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EBUP21: Come Ye Thankful People

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #21

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — Come Ye Thankful People

One person was held to say recently, “I almost hate to see Thanksgiving come, and pious preachers who are just a counter many blessings over one by one. With my situation, what do I have to give thanks for?” But that’s not the right question. We can turn it around and ask, what do I have to give thanks from?


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Thursday is Thanksgiving day. Of course, Thanksgiving day is a legal holiday, which means time off work. So it means something to most people. But there’s no special legacy that occurs to us by reason of being alive on November 24th. It’ll be a day like any other day. The sun will rise and set, as usual. As usual, a few of us won’t even notice it. We may gather festively with family and friends. But the question is, will the timbre of our conversation reveal anything special in honor of his holy day? There’s a girl that accompanied her mother to some kind of women’s meeting. On the drive home, after the interminable petty conversation the little girl blurted out, “Mommy next time we go somewhere can we go where they talk happy?” I’d like to invite you to join me in some happy talk this morning.

Let’s talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving. The old Christian hymns O Come Ye Thankful People Come. Maybe this gives rise to you, in you, nostalgic memories of family gatherings of some earlier years. To the colorful way in which the first Thanksgiving is usually portrayed. The pilgrims with their starched white collars seated at the lavishly provided table with friendly Indians. We have short memories. This event was 367 years ago, we’ve forgotten a lot. Thinking back we tend to remember the best and forget the rest.

Realistically that gathering was a pitiful group of survivors and many months of extreme hardship and suffering. Emaciated, poor. They’d seen their little band increasingly reduced in size as the burial plot claimed more and more of their members. At this feast there was very little food on the table, and they had precious little in their barns. With the prospect of another very hard winter ahead of them. One person was held to say recently, “I almost hate to see Thanksgiving come, and pious preachers who are just a counter many blessings over one by one. With my situation, what do I have to give thanks for?” But that’s not the right question.

We can turn it around and ask, what do I have to give thanks from? The pilgrims had little to give thanks for. They were giving thanks from the conviction of the goodness and the awe of the face of Jesus God. Which was a measure of their great faith. This conviction is what brought them to America in the first place. Which would sustain them in the years ahead. So the question is not so much what you have to give thanks for. This varies in the lives of all of us and varies at different times in our lives. What do you have to give thanks from? There was just the call to turn within to acknowledge your oneness with the universe and creative flow. It never changes. No matter how difficult our experiences are. How your role in life, your lot in life rises and falls and fluctuates.

No matter what the appearances may indicate to the contrary. What do you have to give thanks from? It is to acknowledge your relationship to the universe, your oneness with God. In the all sufficiency of substance which is ever with you. I think it’s important for us to see that Thanksgiving is not a virtue for which you receive heavenly brownie points. Perhaps I’ll shock you a little when I say it makes no difference to God whether you give thanks to Him or not. It makes not difference to God whether you give thanks or not. Whether you thank Him for all your blessings or not. Your praise and gratitude are not for Him. He doesn’t need it, but you do. You do. You need the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Meister Eckhart, that wonderful mystic priest, obviously with a twinkle in his eyes, said, “I never thank God for loving me because He can’t help Himself.” What he means is God is love and God cannot be less than God, cannot be less than love. You’re told, He loves you with an everlasting love. So the loving-ness of God is a part of the divine flow. It is ceaseless, endless. God cannot be less than love at any time. If you’re giving thanks to God, it’s not something you do for Him. It’s something you do for yourself. You and I need to be grateful. It’s as important as deep breathing. It’s possible to go through a ritual of giving thanks to God and not even feel thankful. It’s the one thing you do because it’s the religious thing to do on Thanksgiving day. But the important thing is to think, to feel grateful. Not to mouth a lot of words about how you give thanks to God.

It’s as important to you as deep breathing. A missionary to Africa found a poverty stricken tribe surrounded by relatively prosperous tribes. Very curious about the phenomenon, he did some extensive research. Eventually, after 7 years, he discovered that in their language they had no word for gratitude. They had no way to give thanks. It’s hard not to conclude as the missionary did, that we grow rich by thanks giving. We become impoverished by losing the spirit of gratitude.

