Last Sunday evening, I had the privilege of leading a small worship service for our FOB. We met in the new TV room (we now have satellite TV here, as of a month ago!) and had “church.” My theme was “Being Thankful,” for rather obvious reasons (Thanksgiving was coming up soon), and I chose several verses from Psalm 147, Philippians 4 and Luke 17 (the healing of the ten lepers). I spoke of how I consider ingratitude to be an affront to God, given how much He has given us that we ourselves do not choose: our very selves, our families, our education, our nation, our abilities, our friends. Even our faith is largely by having the good fortune to be born in America, where most people are Christian (at least by their own profession). We are blessed to have received all of these, particularly if most of it has been positive, as usually it has been for most of us.
We finished our service with communion, using Afghan flatbread and Army MRE grape drink for the elements. (The flatbread was a suggestion from “Major Tom,” who pointed out that it was likely close to that which Jesus used.) It was a unique experience, one that will probably not be repeated back home, since Afghan bread is itself unique. We each tore off a piece and ate it together.
It had been several weeks since we have had a church service, and I guess I felt the need to have one, especially with Thanksgiving coming up. In our family, Thanksgiving is still centered around giving thanks to God for all the blessings of the past year. At our dinner table, each one of us takes a turn praying aloud, thanking God for whatever blessings we may think about. This includes our children as well – it’s a spiritual exercise in remembering to be grateful for specific things we often take for granted. I will miss this family prayer this year, along with other family traditions.
I always enjoy Thanksgiving, not just for the meal, but also because I think thanksgiving is at the very heart of worship. In virtually every religious faith, there are elements of praise and thanks to God for all the blessings we have. Thanksgiving is what reminds us that there is a power greater than ourselves, and that most of our good fortune is not of our own doing. It is also the reminder to focus on the positive, on those things we always have that we usually don’t appreciate, like the beauty of nature, the love of family, the ability to enjoy our five senses, and of course the ultimate source of joy, perceiving the presence of God with us.
May God’s presence always give us joy, and may Thanksgiving be a blessing to all of us!
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.