Well, the President of the United States – let’s see, he’s got wars to manage, a wild economy to handle. You know what? Every Thanksgiving he steps up to one of the most decisive responsibilities of his office. He pardons a turkey; well, actually, two turkeys. This is really serious business. Actually they even have a backup turkey (this is the truth) just in case Turkey #1 isn’t able to serve as, well, what one writer called the ungobbled gobbler.

Of course, these lucky birds have names. One year “Biscuit” and “Gravy”; yeah, they escaped the ax. And then there was “Marshmallow” and “Yam” another year. (I’m not making these up.) And then there was “May” and “Flower,” and then another year, “Apple” and “Cider.” Come on.

Well, after this Summit meeting with the President, the turkeys are sent to Disneyland, and they didn’t even win the Super Bowl. Turkey #1 gets to ride with The Mouse as the Honorary Grand Marshal of Disneyland’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’m thinkin’ – only in America.

I’m Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about “Pardoning Turkeys.”

Now, I’ve been thinking about that word “pardon” because, well actually, it’s become a deeply personal word for me. “May” and “Flower” got pardoned by the highest authority in the land. My pardon comes from the highest authority in the universe. And as for it being a turkey who got pardoned, well, I’m not going there.

What I can tell you is there’s no way I deserved the pardon I received. Not this stubborn rebel who’s pushed God to the margins of my life so many times…who’s time and again said, in essence, “God, You run the universe, and I will run me, thank you.” Now, I’ve never killed anybody, never committed a major crime against society. But I’m guilty of infinite counts of doing the selfish thing, the angry thing, the proud thing.

Now, our word today from the Word of God, Romans 3:23 says that I am a sinner, and everybody listening is. “All have sinned (the Bible says) and fall short of the glory of God.” Not only is the verdict in, so is the penalty. “The wages of sin (the Bible says) is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s “death” as in forever separation from God. I stand on the spiritual equivalent of Death Row, but for the pardon. Which the dictionary says is to “exempt the guilty party from punishment.”

The Bible says, “Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgressions?” He is the God who is willing to “hurl all your iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19). Buried. Erased from my record – my eternal death penalty. Well, it wasn’t cancelled. It was paid by someone else – by the very Son of God Himself. “Christ died for our sins,” the Bible says, “the righteous (that’s Him) for the unrighteous (that’s you and me), to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). An unspeakable sacrifice for me, for all of us condemned sinners.

But, you know, there’s something strange about a pardon. You have to take it. And who wouldn’t? Well, George Wilson didn’t. Condemned to hang for a crime that he committed, he was pardoned at the last minute by the then President Andrew Johnson. But as unbelievable as it sounds, he wouldn’t take the pardon. As the government tried to force the pardon on Wilson, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Attorney General said, “The Court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon unless he claims the benefit of it.” And the Chief Justice concluded, “A pardon is an act of grace…from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…Delivery is not complete without acceptance.” Wow!

Do you know, you have to accept the pardon Jesus died to give you. You can ignore it. You can choose to keep running your own life. You can try to depend on your religion or your goodness. But then, like George Wilson, you’ll pay a death penalty you don’t have to pay. Jesus already paid it.

I pray that this day you would reach out and accept the blood-bought pardon of Jesus Christ. We’ve set up our website to help you know exactly how to begin that relationship with Him – ANewStory.com.

This is the day you can accept your pardon that came at an incredibly high price. What a Thanksgiving!