In light of Thanksgiving being just days away, I would like to piggy back onto the two great articles written by Charlie Roberts, former LDS Bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward, and by Pastor Bill Upton, Chaplain for the Tooele City Police Department, for this Matters of Faith column.
Both of these spiritual leaders within our community articulated the theme of “Thanksgiving” very well, which in turn, inspired me to write about this same topic that cannot and should not be exhausted.
It should be highlighted as often as possible because of the power that it has.
When we were children, we were asked, “What’s the magic word?” Without giving it a second thought, we always responded by saying, “Please!” In that same vein, we were also asked, “And what you do say?” Without skipping a beat, we said, “Thank you!”
As children, we were taught that “please” and “thank you” were magical because, in one way or another, they opened doors for us and awarded us with whatever we were requesting at the time. Although we might have given “magic” the credit for granting us our request, may I suggest that we exchange the word “magical” for the word “spiritual.” By recognizing that all the good gifts we have received throughout our lives in the manner of food, clothing, shelter, treasure, etc., did not arrive through “magic” or out of nowhere, but through the generous spirit of our living God who is the giver of all good gifts.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: All good giving and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creation.” (James 1:17-18)
James proclaims that there is nothing that comes from God that is not good, and therefore, he states, “All good giving and perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17) With this in mind, we have an opportunity each and every day, from sunrise to sunset, to thank God for the many blessings that He sets before us.
James proclaims that every perfect and good gift “comes from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.” (James 1:17) All creation, even the sun, the moon and the stars, are subject to change, but the God of all creation cannot change, which should not only fill us with faith and hope in an unchanging God, but should move us to a spirit of thanksgiving as we call upon our God who is all-powerful and all-knowing and ever-present. In the midst of climate change; in the midst of wars and rumors of wars; in the midst of mass killings; in the midst of uncertainty, let us continue to anchor ourselves in our God, who according to scripture, cannot change. (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 102:26-28; Malachi 3:6; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 6:17-18; James 1:17).
James proclaims that “God willed to give us birth by the word of truth,” and what is this truth? The “word of truth” is the gospel, and by sending the gospel, it is God’s purpose that man should be reborn into a new life. We all know that at the beginning of creation, God breathed life into man and we also know that now and forever, He continues to breathe new life into us through His Word and through His Spirit, causing you and me to be created and re-created each and every day as New Creatures (2 Cor. 5:17); as Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:4); as Partakers of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4); as Kingdom Citizens (Philippians 3:20); as Vessels of Honor (2 Tim. 2:21); as Salt of the Earth (Mt. 5:13) and as Light of the World (Mt.5:14).
Wow — our God, who cannot change, has the power to change you and me in order that we can become more like Him. “We are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:1-2)
James proclaims, “God willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creation.” (James 1:18) In the ancient world, it was the law that all first fruits were sacred to God. These first fruits, including the first-born, were offered in grateful sacrifice to God because they belonged to Him, and so it is with us, that when we are reborn by the “Word of Truth — Word of God — Word of the Gospel,” we become the property and children of God, even as the first fruits of the harvest did.
This Thanksgiving, in the midst of all the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, let us be mindful of all that God has given and continues to give us, so that in turn, we as His children will be willing to offer those spiritual words “please” and “thanks” on a regular and daily basis.
The scripture is filled with the gifts of God, but I am somewhat partial to this one: “All good giving and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He will to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of first fruits of His creation.” (James 1:17, 18)
Rev. Vialpando is the priest at St. Marguerite Catholic Church in Tooele.