A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
   O Israel, I will testify against you.
   I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
   your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house
   or goats from your folds.
For every beast of the forest is mine,
   the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
   and all that moves in the field is mine.

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
   for the world and its fullness are mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
   or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
   and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
   I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

[. . .]  
“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
   lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
   to one who orders his way rightly
   I will show the salvation of God!” (Psalm 50:7–15, 22–23 ESV)

In 1986, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum was published. It’s a great title and a good book. Unfortunately, the small rural school I went to in North Dakota didn’t have kindergarten when I was of age. Just the same, most of the most important lessons I learned were lessons I learned early on, like the importance of saying “Please” and “Thank you.”

Appreciation is something I see way too little of in the church, in my social media feed, and, if I am honest, in my own heart. Recently I had the privilege of being in Cameroon in western Africa, a country in the midst of a terrible civil war, with Paul Nather, the lead pastor at Century Baptist Church in Bismarck, North Dakota. Paul spent much of his time there working with the Cameroonian Baptist Convention Youth Director, teaching young people in their teens and twenties skills and providing resources so they can begin micro-businesses to provide for themselves and their families.

Toward the end of the trip, Paul reflected on how these young people who have experienced significant loss and true trauma have such a spirit of thanksgiving when so many of us in North America who have so much seem so disgruntled and unthankful toward one another and the Church. This spirit of thanksgiving was evident, not only in the youth with whom Paul interacted but in the church throughout the CBC. It served as a stark contrast for those of us visiting Cameroon to our own experience of many within the North American context, including our own hearts.

This Lenten season, let us realize that appropriate worship has less to do with bringing a portion of our resources and much more to do with bringing a spirit of gratitude that glorifies God. Let each of us, in our families, on our social media, and within our churches, “offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”