Thanksgiving Starts With Three Words

by Kevin Burton

   “Access, communication, mercy.”

   Those are three words written in blue ink across the top of a page I look at while doing devotionals most mornings.

   Access, communication, mercy.

   The page has other words written in black ink.  They were written at a different time and from a different mindset.  A few of those words, “family, abilities, health, food, shelter, clothing.”

   These are the things God has given me, the things for which I am thankful, but not thankful enough.

   Day after day as I read this page, the words in blue, access, communication, mercy, emerge and separate from the others as foundational to where this whole life thing is headed. 

   So that’s where I start as I try to write a Thanksgiving post during a global pandemic when so many things have been taken away. And it occurs to me that all or nearly all of everything I have will be taken away, maybe today, maybe next week, maybe at the point of death.

   Everything that is except, access, communication and mercy. Let’s walk through these words and see how they overlap, starting with access.

   I love the parallel passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke that talk about the veil of the temple being torn in two at the moment of Jesus’s death on the cross.  I especially like the passage in Mark because it adds an important detail.

   “And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38 NASB, emphasis mine).

   Christ’s sacrificial death was and is the only path possible to reunite a lowly sinner like me to the sovereign God of the universe.  It was and is my access to the Father.

   How amazing is it that I can approach the holy throne of God?  It’s mindblowing!

   Years ago one of the radio ministries explained how in Israel, God’s glory dwelled in the inner sanctuary which was separated from the rest of the temple by a veil.  Only one priest could go beyond the veil to present a sacrifice for the sins of all Israel, and that only once a year.

   Other than that there was no access. The fact that the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, tells us that this was God’s doing. Sin separated us, but He removed that separation.

   Let’s now look at communication.

   My place in Jesus, through His sacrifice, saves my soul. But while I still walk this earth I am deeply flawed.  I still have a sin nature.  I am in need of ongoing communication with God to navigate these few years, to conduct my dual heavenly/earthly business. 

    We have instruction through the Bible. God’s mercy and my access were both announced through the scriptures. God also communicates though His Holy Spirit. These are the most common, but far from the only ways through which God speaks to us. 

    Access and communication would be bad things without mercy. God forgives our sins for Christ’s sake.  When he sees a Christian he sees only Christ the sins are covered. That’s mercy.

   A court summons is communication and access of a sort, without mercy. I am so thankful that God weaves the three elements together to bring me peace, amid earthly tumult.

   So here I am in an earthly body. Thursday is a holiday called Thanksgiving.     

   “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (1 Thes. 5: 16-18 NASB).

   Well I do give thanks in all things. But I don’t give thanks at all times.  That is to say thankfulness is not necessarily my default mode.  I have to circle back into thankfulness.  My first utterance in reaction to events isn’t always thankful. 

   At least I have finally gotten half a clue as to what I should be truly thankful for. 

   So the turkey dinner that I love and Detroit Lions football and other Thanksgiving traditions are nice things that sustain me for a few hours. But it is God providing access, communication and mercy that sustains me forever.

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