Homily for Thanksgiving Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 – The Rev. Deacon Anne Anchor
Deuteronomy 8: 7-18 2Corinthians 9:6-15 Luke 17:11-19
This past weekend our family had a bit of a get away with the intent to share with our granddaughter part of the life cycle of the salmon that takes place in the waters around us.
As is often the case when I go out into the wilderness I was overwhelmed with the expanse and awesomeness of God’s creation in this land that we are fortunate enough to call home.
As we were watching the spawners attempting to return to the place of their origin Sophie was drawn in to watching their struggles as they swam and charged up over the manmade ladders from the stream that had been the last place of freedom in their life journey.
At one point I knelt down beside her and I said to her,
“you know Sophie in some places in God’s world there is no water raging in creeks like this. In fact some children don’t even have clean water to drink”
She looked at me and said ‘Granny that is so sad” and as I held and hugged her I replied…
”Sophie never ever lose your care and compassion for others’
I was so overwhelmed with feeling blessed with the abundance we have and the love and care in our family.
As I watched the news that evening my heart broke as I heard more about the devastation of disease and conflict throughout the world. I find it more and more difficult to reconcile the diversity of how people live in this world. We have such abundance yet all too often we take this for granted and expect and truly even demand more and more. This situation will unlikely never change until each of us dare to take some responsibility for how we react to these disparities.
Most of us live in homes that are more than adequate for our needs with good furnishings, plenty of food on our tables, fresh water to drink coming from our taps and clean clothes to wear daily. Yet, just down the road people are living outside, with only the bare minimum of food, a tent for shelter and rarely a change in clothing.
I think the reading from Deuteronomy actually speaks very well to us in North America today, living in a land rich in resources, in environment, in the way of life we have listen to what the author said ….
“You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.
“Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today.”
How often do we forget that it is not through our own doing that we have what we have but that all has been provided by God. How often do we forget to give thanks for our abundance? How often do we fail to remember those in need in our own community let alone the wider world Yet, and as we falter at each of these we have not kept God’s basic commandment to Love God and love our neighbour as ourself.
Something I often think of is how fortunate I am that I was born in this abundant country of Canada and into a family that taught my brother and me how to be loving, caring and compassionate. If my birth circumstances had been different I may not be living such a full life, I may not be so blessed. I need to remind myself that I must not take what I have for granted or believe that it is something I have done on my own. From time to time when things are not going as well as I would like. I have to give myself a good shake and remember that this life I live is a gift from God.
Even in light of the readings today I have struggles with the imbalances and inequalities all around in this world. My faith is grounded in a caring and compassionate God and if this is a valid belief then I wonder ‘why are so many people struggling’. Why are we so blessed with the abundance in our lives when we have been no better in the way we treat the other or when we only share our resources when it benefits us.
Generally, as a country, as a people, as Christians, as Anglicans, as people here in this community of faith at St. John’s we do do good things but I wonder, is what we do enough. And then of course it is beholden for me to ask ……. Is what I do enough?
Perhaps this is one of my struggles that I must lay aside for now and have faith that one day I will find an answer.
In the meantime I must give thanks to God for all that I have, and then I must be prepared to share this with others whether it is through donations to the Food Bank, whether it is through organizing sandwich making for the Bridge Shelter program
or whether it is being involved in some way in the many opportunities we have to help others in need.
I am reminded as this struggle comes to mind of the image my parents told me about as a child of the small pebble dropped in the water that sends out ripples that get larger and larger and impact so much along the way
or as Margaret Mead once said
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I know that feeling compassion for others does not mean that we have to live as others do. Perhaps it is simply that we are to do the best for others from the abundance that we have however we feel we are called to do so.
Perhaps it is as simple as teaching our children and grandchildren how blessed we are and to make them more aware of the abundance around them. Teaching them to be better stewards in their world, reminding them that many do not live as well as we do; Teaching them not to take the creation around us for granted, to be good stewards by not littering, to not be wasteful at the dinner table and not to forget to give thanks for what they have.
Being thankful is not always an easy thing for us to do and it is more than just a feeling, it is a decision they we must make.
A few years back at Vacation Bible School the children learned a song about just this,
the words were these ….
“I’ll Adjust my attitude to gratitude and feel God’s love for me
Its not so hard to see, God given me so much in life I feel the joy he brings
I’ll adjust my attitude to gratitude and thank God for everything”
I think that is the point of the Gospel we just heard.
‘Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.
He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
The Samaritan had an attitude adjustment and made his decision in faith to offer thanks. Jesus reminded him and us today that nothing is impossible with God and through faith we shall be made well.
Faith is a huge factor in realizing that we are capable of doing a lot more than we do.
Faith holds us in moments of despair, at those dark moments in life when our world seems to be out of control.
I guess this is the answer to my own struggle. I must hold on to my faith and trust that God is in the midst of all that is happening, God is in the midst of the pain and poverty. God is in the midst of us, urging us on to do something for the less fortunate.
This Thanksgiving we give thanks to God for all in creation but as I said to Sophie when she said to me that it is so sad that other children do not even have water to drink, may we never lose the care and compassion we feel for others today.
May we always remember to ‘Adjust our attitude to gratitude’ and be like the Samaritan whose faith made him well and did not allow him to forget to praise God for what God had done. Recently I read these words from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and I leave you with them today ….
‘Do your little bit of good where you are; its those bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.’