Archive for the ‘Harvest Sunday’ Category

“Conceiving the inconceivable”

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

“Conceiving the inconceivable”

Philippians 4:10-13

Today we come together in our thanksgiving service to worship and thank the Lord for all we have. Our shelter, food, clothing, families and the gift of living in a country where we are free from religious sensor. If we take a step back and consider that when we wake and see no soldiers patrolling the streets or go to the shop and see row after row of shelves full of food we see we have been truly blessed in our country.

Real blessings from God that seem to be forgotten as instead of being gracious for our children receiving education and for our sick receiving medications that heal we chase contentment and happiness in the peripheral stuff that for those in countries of famine and bloodshed find inconceivable.

How does a soldier conscripted against his will to fight in Vietnam conceive returning to his home country and being abused for being part of a war not of his own doing or want?

How does an early Christian worshipping in the catacombs through fear of persecution conceive a current day church in turmoil because of the colour of the carpet and how does a lady daily searching amongst the rubbish for food to support her family conceive that in Australia we go to gyms to lose weight?

To conceive the inconceivable is to take a step back from ourselves and our situations and to see things through different eyes.

During his trial in 1964 after being arrested  of conspiracy to overthrow the state Nelson Mandela  stated “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Twenty seven years later he was released and when as Prime Minister of South Africa a journalist noted that “Mandela treated everyone with respect in equal measure irrespective of their station in life, be they royalty, foreign heads of government, with generals who planned to go to war against him, with gardeners, flight attendants or the unemployed….seen so clearly that while time short due to his presidential duties, still found the time to travel across the country to comfort his old jailor after his son had died.”

In our reading from Philippians the apostle Paul is in prison suffering persecution because of his Christian beliefs. Yet instead of asking why me Lord? He writes that “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, ” and in the book of Job we read that Job’s reaction to the news of the death of all his children and the loss of all his property is to remark “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return: The lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

To be brought low or lifted to abound we are to be content. Prepared to accept both the good and the bad, and often in quick succession and yet abiding in the inner peace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Sounds easy if like in the cartoons we are in heaven playing a harp and reclining on our fluffy cloud. Easy until the gentle music is interrupted by a phone call from a mother piercing your inner soul with the gut wrenching screams of loss and guilt from one who has lost a child.

In last week’s gospel Jesus told us that God the Father “makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” and so too would it seem on this earth that both Christian and non-Christian alike will feel both great joys and extreme wounds and with such a variance it can be inviting to desire to search for a way to be content amongst this mix of guilt, hurt and seemingly random unfairness of circumstances that we and others hear, see and feel.

Sometimes we may think if we build ourselves enough financial security or to improve ourselves so we can achieve all our dreams or even the opposite of falling out of society with its ‘competition and confusion we will be content, yet only to find that upon achieving such goals that then we find ourselves feeling discontent for just those reasons. That in wealth to feel guilt for those less fortunate or after having dropping out of society, discontentment in the guilt of realising we have not used our God given talents for the benefit of others.

One way or another we have all felt the discontent as felt by the apostle Paul when three times he pleaded with God to take away his thorn in the flesh only to hear the Lord respond “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”, and in knowing that truth, like Nelson Mandela was sustained in jail through the belief that South Africa will be free of apartheid, so to Paul in his jail cell in the truth that no matter his worldly situation or personal short comings, that he in trust in Jesus Christ alone as His saviour has been given the promise of eternal life in the heavenly kingdom.

The same promise that is given to sustain and give peace to all those who trust in Christ alone as their Saviour.  The same promise given to you and me and should we take a step back from ourselves and the situations that block our view and look to Christ first, we see a God of love send His Son to die on the cross that you and me, regardless of situation be it of wealth and prestige or poverty and infamy, be it in shedding tears of joy or in tears of hurt see that in all things He travels with you that you see the truth that in belief in Jesus as your Saviour you have been forgiven and stand before the Father not as you may see yourself in situation or in sin, but stand before God the Father next to Christ,  glowing in His righteousness and though our earthly room be meager or great, high or low, neither is worthy of concern nor comparison to the heavenly home that awaits you in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Don’t worry – Be happy

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Text: Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34

“This is why I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body. After all, isn’t life worth more than food? And isn’t the body worth more than clothes? Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren’t you worth much more than birds? Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it? … Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings.”

 

There was a man who was a chronic worrier. He would worry about anything and everything. Then one day his friends saw him whistling.

“Can that be our friend? No it can’t be. Yes it is.”

They asked him, “What’s happened?”

He said, “I’m paying a man to do my worrying for me.”

“You mean you aren’t worrying anymore?”

“No whenever I’m inclined to worry, I just let him do it.”

“How much do you pay him?”

“Two thousand dollars a week.”

“Wow! How can you afford that?”

“I can’t. But that’s his worry.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could pay someone to do all of our worrying for us? Saying that, I presume that you are worriers like me (I’m especially preaching to myself today). It seems to be part of our human nature. As bold and as confident as some people might appear, every person is a victim of worry at some time. Even for the Christian who trusts God worry creeps in and becomes a part of everyday life.

