Thanksgiving Sunday – October 8th, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Ps.65; 2Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19

 

– Two years ago we received a call from one of our children with the news that a former colleague and friend died suddenly of a heart attack at 56 years of age.

– Director of Student Services at a University in Alberta, where he worked for over 30 years…

– the shock of his death was felt by thousands of students, as well as faculty, staff, community members and friends…

– and especially his family of children, a grandchild, and his spouse of more than 30 years.

– Not long after his death, a picture of him began to circulate that eventually became a postcard size fridge magnet. This is it.

– His warm smile, strong shoulders, holding his fists together showing his bare forearms on which are written in black marker,

– on the one arm, “in everything” and on the other, “give thanks.”

– “In everything, give thanks.”

– it’s a true and fitting testament to who he was, how he lived, “in everything, giving thanks”

– and it’s the testament that his children and his spouse spoke of at his memorial, as did a colleague, president, friend, chaplain…

– his giving thanks in everything…

– and they remembered and gave thanks for him, even in death

In everything, give thanks…

– It’s this friend and his arms and these words written on them that I’ve remembered for Thanksgiving this year…

– through many gracious witnesses… God’s Holy Spirit in them…

– in the hospital, giving thanks for a Father, grandfather, a husband, provider, as death made a gentle but certain advance – some of his last words are repeated “thank yous”…

– as his family’s words are repeated thank yous to him…

– for life and love, not without real challenges and difficulties…

but in everything, wanting, needing to give thanks…

– in Bible study… words about Lepers being made clean

– a direct connection to being made clean and sober…

– Jesus cleansing from addiction… salvation not an abstract idea but a daily saving grace… between being dead or alive…

– tears and prayers for loved ones still in addiction’s death grip…

– in every trial, in everything, wanting, needing to give thanks…

– at a funeral… following a long journey with dementia…

– beautiful songs of love and remembering her… and for her

– heartfelt words of love and remembering her… and for her

– when she could not and the great struggle that was for them…

but having journeyed this long death, remembering her together and all she was and is… in everything, giving thanks for her…

– in personal and collective grief, from a tragic accident to an unthinkable mass shooting…

– looking for signs of hope in such a broken, mad world…

– seeing caring, compassion, love in response…

– reading good news of God’s grace and healing, for the grateful and ungrateful alike… including us…

– seeing, hearing some hope… in everything, give thanks…

– in difficult decisions… seeking to be faithful and discern God’s leading… conflicted and struggling, caring and gracious…

– in everything, giving thanks for all that is yet to unfold…

– at a wedding and all the thanksgivings of and for a couple and their family and friends in great love…

– with heartbreak and sadness mixed in…

– in the midst of it all, a strong embrace of grace, and words of heartfelt thanks… in everything, give thanks…

For all these witnesses and more… for me, you, others, this world, in everything, give thanks… to God.

It’s what we witness in the words of the Bible today…

In Deuteronomy Moses speaks to the people as they are about to enter the land promised by God…

– In thanksgiving Moses tells them not to forget, to remember God’s saving acts in the wilderness struggle that got them here..

– in their prosperity and comfort, it is a warning and an invitation, not to forget, to remember, in everything, give thanks to God…

From a distance, lepers plead to Jesus for mercy…

– and he tells them to go and show themselves to the priest…

– according to Levitical law, to be declared clean, and re-enter one’s family and community…

– ten go, and all are made clean on the way… only one returns…

– Jesus questions, “Where are the other nine?”

– he acknowledges the Samaritan who returned to give thanks.

– and tells him, “your faith has made you well.”

– clean/healed, by God’s grace, grateful or not…

– made well/filled with thanksgiving and praise to God…

by faith… that in everything, give thanks… to God.

St. Paul invites, and applies a little pressure on the people of Corinth to give support to the Jerusalem community…

– he reminds them generosity to others is generosity to God…

– he reminds them, generosity to others is thanksgiving to God…

– and in everything, give thanks… to God.

We give thanks for these witnesses of the Bible…

– that not forgetting/remembering, faith and generosity are the ways of thanksgiving, in everything, for God’s people.

This is not a piety of denial, never letting any suffering, grief or pain get to you, or be greater than your thanksgiving…

– its more than believing an inventory of woes and blessings will always balance out with more blessings…

– more than believing God will work everything out in the end…

This invitation is not, “for” everything, give thanks…

– I can’t do that, I don’t think we can do that… there is too much suffering in this world that we cannot give thanks “for”…

– that I guess and trust God will not give thanks “for”…

But “in” everything, give thanks… might be possible…

– don’t forget, remember, have faith. be generous to others…

and “in” everything, give thanks, on this day of thanksgiving…

– and every day after… to God… for God’s grace.

That has become clearer for me again this thanksgiving,

– in conversations about recovery and living by grace everyday…

– in Reformation lectures on Luther/other reformers on grace…

– in ecumenical and interfaith conversations on grace/faith…

this essential, radical claim of Jesus through the Holy Spirit on all people, again and again and again…

– that there is no way for us to fix ourselves or fix this world by ourselves… none, not a chance…

– but God, in Jesus and the Spirit, by pure grace, is constantly about fixing this world and us for good…

– don’t forget, remember, have faith, be generous… and…

in everything, give thanks… to God, for this grace… in Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Blessed thanksgiving. Amen.