Long before the time of Jesus, in ancient Greece, Plato said, “He enjoys much who is thankful. A grateful mind is a great mind, which eventually attracts to itself great things.” The grateful person is great because he’s turned on the lights within himself. You see, you don’t have to have things to give thanks for. For when you center your consciousness in an attitude of gratitude, you radiate light by which you can see things for which you can give thanks. Maybe this is what true greatness is. The ability to appreciate the good in people and events. And draw exactly the very best of life.

Obviously it’s an attitude that deals with life all through the year. Not just on the holy day. I confess I have a thing about days, such as, mother’s day, in-law’s day, be kind to animals day. Because they always seem to imply that no matter how you act through the year, if you send a card to mother on mother’s day, treat your in-laws with respect on that day, be good to your animals on the special day, then the rest of the year is absolved. So there’s one day of Thanksgiving, with all it’s regard, we actually should reverse the process. Have one day of griping and complaining. Then we could spend all the remainder of the days in a spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Something to think about. I don’t suppose my suggestion will get very far in the world, but ...

Thomas Carlyle says, “Every day born into the world comes like a burst of music and rings the whole day through, you shall make of it a dance, a dirge, or a life march, if you will.” We always have that choice. We can engage in thank thinking, and lamentation. How we think will determine how things will unfold for us. If we’re great or small, depending on our attitudes.

Another generous flow of thank thinking, we become little people, little minds, leading inconsequential little lives. Of course, thank thinking is not something to engage in on Thanksgiving alone. It’s a result of changing the mind to see things, all things, from a high perspective. I remember a very inspiring story of a man who climbed to the top of a hill in back of his house at the close of every day. Ostensibly for exercise and to see the sunset, but actually to do his thank thinking. He would subject himself to a critique of the day, but in the Aristotelian sense of criticism, which means looking for the good, he would take literally the words of Jesus, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. He would consciously, as Jesus said, agree with the adversary quickly, to agree means to settle with and the adversary means the adverse state of your mind. Settle with the adversity of your mind.

So he would consciously face his hurts, his anger, his worry and all kinds of negativity, taking personal responsibility for such thoughts and emotions and resolving it all into good by thank thinking. Some would call this Pollyanna, but why? It’s not Pollyanna to devote the whole day a year to thank counting your blessings. If it’s good enough for one day why not for all the days of the year? Thank thinking is seeing things from the highest point of view. It’s reminiscent of Emerson’s thought on prayer, “What is prayer but the contemplation of the facts in life from the highest point of view.” True prayer is high level thinking. This is important because many of us, as a result of an old concept of prayer, spend our time bemoaning our fate, asking God for pity in our sorrows. Going through an awful lot of lamentation, which we call prayer.

Robin said that for many persons prayer begins with “Dear Lord” and ends with “Amen” and has an orgy of negativity and self-pity in between. The contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. So wherever there’s a problem climb the hill and engage in thank thinking. Giving thanks, giving way to the divine flow. You may remember in the gospel account of Jesus dramatically raising Lazarus from the dead, equally surprising account of his feeding 5,000 people from one boy’s lunch. The account in each case indicates He lifted up his eyes and gave thanks. In other words, you could say that he got altitude in his thinking. What we would call, getting the thanksgiving perspective.

You could say, what did he have to give thanks for? His friend was dead, people didn’t have enough food. Less people have already said he was giving thanks from the consciousness of the ever present universal flow. Remember again, as Plato says, “A grateful mind is a great mind, which attracts to itself great things.”

Now don’t get hung up on the accounts of the so-called miracles. The important key is the thanksgiving perspective giving way to an unprecedented flow of life and substance. Whether it is attracted to him from outer sources or whether it is materialized ex nihilo, out of nothing, is actually irrelevant.

I read a story from one of the metaphysical journals the other day. The author was telling of her own experience. It seems that she was threatened by all the well-publicized symptoms of a dread condition that would be a threat to her business career. She was very worried and fearful about it. At the same time she was facing some financial obstacles that seemed insurmountable. She was terribly depressed. She was a beach person so she drove to the shore one late afternoon and sat on the sands watching the surf with it’s constant energy and watching the brilliant sunset. Then as darkness fell, she stretched out on the sand gazing upward into the blue of the night sky and the vast and limitless display of stars. She seemed to rise above her earthbound thoughts experiencing a new universal perspective. With a feeling of oneness with the universe, she dropped off to sleep. She spent the whole night on the beach. She awakened the next morning with a feeling of confidence. She knew that she was healed, she was advantaged. And subsequent visit to her heart doctor confirmed the healing. She was guided to make a certain contact with financial source. In a matter of days, her old difficult experience was resolved.

