Thanksgiving, Hope and Resilience

If you want to be resilient, be thankful. And if you want to be thankful, be hopeful. That might be the message of the American Thanksgiving Day.

You can see the connection between resilience and thanksgiving in our national history. From the story of the pilgrims at Plymouth to Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation, Americans seem to give thanks best when things are at their worst.

The connection between thanksgiving and perseverance are visible in the Biblical story as well. From the days of the first Passover Seder to the last supper of Jesus, from the possessing of Canaan to the tribulations of the messiah, God’s people have known that faith calls us to give thanks in times of adversity as well as in times of ease.

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A Handful of Thanksgiving Posts

Here are some Thanksgiving related posts from years gone by.

An Ancient Act of Thanksgiving – Deuteronomy 26:1-11 – Israel gives thanks for the first harvest in the land of promise. It’s not all sunshine and roses.

A Pilgrim Thanksgiving – The story of the Plymouth colony pilgrims and the 1621 thanksgiving feast. With photos from my visit to the historic site.

Proclaiming a Day of National Thanksgiving – Mostly about George Washington’s first proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving in 1789.

Thanksgiving in Time of Conflict and Struggle – Abraham Lincoln’s declaration of a day of thanksgiving in 1863, in the midst of the American Civil War.

Hale, the Mother of Thanksgiving – The woman who convinced President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving.

National Aspirations in the Pilgrim Story – The value of the Pilgrim myth.

Why Every Sunday is Thanksgiving – Distinguishing Christian thanksgiving from the civil holiday.

Vulnerable Disciples: The Least of These My Brethren

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

The Parable of the Judgment of the Nations
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
Matthew 25:31-46

When Christians live vulnerable lives in order to fulfill the mission of Christ, God will hold the people of the world accountable for how they receive them.

Jesus’ teaching on the Son of Man’s coming judgment of the world has had a tremendous impact on the church for thousands of years. For the most part, I think we’ve only understood a fragment of what Jesus intended to tell us in these verses.

The Future Judgment

Some interpreters have focused their attention on the first few verses.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

A day of final judgment is coming. Eternal life and death hang in the balance. As we read on, we discover that some will inherit the kingdom of peace and blessedness prepared for them from the creation of the world. Others will face annihilation – the eternal destruction from which there is no escape – the “fire” that will ultimately consume even the devil and his minions and rid God’s creation of every menace.

The cathedrals of medieval Europe frequently portray this scene from Matthew 25 in carvings over the doors of the sanctuary. Jesus is seated on his throne. The people of the world are gathered before him. The saved are on his right; the damned are on his left.

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The Last Judgment in Stone

Jesus enthroned judges the nations (Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus judges the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-46)

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)

If look above your head when you walk into the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, you will see the scene Jesus describes depicted in the stone archway that frames the portal. Jesus is seated on his throne surrounded by angels. Beside the angels, mere mortals – kings and commoners – kneel in homage. Behind Jesus’ head is a cross-shaped halo, the emblem of his glory. The holy city, the New Jerusalem, sits at his feet.

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A Christian pastor in Caesar's army