A Thanksgiving Sermon

Thanksgiving—a day of giving thanks. We’re taught even as very, young children to say thank you. I know I would say to my own children, “What do you say?’ to prompt them to say, “Thank you.” It is an acknowledgement that we have been given something –that we have received from another. There may be an obligation involved. We might feel a need to return the favor or give back in the same measure to the giver—but the fact remains that we are made receivers by the act of giving. This is the relationship that is described in our texts today. God has given us many things —in God’s world we are receivers. What have we been given? In Deuteronomy, it is a good land with streams and fig trees and honey where you can eat your fill and we are told to, “Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God.”  In the Psalm, it is ‘awesome things’ such as the provision of earth, water, grains and joy and we are told to pray, “You are to be praised, O, God in Zion.” In the Corinthians text, we are told that God loves a cheerful giver. In the Gospel text, ten lepers are healed but only the Samaritan goes back to say thank you. So are these scriptures mainly about having good manners? Knowing when to say thank you? Although we could all agree that good manners are important, I believe that there is a deeper meaning than making sure we say thank you to God for all the gifts we have been given. I believe we are talking about God’s giving power that is shared with us, and how we respond to that power.

In the Corinthians reading, it tells us that, “God is able to provide you with every blessing, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” The Greek word dynatos is used in this verse—God is dynatos—which means powerful, mighty, strong. The verse would read, “God is powerful, mighty, and strong enough to provide you with every blessing.” Every blessing! Do we really believe that is true? That God is powerful enough to provide us with every blessing so we will always have enough of everything? Thanksgiving is a day when we contemplate what being blessed with every blessing might look like. Author Ann Voskamp in her book 1000 Gifts, tells us that the very ordinary moments of life are holy. Microscopic fleeting moments that we rush by, speed through.

Voscamp says that the earth under you, the rain over you, and all the stars spinning all around you—are made for you. You can slow down and wake up and trust and pay attention to the moments with an offering of thanks. This is how you spend your one life well. Receiving the ordinary moments of life as the gift they are. We soon realize that God has given us every blessing, right here, right now. We may need to open our eyes in order to see them, but they are here.  The sunshine through the morning fog, the taste of a fresh piece of fruit, a friend’s knowing smile, our own laughter, a simple hello when you’re feeling lonely, holding someone’s hand.

If you’re thinking that you don’t have anything to be grateful for, when I was feeling like that one time, a catholic priest I knew in elementary school told this story and it has always stayed with me in terms of gratitude. He grew up in Ireland with a single mother and a lot of siblings. As a young woman, his mother lost her left arm in an accident at work. Think of all the things you can’t do without two hands. You can’t put on shoes or certainly not stockings. Try putting on your underwear with one hand! You couldn’t put on earrings or a necklace. Play a piano. Tie a bow. You would never clap. Or teach a baby to walk. Change a tire. Hit a baseball. Put a turkey into the oven or wrap a Christmas present. Now look at your own left arm. Such a simple and mundane thing—but I bet we’re all feeling a little more grateful for it right now. Simple, ordinary gifts that we overlook everyday.

Does God want us to say thank you? Yes. But the why is more important. It’s not just to be polite. God doesn’t want us to miss out on the real blessing, which is that gratitude changes us. We become grateful people. Our generosity begets generosity, our thanksgiving produces thanksgiving. This is the nature of grace. We add to the world with our gratitude. If I told you right now that you were a very generous person, you would actually feel more generous and you would act on that generosity. If I told you that you were a miserly person, you would feel more miserly.  It’s human nature. God shares his power of grace with us by allowing us to feel gratitude and thankfulness, knowing it will produce more of the same. A small seed of thankfulness grows a big harvest. It is a spiritual gift that keeps on giving.

This is the indescribable gift of God—that we can be part of changing the fabric of our own world by being thankful, because it spreads. Christ wants us to see the gifts and say thank you not just to be polite, but so that we can grow in thankfulness. He doesn’t want us to miss the beauty and wisdom of a thankful heart. Remember God gave—he gave his only begotten son for us.

So today, as we enter into a time of Thanksgiving, let us open our awareness to the gifts of God—in all things, and at all times—so that we can multiply the grace and generosity of God in our world by seeing the abundance around us in the ordinary moments of our lives. Amen.