Thanksgiving Day, October 11, 2015
Reflection based on Matthew 6: 25-34
Opening Prayer: Gracious and loving God, may the words from my lips and our reflection on your Holy Word be acceptable in your sight this day, amen.
As I was preparing today’s reflection, I was reminded of and am deeply thankful for the countless Thanksgiving services I have attended and taken part in over the course of my life.
This morning’s reading from Matthew is one that carries me right back to my own experiences of faith formation and of being welcomed into the life of the church as a very young child.
It all began with singing in both my elementary and church school choirs at Suncrest Elementary School and at South Burnaby United Church. Lucky me! My favourite elementary school teacher, Miss Betty Manring was, not only the music teacher at school, but also the choir director for all ages at church! If singing in a choir is a heavenly experience, then I was most certainly in heaven in those early days!
Of course, Miss Manring wasn’t the only person who had a hand in my faith formation in childhood, but she was probably the most central figure.
For her encouragement and support and for the particular community of faith at South Burnaby United, a place where I felt welcome and included, I feel exceedingly grateful.
At the same time, I am also thankful for my own parents’ influence on my faith formation in childhood, despite their own personal need to reject what they called ‘organized religion’.
In spite of that, I appreciate the great patience and tolerance they had for my seemingly endless need to talk about God, Jesus, religion and how it all fit together!
Growing up in an era and a culture where children were mostly to be seen and not heard, I am quite amazed at this to this very day.
And, again, I feel a deep and abiding sense of gratitude for how actively I sensed God’s presence in my childhood at home, at school, and at church.
As I moved from childhood into adolescence, there seemed to be less and less time for me to consider the lilies of the field or the care free birds of the air.
Even at home, the conversations about God’s activity in my life began to shift and my mother began to lose patience with me for overthinking things.
I vividly recall as I would share my own worries about the many ‘what-if’s’ of higher education, travel, and involvement in the wider world emerged for me, she was quick to shut down the conversation with a terse remark or two.
Not infrequently she reminded me that ‘we would likely never get up in the morning if we knew what was going to happen to us!’
While this was a conversation ‘stopper’ to me then perhaps her advice matched up with what we heard Jesus advising his beloved ones this morning when he says
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Nevertheless, my tendency to overthink and to worry incessantly began to consume my time and my energy. So much so that my relationship with God came to a standstill so overpowering were my own ideas about my life’s unfolding.
This was more even more the case in my twenties as my achievements lured me far from my life in the church.
In spite of it all, I was still dimly aware of God’s presence, ever working away at the edges of my life.
With some relief, I rediscovered church as a place of community and support a few years later as my first child was baptised.
Thankfully, we might say, since that time, I have never looked back.
And for that too, I am deeply and exceedingly grateful.
What exactly is it about the church that I am grateful for?
First and foremost for me, church is the place where I am regularly reminded to make space for my relationship with God through prayer, through study, and through the creative living out and living in right relationship with others in our church community.
Church is also the place for me where we get to reflect together on God’s word for us through scripture and where we get to take a step back from the self-aggrandising all consumptive culture that would have us do anything but make space for building and contemplating our relationship with God.
And for that, too, I am deeply and exceedingly grateful!
All of this ruminating on what I am thankful for brings me back our good news for this morning and Jesus’ unconventional words of wisdom.
How easy, he tells those early followers, it is to get caught up in worrying about the future, troubleshooting the details of the fine print, and all the while, missing the chance to revel in the glory of God’s good Creation.
Here this morning, I cannot think of a finer passage for our listening ear on the occasion of Thanksgiving Sunday to be reminded:
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear…and….But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
That is all well and good you might be thinking, but what about tomorrow, and the next day and the next day after that?
Living under the tyranny of postmodern materialism and the myth of progress and consumerism, you are correct, it’s not so easy nor is it so very practical.
Still, I see wise counsel in these words of blessing and challeng Jesus preaches to the crowds here in the tail end of the sermon on the mount for the gathered community. I see wisdom in his message for those isolated and oppressed ones longing to be freed up from fretting about wealth as an answer to myths of scarcity, worry, and fear. Doing their best to hold their heads above water would make it hard for them to cope. In the midst of tyranny of the Roman Occupation of Palestine in those first 100 years Jesus walked the earth, to have the courage to follow in the way of Jesus was no small thing. Still his radical and countercultural message was not for the faint of heart.
Just imagine the freedom of what he offered though!
Imagine the power in being able to intentionally choose to live out our lives from a place of joyful simplicity where abundance, courage, and trust rather than scarcity, worry, and fear predominate!
This is a challenge we, here at Knox, also face as we find ourselves perched on the threshold of a new chapter in our life together.
As we anticipate the building development project moving along its path, we are aware that the timeline of the path is not exactly what some of you might have hoped for or foreseen.
Still it’s a path with room for us to stop and ponder our purpose and to be intentional about who and what God is inviting us to do and to be about together in the coming two years.
Whether we come as those first disciples with a ‘little’ faith or a lot, we have the opportunity once again to be intentional about making room in life, and especially in our life as a faith community, to consider, or as translated from the Greek, to just revel in the being observers in the moment.
So let us do just that together this morning.
Let us be intentional and focussed for a moment as to what captures our attention.
Be it this beautiful processional display of our food offerings we have created and offered on behalf of the homeless and the hungry, the blind and the lame, the unwelcome and the unloved ones, the ones who seek healing and hope at First United
Be it about other needs that hold our attention this day.
Together let us be about the practice of orienting ourselves to God in this moment as we remember the preamble of Jesus’ words to the gathered community here in Matthew’s gospel passage this morning and the reminder that “You cannot serve God and wealth.”
This is my prayer for each one of us gathered together as the body of Christ in this time and in this place. Let us let go and let God. Amen.