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His Steadfast Love Endures ForeverBy Steven Bishop
Thanksgiving is upon us, and that means food and friendship. Whether you are with family or friends, there are some constants, the biggest one being intentional gratitude. We look around us and within us to give thanks for the small and large moments when we have experienced God’s grace. Taking time to share these things is an important part of being together. We can do this formally, around the table, by naming one thing for which we are grateful. It also happens in personal moments when we share how another has enriched our life.
A friend of mine wrote this week how she uses Psalm 136 as a template for her own meditation on gratitude during Thanksgiving. This psalm is familiar to many of us for its recurring refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever.” This antiphon occurs in each verse, following a recitation of God’s action. The actions follow a historical course from creation to exodus to exile. In each moment of Israel’s history, the psalmist remembers that God is present and faithful. My friend transformed the large historical moments of Israel into personal moments in her life. It was instructive for me, because it is too easy for me to ignore the small movements of God’s steadfast love when I am only looking for the large ones.
I plan to be more aware of and grateful for the small experiences of God’s steadfast love this year. Looking back over the year, I recognize the ways God has brought others into my life as an expression of that love. I also see where the tough moments became opportunities to deepen my trust in God’s presence rather than lean on my own understanding. It has also been a year to restore and cherish relationships. Yes, this Thanksgiving is an opportunity to embrace gratitude and, more importantly, to express it.
As I remember the small things of the past year, I am also setting my intention to pay attention to the things that appear each day. Even on Thanksgiving Day itself. So to sharpen my mind, I created a list of things one might want to attend to, with gratitude, on this holiday. These do not necessarily represent my family, but maybe you can find something in them that resonates with your experience. And I hope if you do, you can smile and be grateful for the person you overheard.
Top ten things overheard at Thanksgiving:
10. Is turkey gluten-free?
9. What time do the Cowboys play?
8. Whose glass is this?
7. They said they would be here at 1:00.
6. Are you still wearing that apron?
5. So, are you seeing anyone special?
4. Has anyone seen my iPhone?
3. I’m going to open another bottle of wine.
2. Is HEB open?
And the number-one thing overheard at Thanksgiving:
1. Where’s the remote?!
Where has God’s steadfast love appeared in your life?
Who and how will you express gratitude to this holiday?
Dr. Steven Bishop, associate professor of Old Testament, came to the Seminary of the Southwest in 2004 from the Boston area, where he earned three graduate degrees and taught at several universities. Formerly an ordained minister of the Church of Christ, he served churches in Texas and Massachusetts before beginning graduate studies in the early 1990s. Dr. Bishop’s academic interests include the poetry of the Hebrew Bible and literary translations of it into English, and the influence of Hellenistic thought on Hebrew wisdom literature. In addition to writing book reviews and presenting scholarly papers, Dr. Bishop assisted the well-known Old Testament scholar Bernhard Anderson in editing and revising two books: Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today and Contours of Old Testament Theology. Dr. Bishop worked again with Anderson as an editor and contributor for the fifth edition of Understanding the Old Testament, published in spring 2006. In 2015, Dr. Bishop was elected to the steering committee of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.
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