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Thanksgiving, an Ebenezer Moment

1 Samuel 7:7-12;   Luke 12:22-28


Although they never made the news, I’d like to begin with Peter and John, two farmers who were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. So, they started to run toward the nearest fence –the beast chasing after them like a demon.

Terrified, Peter shouted to John, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!

“I can’t. I never prayed in my life,” said John. “Give me a break, dude! Your father was a preacher! Don’t you remember at least one little prayer?”, insisted Peter in desperation. “I barely remember the one my father prayed every day at the table,” John finally said.

 “That’s fine with me”, said Peter. “But please, say it before the beast catches up to us!” “All right”, said John gasping and puffing with utterly desperation — “O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”


Let me tell you — John and Peter are not alone. We all may know many others around us – perhaps within our own families– who tend to become very grateful around Thanksgiving. And grateful for any and all sort of “blessings” they may be about to receive.

But once they are done with the big bird and all those delicious trimmings and start getting busy with their Black Friday wish lists, their generous thanksgiving spirit begins to recede like a low tide. Until next year, around the same time, when they become thankful once again.


As children of God, we should know that Thanksgiving is much more than just a numbered square on our November calendar – a big deal with crowded flights and crowded highways and crowded family reunions. At least from God’s perspective, Thanksgiving ought to be very much like any other day when we wake up in the morning with a deep sense of gratitude for all of God’s blessings.

Like any other night when we go to bed with a joyful sense of gratitude for God’s blessings that day – won’t you agree? I’m sure we all have many wonderful things to be thankful for – friends, please make sure this Thanksgiving you share them all with your family and friends.


But from God’s perspective (or the way God can see it), Thanksgiving ought to be much more than gratitude for our blessings. It ought to be gratitude for God’s faithfulness as well! Some 3,000 thousand years ago, the twelve tribes of Israel had conquered much of the Promised Land, but it hadn’t been easy.

They were still surrounded by powerful enemies. In fact, twenty years before the events in this story, those tribes had experienced one of their darkest days. In a single day, they not only had lost a huge battle, but they also had lost the Ark of the Covenant into enemy hands.

The Ark was the symbol of God’s presence among them. Imagine the Ark – a portable sanctuary, a sort of mobile, itinerant temple those nomads carried with them whenever they went since they associated it with God’s very special and glorious presence and leading. It was the worst disaster imaginable, but those tribes soon regained the Ark. The problem was nothing was the same again. The terrible memory of that day would continue to discourage them for a generation.

Year after year the spiritual leaders of those tribes wondered, “Is there any way we can experience God’s blessings in their fullness again?” So, one day twenty years later, Samuel called a meeting of their leaders. What did he tell them? That if they wanted to experience anew the blessings of God, they needed to trust again in the Lord the way they used to as they pressed forward onto the Promises Land.

Times had been hard. Quite often they had given up on God and embraced their neighbors’ gods. But they would never be any better until they turned to the Lord God, Samuel told them. So, the leaders gathered at a place called Mizpah to seek God’s blessing again.

Just at that moment during their spiritual retreat, the Philistine army, their dreaded enemy, saw a golden opportunity to destroy them. But Samuel found out right on time and organized their troops. And the mighty Philistines were defeated.


To mark the occasion of the great military victory and the day of their great return to faith, Samuel raised a memorial marker – just a bunch of stones, one on top of the other. And he called that marker Ebenezer, a Hebrew word that means “the stone of the Lord,” or “the help of the Lord, which is as solid and reliable as a stone.”

From that day on, whoever saw that pile of stones would be reminded of the great events of the day and of God’s mercy in those events. Ebenezer, “thus far has the LORD has helped us,” Samuel claimed out loud — Ebenezer, everybody cheered up!


Like those grateful men and women some 3,000 years ago, today we gather to proclaim God’s faithfulness, without which no blessings would ever exist. Even though we haven’t come through twenty years of spiritual despair or survived a great military battle the way our ancestors did, we too have seen plenty of difficult, challenging moments. Yet once again – and thus far — we have prevailed by the grace of God.


As we all know, the memories of the hard times remain. So can the memory of God’s faithfulness. That was Samuel’s challenge – he wanted his people to not only remember what they had been through. He wanted them to never forget the Lord who had seen them through it.

Friends, that’s God’s call to all of us today. May our memories today of difficult, challenging days yield to a deep sense of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness.


Should we raise a pillar of stones the way Samuel did? I don’t think so – it’s not our style. What about raising our voices instead to sing a song that so vividly celebrates our “own ebenezer,” that golden moment when we finally comprehend that thanksgiving is not only about blessings, but also and foremost about God’s faithfulness?

The same faithfulness that makes all blessings so real to us? Come thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Do you remember the lyrics of this beautiful hymn?

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love. Here I raise mine Ebenezer


This will be our closing hymn today –in a few more minutes. As we sing it together, let’s picture the Thanksgiving moment we will partake with family and friends in just a few days. And when that moment arrives, let’s thank God not only for his many blessings –but also for his ebenezer, for a faithfulness as solid and secure as his love.