Beverly Gaventa notes how “prayerful thanksgiving dominates 1 Thessalonians.” Paul pauses three times in the first three chapters to give thanks (1:2, 2:13, 3:9). At the end of the letter, he encourages the disciples to “give thanks in all circumstances” (5:18). In all of this, he’s not simply repeating himself nor is he trying to meet a quota—his life is overflowing with gratitude and he has to say something about it! He’s also modeling the way we are meant to live.
Scott Macaulay lives in Melrose, Massachusetts, where he runs Macaulay ‘s House of Vacuum Cleaners. But that’s not what he’s known for—Scott is known for Thanksgiving.
It started in 1985, when Scott was 24. His parents were getting divorced and to make matters worse, there was absolutely nothing amicable about it. No one was talking to anyone. With Thanksgiving approaching, he didn’t feel like he could spend it with either parent without alienating the other. But Scott hated the thought of being alone.
He came up with the idea of inviting a dozen strangers to come eat with him. He placed an ad in the paper to that effect and twelve people showed up to share a Thanksgiving meal with Scott. He enjoyed it so much he has been doing it every year since then.
The numbers have swelled as he now feeds anywhere from 60 to 100, but the concept remains the same. Having outgrown his house, they meet in the fellowship room of Scott’s church. He brings in couches, recliners, rugs, and fake fireplaces to create an “at home” feel. A couple of rooms are set up where appetizers are served, and people can visit before dinner.
As you might imagine, there are some stories.
One year, a woman with Parkinson’s came. She hadn’t been outside the nursing home she was in for seven years and paid an ambulance $200 to bring her. She was decked out for the occasion and had such a wonderful time that she cried when it was time to leave. Another year, a man came who had recently lost his wife. When dinner was over, he put his apron on and helped Scott do the dishes. Then there was the woman who showed up for leftovers because she lived in a car and was too embarrassed by her situation to come in for the meal. She was so touched by the occasion that she sang a moving rendition of Amazing Grace. Finally, there was the year both of Scott’s parents showed up. His mother was dying of cancer and wanted them all to be together. She sat on the couch with Scott’s father, and the two of them held hands like they were an old married couple.
If you show up for Thanksgiving, the one thing you will always be asked to do is to take the time to write on a scrap of paper what you are thankful for. Scott said, “That changes the outlook, from whatever reason they’re coming to the dinner to a positive outlook because you start concentrating on what you’re thankful for.”
He’s right. Giving thanks is like flipping a switch. We leave behind the world dialed in on acquisitions to step into a universe that is bright with innumerable stars twinkling with the known and unknown we have to be thankful for. To live here, rather than just making occasional visits, is one of the most radical acts we will ever participate in. The psalmist spoke about entering the temple with thanksgiving and praise in our hearts (Psalm 100:4). Living with a grateful heart takes us through the gate and into the courts of God.
And that’s a great place to be!