UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving
  Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
  November 22, 2020

 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving Week! I am very thankful for you and have prepared a special Thanksgiving Lesson on David’s beautiful Psalm 100 for us. Also, I am sending you a handout to help deepen your experience of this important lesson. With covid-19 looming and many people home bound, I thought it would be wonderful to reach out and share this lesson with a relative or friend. Invite some friends to join you in a discussion group like we would normally do after a Sunday service to discuss our Handout. I welcome your feedback, though it often takes me a while to answer all my email! You are loved and appreciated and I am thankful and filled with gratitude for the wonderful people like you that overflow in my life. It us hard to believe but next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. The church lights are up and Unity of Vancouver is shedding its light and love to all who pass by in your name and nature! However you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, do it in love. ~Bernadette

 MEDITATION


In prayer, I go to the quiet spaces within my soul.  I listen for the sound of my being.  My breath moves with a hush and my heart beats to a silent rhythm.  My thoughts of “if only” begin to subside and my concerns of ‘What if” slowly fade from view.  I rest in prayer and I rest in gratitude. The stream of thoughts through my mind, flow more quietly, until at once, I am still. I know who I am. I know I am connected to God and I hear God’s still small voice speaking clearly and lovingly to me in the silence of prayer. It is heard and felt by no one but myself because it happens within me. God’s light fills the universe and God’s warmth radiates from the center point within me.  I have no fear. From within the light the sound of an angelic voice sings a song of good news.  The warmth of a new joy fills me.  Clearly within my heart I sense signs of new beginnings.  I feel again an ancient peace, known long ago.  I thank You, God, I thank You as I rest for a moment in the silence or prayer. (silence reflection)

God, as I feel You within me, I realize You are my Source of security, peace, light, wisdom, life, love and prosperity. I am in unity with God.  I live, move and I have my being in God, the only presence in my life.  Thank You, God.  I am one with the energy that moves throughout my being, the energy of God as it moves through the environment--the sun, rain, wind, clouds, flowers and the trees.  I am in agreement with God.  I do not consent to the lack of good in any form, for I am one with all that God calls good. I am free from pain over the issues of the past.  I am a new person in the present moment. I thank You, God, for that. God-love is the only power at work in my life. I am joyful that every day holds a God-blessing for me for God’s love enfolds and supports me in all that I do.  Thank You, God. I am faithful to You today, God, by living in the consciousness of the one Presence and Power that makes all things turn out right. With a grateful heart, in the name and through the power of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

ENTER HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING

Did you know that Thanksgiving didn’t become a National Holiday until 1941? It’s true but it’s also true that we’ve been observing a Day of Thanksgiving for generations. Historians tell us the first recorded Thanksgiving took place in Jamestown, Virginia. The winter of 1610 was harsh, and many settlers died. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship from England filled with food and supplies, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. There is no mention of a feast happening at this time, only worship. The famous Thanksgiving, we are all familiar with happened in 1621. You know the story. The Pilgrims left Southampton, England in 1620 aboard two ships. They desired religious freedom, so they headed for North America. As they sailed around the South tip of the British Isles one of their ships, the Speedway, was ruled unseaworthy. The two ships stopped and some of the Pilgrims went home. However, some of the Speedway’s passengers boarded the second ship, the Mayflower. Originally there were 64 passengers but now there were 102 Passengers and with the Officers and crew the total on board was about 150. Due to the extra weight the trip took longer than the estimated 66 days to reach its destination.

They wanted to go to Virginia, but when they finally arrived, they were in Massachusetts. It was November. The weather was growing harsher by the day. There was no time to build permanent shelters. They survived the first winter in crude temporary housing and many remained on board the Mayflower, suffering an outbreak of contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. When it ended there were only 53 passengers, just over half still alive. Half of the crew died as well. The dead were buried in unmarked graves so the local natives wouldn’t know how small their numbers had grown. The Mayflower was a rented ship and had to return to England. So, when Spring arrived, they were forced to make a choice. Should they stay and face an unknown future in a new world or return to England. They made the commitment to stay. Friendly Native Americans helped them plant 30 acres of wheat and build permanent shelters. By the Fall of 1621 their homes were built, and their first crops were harvested. They decided to observe a Day of Thanksgiving to thank God for His blessings. This is the day of worship and food we’re all familiar with and commemorate each year.

