return. Facing Jesus, he understood the necessity of gratitude. He grasped the joyful release of thanksgiving. It’s a simple message, action-packed, which sets our sights, commands our attention, lifts our spirits, and gives us the bedrock foundation upon which to do so. God’s love never ends. Wow.

This slogan, endorsed by psalmists and leper, will hopefully spring up on church roadway signs across Abbotsford this Thanksgiving weekend. In a repeat of last year, many area churches have agreed to dispense with their regular notices of church services, kids programs, Alpha courses, or messages from God, and instead put up this same message, sign after sign, across the city in glorious unity.

Give thanks to the Lord – His love endures forever.

Our hope is that the message will surprise and redirect the City of Abbotsford. Surprise, because churches are all saying the same thing, all advertising the same good news. And redirect, because all of us, believers and non-believers alike, so often forget the simple things – like thanksgiving.

Amazingly, with so much on our plates, it’s actually possible to completely by-pass gratitude. How we need the pointed reminder to “give thanks to the Lord.”  For, in fact, we owe God everything: every breath, every good and perfect gift, every moment, waking or sleeping, thriving or otherwise. For even when we struggle, God is our sustainer. And, yes, wonderfully, His love endures forever. Experienced in so many ways, yet most powerfully through Jesus. For God so loved that He gave his one and only Son, for us.  Oh, how we need to give thanks.

And so, Abbotsford churches are donating their street signs to carry this message over a two-week period straddling Thanksgiving weekend. In addition, those churches, along with others that don’t have street-signs, will emblazon the same slogan on the home page of their websites, together with a short paragraph of description, signed by: The churches of Abbotsford, giving thanks together!

Personally, one of the benefits of this whole endeavor is to spark new thanksgiving of my own. I am truly grateful for the broad Body of Christ, in all of its uniqueness, diversity, quirkiness, and wonder. For though we are different, different, different, we remain the one Body. Isn’t God good? Isn’t He beautiful?

I had the joy of a first-time conversation the other day with a fellow minister who comes from an entirely different tradition than my own, from an entirely different ethnic background. How good to hear the story of God’s work in his life and in his ministry. I think if we compared notes on theology, we would probably have a number of differences, but hearing his experience of the Lord provoked deep thanksgiving in my heart. God is good, oh so good.

So, I look forward, in this Thanksgiving season, to driving around Abbotsford and allowing church sign after church sign to prompt me afresh to give thanks to the Lord.  I look forward to visiting church website after website to be reminded that His love endures forever.

And I have a dream. Wouldn’t it be amazing next Thanksgiving if the message spilled out over the whole of the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, church after church, whether on signs or websites, speaking a united, pithy message of Thanksgiving, surprising us all with the diversity of unity, and directing our sights collectively across the region to the One, the only one, who is worthy of such thanksgiving?

For we, lepers all, facing Jesus, have so much for which to give thanks.

Tim MacIntosh is Senior Pastor at Heritage Alliance Church in Abbotsford and serves as chair of the Abbotsford Christian Leaders Network (ACLN). He’s got a wife, Sarah (his best friend), four kids (aged 13 to 22), plus a dog and cat. He loves to preach, run, read, play board games, putter in the garden, make food (and enjoy it) and be part of the extended Body of Christ.

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