Service’s message: Be thankful, joyful

Published 12:11 am Thursday, November 26, 2009

Even as the temperatures drop and trees grow bare, there was one tree that was in full plumage this week — the “gifts of thankfulness tree” at Tuesday’s community Thanksgiving service at First Baptist Church.

The congregation at the service was invited to take a paper leaf and write something to be thankful for, and the leaves were then hung on a tree at the front of the church. The leaves’ messages were in keeping with the message of the service — “In everything, give thanks.”

The Rev. Melvin Smith, a retired pastor and painter, spoke about the message that comes from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes, “In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).”

“I come from a family of 12 brothers and sisters, so I am thankful for my large family,” Smith said. “But if you only have one son or daughter, then be thankful. If you have only a husband or a wife, be thankful. If you’re single, be thankful.

“We never know what tomorrow holds, but we do know who holds tomorrow.”

Smith said there are three philosophies in the world — the pagan philosophy that says to return evil to those who do evil to us, the “political” philosophy that says to return good only to those who also do good to us, and the “peacemakers’” philosophy that says to do good to all men.

“It’s very obvious which one Jesus professed,” Smith said.

Smith explained that Jesus showed the ultimate example of the peacemakers’ philosophy when he gave his life for the sins of an evil and uncaring world. It is for this sacrifice that all mankind should give thanks every day, Smith said.

“I’m thankful for Jesus Christ, because I know that even if I was the only sinner in the whole world, he would have still hung on that cross for me,” he said. “If we really want to please the Lord and do as he commands, then we’d better not have Thanksgiving just once a year. We should celebrate it every day — there are no dilemmas God cannot solve, if you just give thanks for everything.”

Smith recounted a specific instance in his life where he said he “gave thanks,” and God soon answered his prayer.

“I was on my way to a conference and had a flat tire,” Smith said. “My spare tire did not fit, so I had to (hitchhike). Luckily, there was a transfer truck coming and the driver was kind enough to drive me up to a gas station. It turned out they sold the tires I needed, and then a trooper took me back to my car and I was shortly on my way again.

“The most important thing was that I was praying and thanking the Lord, and the next thing I knew, that truck was there.”

The service also included a community choir of musicians from several local churches. Judy McLaney, Sarah Gunter and Patty Wilcox of New Providence Church of the Nazarene provided special music, along with pianist Helen Harwell.