Sermon Thanksgiving 2015: Thanksgiving Is The Door TO the Spiritual Life Introduction: Thanksgiving Day as the Start of Following

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1 Sermon Thanksgiving 2015: Thanksgiving Is The Door TO the Spiritual Life Introduction: Thanksgiving Day as the Start of Following Happy Thanksgiving! (Thank you) Thanksgiving Day has always been one of my favorite celebrations of the year; A day when we, as a nation, pause from the incredibly busy pace of our lives To gather around some table and give thanks for the many blessings of life By sharing some of the simplest and least sophisticated foods But with some of the most important people we know. I ve enjoyed my lifetime of Thanksgiving Day celebrations, every one, From my earliest memories of sitting at the children s table Set up near, but not too near to my grandmother s dining room table; Where the adult relatives and neighbors, but no kids, enjoyed their meal; To sitting at one end of our table in the Rectory with our sons; And listening to the chorus of things and people we are grateful for and grateful to. It s always a very special Thanksgiving Day for the Allen family. Thanksgiving Day may be the closest we come to a truly Christian holiday, And I m not talking about our nation with its mix of faiths And people of no faith acting out the Christian life. I m speaking to the fact that this day may best reflect An everyday kind of response to Jesus call to a life of grace and fellowship with God; Because the purpose of the day draws us close To God s heart and God s desire or plan for our lives. Oh, Christmas Eve and Easter Day far outshine Thanksgiving Day in the Church year And in terms of God s plan for our ultimate salvation and restoration; But if we want to look to one day in the year That helps us to understand how to begin and how to continue To trust in God and follow Jesus call on our everyday lives, 1

2 Then Thanksgiving Day is the day of days. Because today, wherever we may find ourselves at the table; And whatever meal we may share or eat alone; We make a point of saying thanks for some or for all that we ve been given; And in saying thanks we acknowledge at a conscious or an unconscious level That who we are and what we have have come to us as gifts from God And that maybe, just maybe, going forward from today God will continue to care of us; God will continue to gift us and to draw us into the life that s really life. And so when we say thanks today and every day We are drawn closer to the life with God and God s great love for us Because saying thanks gives us eyes to see God at work in our lives And clues for what might come next; As we are moved closer to God s heart of grace and love. Sometimes We Forget Why We May Be Thankful But since Thanksgiving Day isn t scheduled every day of the year; Most of us struggle on a daily basis with giving thanks; We re either too busy with our daily lives and hopes and dreams Or we ve grown tired of counting the same blessings over and over And live a life that assumes thanksgiving in some way. Oh we might say a word of thanks when the car coming directly at us Looks up from texting and veers back onto their side of the road; We might say thanks when something or someone Really new or interesting breaks up the routine of our lives; Or when someone we re praying for gets better or gets a job; But in large part we re not all that thankful on a daily basis. 2

3 When was the last time we gave thanks for the new day Rather than remembering all that s before us; When we say grace or thanks at a meal; Do we really consider all that goes into having food on the table And all the work we ve done and the work that others have done To provide even a peanut butter sandwich and chips on our plate? We too easily forget that all we are and all we have have come to us from God; And through other people who have helped us along the way; We too easily fall into the mindset that we ve done it ourselves. I remember being asked to give the invocation at a celebration dinner For a business executive receiving the Man of the Year award For his leadership and success and effectiveness through his career. I sat at the table with his parents and his wife and two children; And three of his retired mentors who had brought him into the business. The time came for the award and the speech and without a word of thanks to anyone; He began talking about himself and all the challenges he had faced and overcome; How he had accomplished all of this on his own Through his gifts and intellect and hard work. Not a word of thanks to God, to his parents; No thanks for his wife and best friend of forty years; No mention of his son or mentors. I remember glancing around the table as the heads of his parents and wife and children And his mentors started staring down into their empty plates; Sad that he had forgotten that he had not reached these great heights on his own But that he had been helped all along the way by everyone at the table And so many more, not to mention God s help. 3

4 None of us is who we are and where we are on our own; We wouldn t even be in this world were it not for our parents And who we have become and are becoming is a series of gifts Given to us by God and countless people in our lives; And remembering all that has been given to us Is what the writer of the Book of Deuteronomy is driving at in our first reading; And one of the easiest ways we can begin a deeper life of Thanksgiving. Thankfulness Through Our Struggles And yet there are so among us have a sense of Thanksgiving Day every day; Persons who have grasped the deepest secret of life; The secret of the life of thanksgiving, of gratitude whatever comes in life. For them, life is a series of gifts, given by God and by others; For them, the storms of life are what they are, passing; The struggles are opportunities to grow and go deeper into God; The good times are wildly accepted and expected And recognized for the gift that they are. We know these persons or are one of these blessed persons ourselves; And the sense of goodness and well being and peace and grace That flow through them change our perspective And might even open the way for a change in our perspectives And the way we approach each day. Many years ago, I was working with the youth group of a nearby church And the second Saturday of every month we d go into Southeast Philadelphia To build and repair homes for people who didn t have the money To repair their homes themselves. One Saturday, we went down to Southeast Philadelphia, the Point Breeze area; 4

5 To repair a home for a woman whose row house had been damaged By the house fire of the row house next to hers. She didn t have much to begin with before the fire, Far less than any of us there to help her enjoyed in our lives; And she had barely made it out of her house because of the smoke And water being poured in by the fire company. Through a very cold winter she had lived with no roof over her kitchen No kitchen floor and no running water. As we were finishing up enclosing the roof and laying down a new kitchen floor; Mrs. Smith insisted that we stay for lunch; A lunch of tuna and deviled ham sandwiches on white bread and pickles; Chips and Kool-Aid. The youth wanted nothing to do with this; So I reminded them of how important it was to be gracious and to accept her offer We thanked her profusely with nods and smiles; And she insisted we pause and give thanks before eating. Mrs. Smith then launched into a prayer of thanksgiving the likes of which I had never heard or have heard again; Three minutes of thanking God for the many blessings in her life And how God has been with her and sent her people like us To bless her with all the richness of life. By the time she finished there wasn t a dry eye in the circle of people in her house; We were changed by this woman who seemingly had nothing And was so deeply thankful; And we who had so much had forgotten the many, many blessings of our lives; 5

6 Her thanksgiving changed our hearts and our faith in God. The Life of Gratitude Gratitude is an acknowledgement of our dependence on God; The acknowledgement that all that we are and all that we have Come to us as gifts from God and are a reflection of grace; Undeserved, unexpected, unusual. And our thanks reconnects us to our life with God And our life and connectedness to one another. Gratitude, giving thanks, helps us focus on the gift of this life; On the love and people and experiences and challenges and failures That help form us and make us who we are; Giving thanks helps us focus on the sweetness and love that are all around us all the time; And on God s deep and abiding love for us just as we are. Giving thanks is something that we can practice when life is going well; So that we remember who we really are; Giving thanks is something we can practice when life is a struggle; So that we can remember we are never alone; And can live in a greater hope for what s coming next; Giving thanks is something we can practice when life seems mundane or the same; So that we can remember that all of life is infused with miracles and people And the presence of God Himself. And so on this Thanksgiving Day, when we as God s people and we as a nation Pause and give thanks, I invite you to set aside your moderation And give thanks fully, with your whole heart with your very soul; Count all your blessings, if you can. 6

7 For if we will, then we will come to a deeper knowledge of God s grace and gift For your life; And others will see and experience grace through you today and every day; And the life that is really life will become ours As we give thanks. Amen. 7

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