A Mental Health Committee reported a few years ago – half of all the people in our hospital beds are there because of the effects of worry. Mental distress can lead to all kinds of health problems – headaches, arthritis, heart trouble, cystitis, colitis, backaches, ulcers, depression, digestive disorders and yes, even death. When we add to that list the mental fatigue of nights without sleep and days without peace, then we get a glimpse of the havoc worry plays in destroying the quality and quantity of life. Worry is bad for us. Worry has no nutritional value for the body or for the soul.

A little poem –

The worried cow would have lived till now,

If she had saved her breath;

But she feared her hay wouldn’t last all day,

So she mooed herself to death!

The word “worry” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to strangle or to choke. While we need to be attentive to life’s concerns, worrying about them “chokes” the joy out of life. Worrying is like driving a car with one foot on the accelerator and the other foot on the brake. The wheels are spinning, a lot of rubber is being burnt, but you are going nowhere.

Or as someone has said:

Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere!

God didn’t intend that the people whom he created and saved should hang between certainty and doubt, to be filled with anxiety over so many things. In fact, some people have made worry an art form. We feel uneasy if everything is going too smoothly and we don’t have something to worry about.

In his sermon the mount, Jesus tells us not to worry. He reminds us that animals and flowers get along fine without worrying. They don’t have to worry because God provides for them. Then Jesus goes on to say that since God provides for them, what have we got to worry about? We are worth much more to God than they are, so God will look after us infinitely better. So Jesus concludes: Don’t worry!

As we all know, that’s easier said than done. Someone saying to me on a bus crowded with coughing, sneezing, panting, nose blowing passengers, “Don’t worry. You won’t catch a cold,” does nothing to ease the anxiety I’m feeling. Now that the situation has been pointed out to me, that makes me worry even more.

And isn’t it true that we often worry about things that happened in the past, and we can’t do anything to change that? On the other hand, we worry about things that might happen in the future most of which never become a reality. And when we do achieve that moment when we don’t have anything to worry about, we worry because we aren’t worrying.

We know from what we read in the Bible that God understands our deepest needs. He understands us better than we understand ourselves most of the time. Jesus spoke with understanding to those who were anxious about the ordinary problems of working and living, preoccupied with anxieties about food, clothing and shelter.

Jesus first points out that God has been and will continue to be extremely generous toward us. We acknowledge this today as we celebrate this Thanksgiving Festival. In his typically down to earth way, Jesus tells us to look at the birds. They neither sow nor reap, yet God doesn’t let them starve. If God feeds the most insignificant bird, don’t you think he will provide for us who are his very special dearly loved children?

The flowers don’t fuss and worry over what they will wear. God clothes the wild flowers which are here one day and gone the next with the finest and most beautiful colours. If God does that for something growing in the wild surely he will care for those whom he has created “a little lower than God” and crowned us “with glory and honour” as the psalm says (8:5).

We have come here today with a song of praise on our lips for the graciousness and goodness of our God. We are reminded again that all things come from his loving hand.

Every discovery of humanity in science and technology,

every seed we have sown,

every article that has been manufactured,

every piece of clothing,

every morsel of food we have placed in our mouths

every dollar we have had in our hands,

– all have come to us through the generosity of God. We praise God for seedtime and harvest, for the time and abilities he has given us to carry out our daily tasks.

We have the resources of the God of the universe to take care of every need that we have. With God and all his resources and power caring for our welfare, there is little room for worrying.

Can you see what Jesus is doing here? He is setting up a powerful argument against worrying, getting stressed and uptight. He is reminding us that when we worry and become anxious we become blinded to the God who cares for birds, plants and us. We lose our focus as our worries take control and consume all of our energy.

When we are overcome with anxiety we forget the one who has the greatest concern for you and me, for our families, for our nation. Our heavenly Father. Worry has a distracting effect. It takes our eyes off our heavenly Father, and focuses our attention on ourselves, our problems, and our inability to handle things.

We focus on our problems,

we let our anxiety take control,

we get to the point where we can’t think straight anymore,

we churn things over and over again in our minds,

we get stressed and depressed;

we can’t see any way of getting out from under the weight we are carrying.

It has been said, “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

Worry blocks out any thoughts of what God is able to do for us. We are worried about how we are going to handle the situation.

So when Jesus talks about worry he just doesn’t say “Don’t worry”, he tells us how to prevent worry from talking control. “Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things.”

That’s simply saying: put first things first. What we need to do more than anything else is to realise that God can be trusted, we can depend on him, that he will take care of us, if only we would have faith in him as our loving God. Let God be God, as the saying goes, and let him take charge of your life.

First and foremost,

as a member of God’s Kingdom, realise that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father who is always watching out for you, as is seen in what he has done for us through his Son Jesus.

Get to know what great things God can and will do for you.

Learn to trust him.

Learn to focus not so much on yourself but on your loving God.

Come to God in prayer and “leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

The question that remains is this:

Can you and I change?

