Being Thankful in Difficult Times
How can we be thankful during difficult times?
When our world is falling apart…
When we have more questions than answers…
When bad things happen to good people…
When evil seems to be gaining ground…
When the last penny is spent and retirement is decades away…
When your retirement savings are gone and you still have many years to live…
When your medical coverage has come to an end and you’ve found no relief…
When the doctor says its terminal…
When the fire marshal says its time to evacuate…
When the phone rings in the middle of night and the news is much worse than you could ever image…
When life is hard, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, where do we turn? How can we be thankful during difficult times?
The Bible teaches us that we can trust in God. Psalm 46 reminds us that God is our strength and our refuge - our place of security and safety. Everything else WILL fall away at one time or another. Health, Wealth, Job Security, Family and Friends. But not God. All else may forsake but God will not. All else may collapse but God won’t.
No one knows what tomorrow will bring. In life there is only One who is constant, who is firm, who is secure. Our God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His promises can be ours today! How can we be thankful during difficult times? Only when we recognize that God is our only source of strength and refuge - our only security in this life and the one to come.
Today we gather for communion and Thanksgiving. The elements which Jesus left for us to use, help us to remember that in life there is One who is constant. One who will never let us down. One who knows how we feel… who knows what we need… who never abandons and never forsakes His children. And for that reason everyone can be truly thankful during tough times.
This morning I’d like to share with you some thoughts about bread. You see, although Jesus said "man does not live by bread alone" - he wasn’t saying that it wasn’t important. He was simply saying that there was something which is more important - God’s Word. Bread was important in His day and it is important in our day too. It’s an essential staple we all need if our bodies are going to function properly. Remember the Lord’s prayer, "…give us this day our daily bread" ?
Bread has always been a central theme in my life. In scarcity and in plenty there was always bread. At common every day meals and at family celebrations there was always bread. I remember my grandmother’s World I and World War II ration stories. Meat wasn’t plentiful but there was always enough bread to go around. When my grandmother wanted to have a good steak sandwich she would pack her bread and head towards the home of a wealthy family and eat her bread as the aroma of fried steak and garlic climbed out the chimney of the stranger’s house.
I remember my grandmother also telling me stories about feeding the neighbourhood cats with stale bread and fish water. Bread was treated with great respect and nothing was ever wasted. One of my most favorite Portuguese dishes is called " Açorda" (pronounced ah-sorr-dah) its made from stale bread, olive oil, garlic, egg, salt, and water. Bread was viewed as a sacred gift. On occasion, when bread would spoil, my grandmother would kiss the bread before throwing it out in reverence for God’s provision which had been wasted. As she threw out the bread she would say a ritual prayer that went something like "May our daily bread never fail".
I remember fond memories of the baker coming to our home to deliver our bread. When the bakeries stopped that service it became one of my chores to go to the local bakery and buy bread. To this day bread is an important part of my life. I love going into bakeries. I love the smell of fresh baked bread. I love the taste of all kinds of breads. I never get tired of bread. A common everyday thing brings back memories of good times and tough times.
The day I celebrated communion for the first time was here in this church and from that day bread took on a richer meaning for me.
In the Bible bread was used when God’s blessing was pronounced. It was consumed as a seal of agreement. It was a focus of Israel’s feasts. It was used during their offerings in the Tabernacle and the Temple. It was also a symbol of the Presence of God in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. When plentiful, Bread was a sign of God’s closeness and his blessing. When it was gone it was a sign of God’s absence, displeasure and judgment. Bread was eaten during journeys, and at home. It was the minimum food ration for prisoners and an essential ingredient at feasts. It was eaten during battles and eaten when all were at peace. Bread was eaten by the elite religious leaders and also by the common people.
Bread is a symbol of God’s constant presence in our lives. When Jesus celebrated his last meal with his friends He wanted to leave them with something that would remind them and His church of his daily presence in their lives. The Last supper was part of the Passover meal. The ingredients of that meal were: A roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. Jesus used only one of the essential items, the bread, because it alone represented best His presence with His people. Not everyone could afford meat on a daily basis and bitter herbs wasn’t exactly the kind of daily reminder Jesus wanted to leave. However, bread rich with its Old Testament symbolism and availability to almost everyone was the perfect element to emphasize as a symbol of His constant presence.
So, how can we be thankful during difficult times? Remember the bread. Remember what the bread giver promised, "I will be with you to the end of the age." Remember…Remember...Remember… Do this in remembrance of Me!
God IS our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble - at all times and in all situations. So we have no need to fear - for He is with us, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Even when the nations are in an uproar, and kingdoms crumble. Our God, the Almighty One is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. And because of His constant presence we can all be truly thankful today.
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