Giving Thanks…

2

The Pas                       21st Sunday after Pentecost – BAS Proper 28

Proper 23 – Ordinary/Lectionary 28 – Pentecost + 21

Year C

9 October 2016

 

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65 BAS pg 785

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Luke 17:11-19

 

Gracious One, you satisfy the need of every living creature. Fill us with gratitude for the  abundance of the earth and for the bonds of love and care that unite all creation into one family. May our thanks be the soil in which dreams of justice grow and thrive; through Jesus Christ, the Lord of the harvest. Amen.

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I was looking at the readings for this week, and remembering that it’s Thanksgiving, and we need to remember to give thanks, not just today, but every day.

 

I was thinking of all the ways that we do that, not just as individuals, but as community, as well. How do we, as individuals, as families, as a community give thanks, every day, to God for the blessings with which our lives abound?

 

This can be in as many ways as we have people in our pews, but at the same time, we have to realize that we are, in fact, blessed, beyond our imaginings. At the same time, this is where we are able to stop and take note of what it is in our lives, what is around us, and how we live.

 

Now, I know our community has received a couple of hard knocks in the past few months that will have longer term effects than we’d truly desire, and people are most likely beginning to evaluate their lifestyles, or at least their lists of ‘toys’ or the acquisitions they were thinking of acquiring.

 

But it can be even more basic than this. Today, we are able to look at the readings, at the passage of the Hebrew people from a life of slavery, in Egypt, to a life of freedom, in the Promised Land. We are able to see Pauls’ words to the cosmopolitan community of Corinth encouraging them to learn to give thanks for what benefits they have in their lives, and we are able to see Jesus embody God’s compassion, in the gospel from the book of Luke.

 

Through all of this, we see that we need to remember to give thanks for every detail of our lives. We need to recognize that even in the smallest of ways we are blessed beyond our imagining by the love of God and by our love for God in return.

 

A life of faith can be an interesting thing. We only recognize that we have a life of faith when we go looking for it, when we strive to identify our faith in the face of the contradictory messages of the world around us.

 

After all, there are people in the world all around us who live well, but don’t acknowledge faith as a part of their approach to life. And yet, they live what they consider to be full lives, busy lives, lives that may or may  not include the concept of giving back, although they are uncertain to whom it is they might give back.

 

The lesson from Deuteronomy points out that during the time in the wilderness, God led the people from experience to experience, always keeping them safe, always watching over them as they learned to be free from slavery, and still to be humble in the face of God.

 

Paul talks about how God is the author and the giver of everything that we have, and everything that we can ever achieve. However, it’s when we look at the gospel for today; we find the ultimate message, for this Thanksgiving Day.

 

In the gospel, Jesus encounters 10 people who have leprosy. Ten people who are outcasts from their communities, ten people who are dying more from starvation and neglect than from their disease.

 

We have to remember that lepers were shunned by society. They were avoided, ignored, and even driven away when encountered by healthy individuals. Even today, leprosy is a disease that has more fear about it than we would want to imagine, and for those nations who fear leprosy, who fear contracting it, anyone who has it is driven away for fear of giving the disease to others around them.

 

In today’s gospel, Jesus encounters 10 men who have leprosy. Even then, they don’t come close, we’re told “they stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’” (Lk 17:12b-13)

 

Keeping in mind the Thanksgiving celebrations that will be taking place, today and tomorrow as families gather, let’s look closely at this scenario from our gospel. Ten men stand at a distance and calling out in a loud voice, say “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

 

It’s so easy for us, today, to lose track of what’s important. I don’t know how many times I see on Facebook the posters that point out that if we have food in the fridge, a roof over our head, drinkable water, and lack of war then we are better off than much of the world around us.

 

It’s so easy to look at what someone else has and long for it ourselves to the point of forgetting that we don’t lack in our lives, and that those who lust for more often forget where they come from or that God is the giver of all that we have and all that we will ever need.

 

Today, ten men call out to Jesus to have pity on them. These ten men have lost absolutely everything in their lives, because of the leprosy. They’ve lost everything. They’ve lost their families, they’ve lost their health, they’ve lost their homes and their income. They’re not assured of being able to get something to eat. They’re not guaranteed access to clean water, or a roof over their heads. These ten men are outcasts, and they turn to God, to Christ for healing, for restoration, for grace, and for mercy.

 

These ten men approach Jesus as much as they dare; to beg for what it is they need from God, from Christ. They beg for their restoration to society, for alleviation from their disease. They desire to return to the loving embrace of their families, and yet without Christ, this won’t happen, without God’s mercy they don’t stand a chance, except to find a ditch in which they can eventually die.

 

And we can see this in the world around us, as well. I know things are getting a little more difficult financially, politically. I know we look at the world, at international politics and we are uncertain of what will happen, yet, there are people in our world, in our community who have less than we do. There are people all around us who may not have the certainty of a home cooked feast, this weekend, who may not have the assurance of a home, heat, or even electricity.

 

Our faith community has made commitments to help out as best we can. We have our food donations to Northern Gateway Community Chaplaincy, and the Soup Kitchen. But, honestly, I can’t remember when was the last time I asked someone to take the full, to overflowing bins over to them.

 

Our faith community has made a commitment to aid Oscars Place with healthy breakfast options on the weekends when these individuals cannot access the resources of the Chaplaincy and the Soup Kitchen. Yet, donations to Oscars Place Breakfasts are down to the point where we are in danger of losing this ministry completely.

 

Paul tells us: “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people, but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Cor 9:12-13)

 

Deuteronomy reminds us: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God … Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God.” (Deut 8:10-14a)

 

“When [Jesus] saw [the ten lepers], he said ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus feet and thanked him. … Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” (Lk 17:14-17)

 

God blesses us, every day. God blesses us in so many ways that we find it impossible to thank God for all that we have, and because of that, we often begin to take it for granted.

 

When we take our blessings for granted, we think that we’ve earned them by ourselves, and we want to protect that treasure for not only today, but tomorrow as well.

 

When we forget to give thanks to God for all that we have, then we look at those with less with disdain, and those with more with envy in our hearts.

 

God blesses us in so many ways, and is generous with those blessings. When we can be equally generous to those who have less than we do, then those blessings are spread not just from us to them, but to all around us, all around them and God is honoured as well.

 

Yes, we continue to ask for donations year round. We do this because the need is before us all year round. Because we, like the Israelites in the desert, and the manna they received daily, don’t keep our treasure for more than the day we receive it, rather we put it to work to bless all who we can reach.

 

Did you know that those at Oscars Place who benefit from the breakfast program then in turn bless us by ensuring that this property, the church is respected? Did you know that those on the street speak well of Christ Church for nothing more than a bowl of oatmeal, a bit of fruit, and a piece of cheese on the weekends?

 

Today we will go to our homes. We will enjoy the warmth of our homes, the love of our family members, and the company of those we love as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Today we will remember to give thanks for God’s blessing in our lives, and tomorrow we return to ‘business as usual.’

 

Today, in the spirit of giving thanks, I give thanks for all of those who contribute to not only the life and worship of Christ Church, but also the community missions with which we participate, spreading the love, the grace, and the mercy of God to all people, whether they’re aware of it, or not. We truly are blessed in the world, and for this, I give thanks.

 

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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