George Washington declared a Thanksgiving Day in 1783 because the Revolution was over. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November, as "a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father." Each year afterward, for 75 years, the President formally proclaimed that Thanksgiving Day should be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set it one week earlier to help the struggling economy by lengthening the Holiday shopping season. In 1941, Congress declared the fourth Thursday of November a National Holiday. What does all this history teach us? It teaches us that Thanksgiving isn’t just a meal of turkey and stuffing. You can eat all the right food on the right day and still not experience Thanksgiving because Thanksgiving is an attitude that reflects an awareness that everything in this world is temporary and a gift from God. The attitude of Thanksgiving is holding everything we value with our palms up and open. The Bible says, “And It came to pass” not “It came to stay.” When we keep our palms up and open, it doesn’t hurt so badly when it inevitably moves on or is taken away. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”

This is the message of Psalm 100. It comes from the Old Testament, from what is called the Wisdom Literature. Originally, a Psalm was a piece of poetry sung to a stringed instrument. There are 150 of these songs organized in five books.

Psalm 100 is a song of Praise and Thanksgiving that comes from the fourth book. Many believe it was sung while an offering was given. Let’s read and study it so that we can put its lesson into practice in our lives.

A PSALM FOR THANKSGIVING - Psalm 100: 1-5

  1. Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
  2. Serve the LORD with gladness;
  3. Come before him with joyful singing.
  4. Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who made us, and not we ourselves;
    We are His people, the sheep of his pasture.
  5. Enter his gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
  6. Give thanks to Him;
  7. Bless his name. For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting;
    And His faithfulness to all generations.

David is credited as the author. In Psalm 100 he is reminding us of two very basic spiritual ideas taught over and over again in the Bible.

1. We were created by God and freely given the gift of life. Spirit creates matter.
2. God unconditionally cares for and loves us.

According to David, there is only one response for the unconditional love represented by God’s gift of itself to us and that is to worship God always and in all ways by maintaining a Spirit of Thanksgiving. David is reflecting on the human tendency of taking God’s gifts for granted and taking credit for producing those gifts. This leads us to act in ungrateful ways. Having an abundance of good in our lives isn’t a ‘sin’ in and of itself. Throughout the Bible we find many examples of people who were both wealthy and Godly: Abraham, Job, Joseph, David, Solomon, Josiah, Barnabas and Lydia, to just name a few. We also find examples of people who became enamored with their wealth and stuff, who lost sight of God as the Creator and Giver of all gifts as well as the Sustainer and ‘only Presence & Power.’  There is nothing wrong with having nice things. The problem arises when those nice things have us. Ingratitude and complaining are the opposite of Thanksgiving and deplete our lives of generosity, humility, health and all good. David wrote this song to bring back a Spirit of Thankfulness and Joyful Gratitude. Looking at the Psalm, there are three questions that immediately come to mind. Answering these three questions will help us to unravel the Psalm’s meaning in our own lives.

1.      To whom is it addressed?
2.      Of whom does it speak?
3.      How is it arranged?

1. To whom is it addressed? Read verses 1 and 5 and you will find that it is addressed to “all the earth” and “to all generations.” Psalm 100 is for the whole world, for people of all ages and all stages of spiritual evolution and all levels of prosperity. Its message is universal.

2. Of whom does it speak? Verses 1-3 along with verse 5 give us the answer. Psalm 100 speaks of the Lord. This Psalm directs our attention to Jehovah, which is the translation of Lord, the Old Testament personal name for God. You can’t appreciate Psalm 100 or apply its message if you aren’t intimately acquainted with God. Being thankful, begins with being in ‘right relationship with God’ as the Giver of everything.