She had been resurrected from her tomb of despair by getting a mountain-top perspective. Sometimes all we have to do to solve problems is change the way we’re seeing them. Get a little altitude to our thinking. In the 7th chapter of John, there’s an account of the experience of Jesus and the disciples that’s always been confusing and disturbing to me. It says, “And they went every man into his own house and Jesus went on to the Mount of Olives.” I used to read this with great pity. How could the disciples draw up on his supportive consciousness all day, and end up inhospitable at the end of the night, going to their house, have their warm bed and their food prepared for them. Jesus was out there with no where to lay His head. Of course, this problem has always been in my consciousness because I perhaps had a secret fear of being left out. So I see it differently today.

It could be that the disciples, when they went into their house, still had problems with their consciousness. They may pre-tensed and worried, perhaps spend sleepless nights while Jesus, out on his mountain, was visiting the ways in His practice of the presence. I think that Jesus did not achieve His power by occasional attempts to perform miracles. His victory in Gethsemane was no sudden surge of courage. He lifted up His eyes and gave thanks. It was like a performing artist, your on the stage of Avery Fisher Hall. It was a bearing of the fruit of long years of discipline and practice.

He went out into the desert place, not out into the mountain, to practice the presence. It’s important for our own spiritual stability to keep our thoughts open in appreciation for the world we live in. I once heard someone make a statement, “What a terrible world this is.” I surprised myself by blurting out, “Compared to what?” It’s the only world we have. It’s a changing world and it’s a challenging world and there’s an abundance of grounds for worrying, and commiserating, if that’s what we want to do.

I recall the story of the woman who was always in a state of complaint about the continuing misfortunes that seemed to plague her. A friend said to her, “Oh come now, things can’t be all that bad. Why not look for the good and get a more thankful spirit?” The woman replied, “Oh no. It seems to me that when the Lord sends me tribulations it’s my duty to tribulate.” But, of course, God does not send us problems. It’s our duty not to tribulate but to keep a high enough perspective to give thanks in all things. To tune in upon the constant flow of the divine intelligence and the divine life and divine substance into our lives. It depends on our attitudes.

The beautiful part of the high perspective of gratitude is that it enables you appreciate your ability to appreciate. So many persons, when groping negative things to give thanks for simply focus on their inadequacies. In other words, they find themselves counting their envies one by one. He’s so talented. She has so many lovely things. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have his creative ability? Et cetera Et cetera. It’s so important to cultivate that spirit of appreciation.

So much is beautiful and wonderful in this world we live in. If you read between the lines, rise above the human perception. So much is good and wonderful in the people with whom we live and work. To those who have eyes to see, sometimes we only see this in times of crisis and difficulties are abounding in our lives. Suddenly you’ll find people coming almost out of the woodwork to help us to guide us to encourage us.

There was an article in the Reader’s Digest a few years ago, describing the Japanese people and their remarkable sense of appreciation. The article told of a Japanese snow viewing party. In the home of the family who had a lovely picture window looking out on a snowy landscape, the affair was held at the time of the full moon. The moon shining on the snow reflected the dark, barren branches of the trees. It was a beautiful sight. There’s no conversation among the people at this party. No drinking, no tv, no hubub, no small talk. The guests just came and sat and appreciated the snow in the moonlight. A strange kind of party by American standards.

One of the basic elements of thanksgiving is this capacity to appreciate the simple things. Count your many blessings in preparation for Thanksgiving. It’s natural to think of people. The most unforgettable people are those who have a consciousness that somehow seems to project the feeling, what a wonderful world this is. I remember just such a person. And I remember them vividly, nearly half a century later.

