It was “Takk for Alt” this Sunday at our little country church. That’s Norwegian for “Thanks for Everything.” It’s long been the tradition at our 125-year-old church — where gray-haired farmers and glad grandmothers share pews with diapered princes and their mamas. Every November, before Thanksgiving, we celebrate Takk for Alt with a Sunday meal.
But before the food, we feast on Word and Sacrament.
And I stood, trembling in the pulpit, always nervous to share what’s on my heart in front of a crowd. But Pastor said I should, right after the passing of the peace. So I stood there, reading from a post-it note — just a few short words I’d written on my blog the night before, about what it might mean to be thankful in ALL things–
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Be thankful in ALL things. All Things,” I read from my notes, with my voice and hands trembling. “That’s what the Bible says. ALL things. Not just the smiling things and the wished-for things. The Bible says be thankful in all things. Even the hard things, the grotesque things, the things never-wanted, the things of death and grief and pain and sorrow that make you wonder if you can stand to live another day. How to be thankful like that? Is it really possible for a mortal to be thankful in all things? The Bible doesn’t tell us to be thankful FOR all things. But He absolutely tells us to be thankful IN all things. I want to be able to do that — just as Christ did when he lifted the bread, broke it and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body, given for you.”
I stepped down and walked back to my seat by the sound board.
The night before, I had written some of those words here, on the blog, so that I might believe them life-deep. Any sermon I preach in this place, this blog, is really — at its core — a self-sermon to my trembling self. I want to live the words I tap out into this space.
I want to believe them, in my veins.
And I want to believe that Takk for Alt is real. I want to have the ability to give thanks in all things. We celebrate it year after year, this thankfulness for everything.
But what if Takk for Alt was only a nice catch-phrase, a reason to share a catered meal as a church family? And what if Thanksgiving Day was just an excuse to eat turkey and Mom’s stuffing, then take a trytophan-induced nap in front of the television after the dishes were washed? What if Thursday was just another day off, conveniently timed to set up the Christmas tree and find the ceramic nativity in a cardboard box somewhere down by the furnace?
And this: When we say we will give thanks, do we really only mean the good things? Or, like our Savior on the night He was betrayed, could we really give thanks in all things, every single day?
Later, after Pastor’s sermon, we ate the catered meal. Around the fellowship hall, I mentally catalogued my gratitude. This is the easy part of Takk for Alt. There was much to count here. I watched how people leaned into one another, laughing. And how Rosie brought over more coffee. And I got teary when someone said they’d been praying for my daughter’s ear. I smiled, watching two friends — like real sisters — sharing one pumpkin dessert. This is the sort of thing you do at family tables. And I was thankful that we were like family.
But what of the other, harder half of Takk for Alt?
After the tables were cleared, we headed over to the sanctuary for our annual meeting. We discussed our budget, and several new mission projects, and it was exciting. Again, more easy-thanksgiving.
But it wasn’t until the meeting was nearly adjourned when the fullness of the “everything” in Takk for Alt would come to pass. It wasn’t planned by any of us. It just … happened.
Before the meeting adjourned, a woman in the back row raised her voice above the crowd: “I want to tell you how much it meant to me,” she said, “when you gave us a ‘love gift’ of money after the fire. And how you’ve welcomed us here in this church.”
And so began a series of spontaneous praise — a thank offering of the hardest things.
An elderly couple raised their voices next, expressing thanks to God when a fire destroyed buildings on their farm, flames coming within inches of the house. Much was lost, but they were grateful for what was spared.
Another woman found a reason to give thanks, even in her time of mourning.
And on and on it went, people expressing Takk for Alt, not on the mountaintop, but deep in their very own valleys.
I witnessed it right there under that country steeple in our tiny house of God, out between the stubbled fields of Iowa. I witnessed Christ coming alive in our thanks — Him lifting the bread, saying “this is my body.” And we were His body, broken and thankful, laying down our Takk for Alt saucer under a full cup of praise.
“Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”
~ A.W. Tozer
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart; therefore forget not to say often, I have all I ever enjoyed.”
~ Lydia Maria Child
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.'”
~ Matthew 26:26
Take your pick …
We write in community every Wednesday about the God-Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”
Some call them coincidences. We call them God-incidences. And those goosebumps you get sometimes when you know the Holy Spirit is at work? Yep. They’re God-Bumps.
Want to join the chorus of words for our God? Pick either button above, attach it to your post, tell your story. Then, link up with the weekly post on the Getting Down With Jesus home page! 🙂