3. How is it arranged? The Psalms were originally written as hymns. They are poetic in form. That doesn’t mean they rhyme, but it does mean that they follow a certain style or ‘beat.’ Each Psalm is independent of all the others just like our present-day hymns and songs are independent of each other. Each one has a distinct message and arrangement. 

Psalm 100 is composed of 7 instructions or commands, which describe the attitude of Thanksgiving. (I’ve numbered them to make it easier to follow along.) Following these is a final verse that sums up God’s character and gives us the reason to follow and obey these instructions.

1. “Shout joyfully to the Lord.” The word ‘shout’ comes from a Hebrew word meaning to ‘give a blast’ as on a trumpet to express approval. In modern language we would express approval by saying: “Right on! Far out! Fantastic! Way to Go! These words all express ‘shouts’ or ‘verbal expressions of Thanksgiving’.  God is directing all ‘earth-dwellers’ to shout words of joyful approval of God and all God’s creation. As in Genesis, when God created something & declared it “Good.”

2. “Serve the LORD with gladness.”  A sign of a grateful life is serving. Serving God and others as God directs is a recognition of the words of the 23rd Psalm, “My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!” When you volunteer at Unity or at another worthy place, you are doing God’s work. You are ‘serving God’ and not just a church, the Unity Movement, Bernadette, the Minister, or the Board of Trustees. You are not serving in order to get human recognition. You are serving in order to lift consciousness. To ‘serve the Lord with gladness’ is one of the highest forms of worship because you are expressing the unconditional givingness of God and being a mirror reflection of God in the physical word or ‘on earth as it is in Heaven.’

Spiritual Service doesn’t come from guilt or a desire for special recognition or approval. The verse says it is to be done ‘with gladness.’ The Hebrew term for this phrase was used when talking about pleasant things that give you happiness in your life. “Serving the Lord” results in an intrinsic benefit and ‘good inner feelings’ are more than enough reward.  Some people give of their time, talent and treasure to relieve their guilt, quiet their conscience or because they feel obligated or forced. If you’re experiencing prosperity and happiness in your life, it isn’t a cause for guilt or a result of blind luck. God doesn’t single people out as deserving or undeserving. Good comes to you, through you, as a result of your own consciousness and according to Spiritual Law. It is yours by ‘Right of Consciousness.’

“Serving the Lord” also results in extrinsic benefits. The Law of Mind Action is: “Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.”  Most people think in terms of the little picture of service to ‘their church’ and miss the spiritual concept Paul, Saint Theresa, Brother Lawrence and Mother Theresa describe as serving “Christ’s Body” – the universal church of humanity.

‘Serving the Lord’ is an expression of Jesus’ two commandment message which is: ‘to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.’  When you come to church, come with a smile on your face and in your heart. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing say, “I'm glad to be here and a part of this life experience and a part of all these peoples’ lives. I’m here to bless them, learn from them and shed my light on them.”

3. Come before Him with joyful singing. The key word here is ‘joyful’. The expression of ‘joy’ is an expression of both God and God’s presence’. Joy has been mentioned in all 3 verses! Are you joyful? Is your face pleasant to look at? Do you usually wear a smile or a frown? The eyes have been referred to as ‘the window of the Soul.’  Do your eyes reveal a joyful Spirit within? Do you sing in church with joy?

4. Know that the LORD Himself is God; it is He who made us and not we ourselves; We are His people, the sheep of his pasture.  We aren’t created as robots. Worship of God requires intelligence. We must know certain things in order to do it. This verse lists three things.

1. We are to know that God is Lord. ‘Lord’ translates as ‘law.’ God is Unchanging Principle, the true Reality. There is only One Presence and One Power but that Presence and Power expresses as invisible substance and visible Form. It is intelligent with infinite organizing power and creative potential.

2. God made us. This describes our right relationship with God. Spirit creates matter. Spirit is the Source of all solutions and the Supply for every need. God created us in His image and likeness. You are an individualized expression of God.  Everything about you is good but creation isn’t complete. It’s a continuing process. Your life is unfolding according to Divine Order. You are co-creating with God through your power of Free Will and Choice Making to a Higher State of Consciousness called ‘Christ Consciousness.’ To live joyfully and shout praises to God you must love and accept yourself exactly as you are in all the seasons and situations of life.

