These Thanksgiving ideas for church are perfect for your faith formation programs and youth ministry. Even better, they’ll put a smile on your face as you remember the reason for this holiday.
To start, have your church read the proclamation by President Lincoln that created the holiday. It’s a great reminder of what this day is all about and how we can use Thanksgiving Day to thank God for our blessings.
What is the spiritual meaning of Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving toward God for blessings is a common theme in the Bible. For example, ancient Israel observed seven Feast (Holy) days which focused on the bounties of the harvests. A central theme of these days of “thanksgiving” is the acknowledgment that the Eternal makes possible our lives and that God is the source of our prosperity and wealth.
The actual word or its plural is found thirty times in the KJV, nine of which occur in the New Testament. Of these nine occurrences, the apostle Paul refers to thanksgiving toward God eight times.
The Old Testament use of the word thanksgiving (in the majority of cases) comes from the Hebrew todah, which means the extension of the hand. In every New Testament case, the word comes from the Greek eucharistia, which means gratitude, or thankfulness to God as an act of worship. By reflecting on our blessings on Thanksgiving Day, we engage in a sacred act.
What to preach for Thanksgiving?
The theme of a Thanksgiving service is obvious—thanks to God! However, fully developing this theme requires some clear thinking. Here are two Thanksgiving sermon ideas.
Deuteronomy 7:7-9, 12-13; 8:10-19
Consider engaging in a sermonic dialog with Moses, who, in the words of Deuteronomy, is speaking to an Israel that is richly blessed and in danger of forgetting. His intent is to remind them of God’s goodness and stir up within them the desire to follow God in grateful obedience.
Write a few letters to him, each beginning with “Dear Moses, . . .” Use those letters to reflect on our contemporary experiences, God’s goodness to us, and our constant temptation to forget. Be honest in the letters and tell Moses that we easily fall into all the same traps Israel did—grumbling, complacency, ingratitude, and idolatry. Perhaps you can end the letters with a request such as “Do you have any word of the Lord for us on this?” and then respond with the reading of the Scriptures, especially the warning of Deuteronomy 8:10-20.
Wise Folks Remember
Psalm 107 begins a new section of the book of Psalms, but it is very similar to the psalms that immediately precede it. Here the psalmist provides material for liturgical use so that Israel, at its religious festivals, could recount its history and recall the generous love of the Lord. Many agree that the psalmist has in mind the return from Babylonian exile, but similar experiences appeared repeatedly in Israel ‘s history. In six stanzas the benevolence of God is proclaimed in the recounting of history. Finally the psalmist declares that the wise will never forget such things but always remember and recount the experienced love of the Lord.
A good Thanksgiving is impossible without a keen memory. Only when we stir up our memory of the events of the past year, and recognize the hand of the Lord in them, will we be prompted to declare our thanks.