I had a job working all night at a bakery. I was working my way through college, literally. My hectic schedule was made easier, in fact, the all night schedule was something I looked forward to every day, because I worked with one of the happiest, friendliest, lovingest person that I’ve ever known. He was called Tubby. I never knew his name. He wasn’t even fat. He was a slight little fellow. The nickname Tubby came from his job at wheeling around the large tubs of dough to feed the soda cracker rolling machines. Tubby was always laughing, clowning, joking. He was a positive catalyst for the whole night shift in the bakery. A bright spot in the monotonous assembly line sort of job. One night, Tubby was not at work. The place was like a morgue. The work was exhausting. Next night again, he was not at work. Then Tubby was back. The place lit up.

It was then that I discovered from another worker, that Tubby had been taking his invalid wife for some hospital test in another city. He had the full care of his four young children, and a wife who needed complete care. He was heavily in debt for doctors, nurses, hospitals at a time where there was no hospitalization or medicaid. That’s just inconceivable for most folks today. I once had a serious talk with this beautiful man, and he said, “You know, people ask me if I’m not resentful, if I feel sorry for myself. Shoot, I’m no saint and there are times when I get down. But I always bounce right up when I remember how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful wife, such fine children, for a strong body and good job and a chance to work with great guys like you.”

I figured he was back, clowning. I’ll never forget Tubby. The flip side of this is how unattractive and even downright ugly is ingratitude when we see it. A businessman on his way to the office always greeted an old man that stood at the corner selling shoe laces. Once or twice a week the man would stop and give the old fellow a quarter, he’d never take the shoe laces. One day he made his usual gift of a quarter and the shoe salesman said, “I’m sorry sir, the price of shoe laces has gone up 40 cents.”

I love the attitude expressed by one of our radio supporters. Along with a gift, there always a brief cryptic note that says, “Here’s a piece of the universe. Here’s a piece of the universe. Your thanks for consciousness, I live in the universe and it lives in me. It’s mine to use and to enjoy.” How good it is know that the art galleries and the libraries and the museums are ours to enjoy. The sunrises and the sunsets and the moonlit nights are ours to celebrate. How rich one can feel, if he looks with eyes open, heart receptive.

That feeling of affluence is the key to opening the way to the flow. This attitude we need to respect for property, indeed respect for people, all people. Most of all it would lead to a healthy self-respect, and a feeling of self-worth. So as we take a few moments to engage in happy talk, I’d like to suggest that you make this coming Thanksgiving day a day of celebration. Celebrate the affluence of the universe. Celebrate it with the love that is found in people. Even beyond the appearance of seeming hatred and bitterness. Celebrate the free flow of substance and life and intelligence that abounds in your relationship with the universe. Resolve on this one day to pave the way for every day a day of celebration.

You raise your thoughts to the highest possible level about things and people then you’re thinking good. It’s really thanking God. Spend some time thinking about and committing yourself to the practice of thank thinking. When you face life with a thank-filled heart, you’ll give all the things you see a daily dose of cosmic praise. Let’s be still for just a moment.

I’d like for you to visualize yourself sitting on a high hill, looking out at your world. The world of people and relationships. The world of wars and rumors of war. The world of seeming lack and hunger and heartaches and disease and all the things that human consciousness dwells on. And as you look at them from this high, high place suddenly see beyond their appearances. See the radiance of light. See the cosmic flow of love. See the ever present spirit of friendliness, and oneness, and unity, and wholeness. Look at the world afar. See the dissolution of all barriers. Walls that separate nations and people. See a sense of joy and love and harmony. Peace on earth and good will toward men.

Look closely at your own experience. In those conditions and situations that you’ve been hurt or tense or anxious about. See them all through the consciousness of divine love. Get the sense of perspective of thank thinking. Thinking gratefully, knowing that a grateful mind is a great mind which attracts to itself great things. Give thanks for the ability to give thanks and the perception that as you see things with a grateful heart you will attract it to yourself great things, good things, harmonious things. Give thanks especially for when you face life a thank-filled heart you can, you commit yourself to do give all things a daily dose of cosmic praise.

Thanksgiving day comes on Thursday. What you do with it is yours to decide. It could be just another day or it can be a symbol of the greatness of light and your commitment to see the good in it, to flow with it, to become a part of a new world, a new heaven and a new earth manifesting all around us. Yours is the choice.

Most importantly, as we do and say every Sunday here, give thanks for the truth that makes you free. So be it.