3. Philippians 2:13 says, “For God is the One who is constantly putting forth His energy in you as you.” God is still working, creating and evolving. Jesus said, “The Father works, and I must work as well.” You are a child of God. Be patient and cooperate with God. “We are His sheep in His pasture.” It is all God. It is all-Good, and God is in charge. Life is lived from the inside out. Everything is in Divine Order. There are no accidents. God doesn’t make mistakes. Trust in the Good Shepherd and be at peace. God is in charge and intends good and only good for you and for everyone.

5. Enter His gates with Thanksgiving & His courts with praise. The Temple in Jerusalem was constructed to reflect the inner temple of consciousness where we approach and experience God. According to 2Chronicles 5:14 & 1Kings 8:10-11, the Temple had gates and courts, which gave access to the Presence of God. This structure no longer exists. In light of that, how do we enter His gates and courts? The answer is through Prayer and Meditation and uniting and spiritualizing our 12 powers. Hebrews 4:16 invites us to “draw near to God’s throne.” Through Prayer, Meditation, Thanksgiving and Praise we come into Conscious Awareness and Common Union with God and have a direct, personal, transforming and transfiguring experience of God.

6. Give thanks to Him; The sixth command is closely linked to the fifth. Giving thanks in all things, for all things is natural when we see God everywhere as the only Presence and Power. This truth is repeated often in this Psalm and throughout the Bible so that we won’t miss its importance. Among the signs listed in 2Timothy 3:1-5 of the ‘last days or end times’ is ingratitude. In the story of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah it was said the people had become ‘ungrateful and thankless’ which was listed among the reasons for their destruction.  No wonder David repeats the importance of giving thanks in Psalm 100.

7. Bless his name. For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting; and His faithfulness to all generations. The word ‘bless’ is from the Hebrew word ‘bah-rack’, meaning ‘to kneel.’ The idea is to show homage and humility to God, by being in right relationship just as the shepherds and the three Kings kneeled before the cradle holding Jesus.

“For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting; and His faithfulness to all generations.” The last line tells us why we should obey these commands.

1. Because God is good. The original Greek word is ‘tobe’ which means ‘pleasant, agreeable, delightful.’ This image is different than the image many people have of God. God isn’t an irritated bearded King in the sky who takes delight in smashing our lives, frowning on our happiness and acting like a celestial bully. When you understand that you are a spiritual being living in a spiritual universe governed by spiritual law, you realize that doing these seven things to demonstrate your spiritual awareness as thankfulness is in your own best interests.

2. Because God’s loving kindness is everlasting. God loves and accepts us just as we are. God is the great giver and gives us these directions to lead us safely into the light as a shepherd leads his sheep safely home.

3. Because God is faithful forever. God isn’t partial to one person, one group or generation of people over another. Practicing these commandments will bring positive results to whoever obeys them just as the principles of mathematics work for everyone. Ephesians 5:1 says, “Therefore be imitators of God—copy Him and follow his example—as well-beloved children imitate their father.” It isn’t enough to read or believe that God is pleasant, agreeable, loving, accepting, faithful and impartial. We are to give up our egocentric ways and live God centered lives and ‘mimic our Father’.


REFLECTIONS ON GRATITUDE HANDOUT

Helpful ways to practice this lesson. Call a friend and share this lesson and activity.

1.  In your own words, define gratitude. How and when do you express it?

2.  Count your blessings, name them one by one to help you to remember to be grateful.

Blessings at home:__________________________________

Blessings in my family:______________________________

Blessings at work:__________________________________

Blessings at church:_________________________________

Personal Blessings: _________________________________

Create your own categories and express gratitude until your ‘cup is full and running over.”

3. List 5 people who mean a lot to you. Write each a note of appreciation. Express your thanks briefly but sincerely. For all you know one (or more) of them could be going through a difficult time and your words could lift them in this moment.

