We are all happy when our Commander-in-Chief celebrates this time of the year by pardoning one of the two turkeys reared for the White House feast on Thanksgiving Day. But are the turkeys deserving of pardon (especially a Presidential pardon)? Have you ever wondered why that turkey receives a Presidential pardon? To make the President look merciful! But asking for mercy in the face of deserving punishment is really serious business.

The Presidential Proclamations on Thanksgiving in earlier years surrounded the concept of God’s mercy in the face of sins within our nation. The writer of Psalm 25 goes beyond this “dab” at mercy to draw out the greater pallet of graceful color founded upon the character of God: his goodness and uprightness (verse 8). He then assures those who share in this grace with him of the pathways laid out by the Almighty paved with steadfast love and faithfulness (verse 10). After this comes an interesting verse:

For your name’s sake, Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great. (11)

The psalmist calls upon God to be merciful because of his character and reputation. Rather than using the generic word God, or Almighty—focusing upon his primacy in our lives, or all-powerful ability—the word the psalmist employs is "Lord," the name of our covenant God. Because of the covenant, initiated by God, binding our lives together, it is appropriate for our Lord to show mercy as well as for us to receive it because that is who he is. On this basis—because our lives are bonded together in covenant and because of his loving mercy —this constant, stead-fast love is assured. Rather than ever fearing the wrath of God again, because of his mercy, we will only know the restorative work of Christ in our lives—restoration made with a loving passion which drove Christ to take on our humanity, suffer, and yield to the death sentence we deserved.

God's pardon in Christ is to be celebrated with thanksgiving. Tenth tradition is to gather for one hour on Thanksgiving day to worship our benevolent Lord through song, prayer, and preaching. We also desire to honor him by sharing financially with two ministry partners as we share Christ’s pardon in our great city: The Place of Refuge provides Christian counseling to underserved communities in North Philadelphia; and Rock of Israel lives out this pardon before Russian Jews and immigrant Muslims in northeast Philadelphia.

As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas conspire to overwhelm those beaten down by difficult relationships with co-workers, family members, or friends, this word of pardon from Christ—this undeserved mercy—breathes freedom and refreshment into everyday life. All of which stems from the same fountain of grace.  

I look forward to worshipping together and giving thanks with you to God for his great pardon in Christ on this Thanksgiving day, Thursday November 27 at 11 AM.

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