4. Do you go to church to give thanks and praise to God or do you have a different agenda? Do you spend more prayer time asking or thanking God?

5. Take an inventory of your daily words. Are your words of praise or complaint? Do your words primarily reflect a human agenda with needs and wants or a spiritual Essence and perspective?

DISCUSSION IDEAS

1. Can you be in church and not worship?

2. What does this story tell us about human nature? Can you find similar stories in the Gospels? A seminary student in Evanston, Illinois, whose name was Edward Spencer, was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860 a ship went down in Lake Michigan. Spencer waded into the frigid waters again and again and rescued 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. He never fully recovered and several years later he died. Not one of the 17 individuals Spencer saved came to his funeral to thank him. Can you relate to this story?

3. Many people seem more comfortable complaining than praising. Negative words do damage in three major ways to the life of the church, home, workplace, country, body, etc. What can you add to this thought?

1. Negative words damage and limit our understanding of God.

2. Critical words disrupt Unity. Are we united in Christ or divided into groups?

3. Critical words discredit our reflection of the image and likeness of God that God created us to be and mirror into this physical world. In addition, as Mark Twain said, “80% of the people who listen to your complaints don’t care. The other 20% think you deserve it!”

When you enter His gates with critical negative words you deny God’s Presence as Divine Order. Complaining people are telling the world they aren’t happy or serious about the spiritual path. They are telling the world some thing, or someone is not up to their standards. Since they are setting the standards people who don’t act like them frustrate and anger them. People who don’t think like them or hold their core values irritate them and must be canceled!

Church is about God. People don’t go to church to hear someone complain. People go to church to hear about God, Jesus, goodness, hope and their own potential to learn how to experience the Kingdom of God and overcome the problems and blocks in their lives. In his Psalm, David is saying that when you enter His gates with critical negative words, you disrupt God’s Unity. We go to church to learn to be united as one Body of Christ and work toward the highest and best for all concerned. To David, the most challenging part of any King or Spiritual Leader’s job is uniting people, keeping everyone God-centered and focused on Essence rather than Ego, and spiritually evolving.

Research indicates that people seldom unite around a program but will unite around a crisis. People will unite if the Church burns down, to get rid of a disliked leader or a natural disaster happens. The Good News is that we don’t face a big crisis very often. The Bad News is that a content church or country is often a breeding ground for complaints. We think that people complain because they have problems, but studies indicate that people have problems because they complain. Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. Complaints simply amplify frustration and spread discontent and discord.

*Check out Proverbs 6. It tells us 6 things God dislikes. “These 6 things the Lord hates, yes, 7 are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19). A. W. Tozier said, “Among those sins most exquisitely fitted to injure the soul and destroy the testimony, few can equal the sin of complaining.”

In church people vote two ways. 1. People vote with their feet. If the energy is positive and exciting and they like what’s happening they come. 2. They vote with their wallets. If they like what is happening, they give. If they don’t, they don’t give. Have you ever done this?

YOU MAY BE THE ONLY BIBLE SOMEONE EVER READS.

You are an ambassador of Christ. In other words, you are representing God in this world.
How are you doing with your assignment?

This Thanksgiving I invite you to evaluate your attitude and words. At the end of each day ask yourself: Is my heart filled with gratitude? Have my words been primarily negative and critical or positive and uplifting today?

Negative and critical words deny God’s Presence and Divine Order. Negative words destroy unity not only in the church and community but in your own body, mind and spirit. Negative words discredit your ability to be a witness to others as a child of God and Truth Student. Commit to speaking positive and life affirming words. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name and serve the Lord with gladness.” Be a light. Maintain an attitude of gratitude and make your life a joyful song.

Emerson said, "Write on your hearts that every day is the best day of the year.”  Affirm: “Today is the best day of my life.”  It doesn't matter what you are dealing with or facing.  If it isn't, ask yourself, "What is keeping me from it?"

A day is a gift,
It's not wrapped or bound
No ribbon tied, to be unwound.
A gift from God,
Superb, unmatched
No box, no lid,
No strings attached.




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