Can we put a stop to our worrying,

the anxious hand-wringing,

the stress and the subsequent depression?

Can we bring about a change in the way we deal with the problems that arise.

Maybe we won’t change over night, but as God feeds the birds which do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and as God beautifies the wild flowers which do not labour or spin, so God can feed and beautify our lives.

Why not try it out? “Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and see what happens. For instance:

Give time to God first.

Find time for prayer and worship and notice how this decreases your hectic anxiety.

When getting into serious worry mode, pull yourself up and let God take control. Hand your worries over to him and take note how fewer catastrophes happen.

Change your attitude to the place that God has in your life.

If our heart is in tune with God, if our heart seeks God and his will, we have nothing to worry about. This doesn’t mean that we will be free of trouble. Rather it means that God will be with us in the middle of our trouble to uphold us and to drive away our fear. For many of us the struggle with worry will be an ongoing battle, but we can be assured that this is not one that we fight alone.

Let me finish with some words from the prophet Isaiah:

You Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm, and put their trust in you.

And a little later he says:

Israel why do complain that the Lord doesn’t know your troubles or care if you suffer injustice? Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God… Those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed (Isaiah 26.3; 40.27,28a,31a).

Forever eating or eating forever

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

John 6-25-35 forever eating or eating forever

Benjamin Franklin once said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to
be happy.”  Some days, we’d have to agree with him!  There are, of course, many other pleasures in the world that can bring us delight and happiness.  When we come across certain smells, sounds, sights, touch, or tastes that we like, our senses are stimulated and delight over whelms us, and just for that moment, we seem to enjoy life more, and somehow, we sense God is found in our experience of good things.  Our senses, and the experience of joy they give us, are very powerful.  They seem to trigger our memory to past events in our life.  Its like we are transported, by a certain smell, or taste, back to a happier time, or even to a future anticipated time of happiness.

I have something in this bag (pine tree branch) that I don’t want you to see, but I want you to smell it.  I want you to close your eyes and let your senses take you back or forward to the time when you had or will smell this.  I don’t want you to say anything to anybody until I ask you.  (go around to a number of people)  What did your sense of smell remind you of?  Yes, most of you said Christmas.  The smell of fresh pine needles reminded us and transported us back to the happy time of Christmas with the family gathered around the Christmas tree.  In fact, as you look at the food around the sanctuary, each one of us will see or smell something special that stimulates our memory to a joyous time in the past or to anticipating LUNCH!

We should not be surprised by this, that created things bring us joy, and remind us of happy times; that we feel, in some special way, a part of creation and we have a sense of closeness to God.  We shouldn’t be surprised, because we were created by God out of creation, Genesis 2 records ‘the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’  We are created by God from the same dust as this tree comes from.

We live and breathe God’s creation, we eat of God’s creation and till the soil and rule over creation as God has commanded; everything we sense, experience and enjoy is for our good and well being.  God created the world for us, as Genesis says ‘And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground– trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.’ And the prophet Jeremiah also reminds us of the goodness of God ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’  Today is Harvest Thanksgiving, when we thank God for his goodness to us.  We display the fruits of his earth to remind us of his providence towards us; to praise him for his wonders.

Sadly, however, because of our sinfulness, we can easily mistake our happiness in creation, and the continual abundance of good things, as a sign that God is happy with us, like Benjamin Franklin’s quote, and so we are content to just chase after worldly happiness and nothing else…after all, if God is happy if I am happy, what else is there to chase after?  We receive so much joy and delight from the things we love, thinking its proof God’s happy, that we forget Jesus’ word of warning in Matthew 5 ‘[My Father] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’

God does indeed provide everything for our physical wellbeing, and in that sense, he is happy that we are happy enjoying his creation, but we have a problem, a relationship problem; a spiritual problem that God is unhappy about and cuts us off from eternal life.  While we are glad to receive all physical good from him, we have chosen to make these things into our god, our priority in life, which is a rejection of God’s 1st commandment.

We have chosen to love and enjoy the goodness of creation, and not God.  We have chosen to chase after everything that makes us happy, praising our possessions for bringing us self-worth and purpose, rather than looking to God as the giver of all things; who gives us life on earth and in eternity.  God, because of our sin, is forced by his holiness to reject us and exclude us from heaven.

How frustrating and saddening it must have been for Jesus, who came into the world as the bread of heaven, to feed and bring people into life eternal, only to be rejected for earthly, perishable bread; bread that only lasted a while.  Crowds of people gathered around him after he fed them with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Instead of recognising that the miracle pointed to Jesus as the one who gave food for eternal life, they chased him for the perishable bread, so Jesus warned them saying ‘Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

Jesus sets before us, two types of food side by side: the perishable and the eternal; the food of the field and the food of heaven.  Both are given by God for us, both are for our good, but one, the bread of the field is limited to this life.  The bread that came down from heaven, Jesus, is food for eternity.  The bread of the field, we eat with our mouths.  We forever eat this bread only to perish.  The bread that came down from heaven, we eat with our ears, by hearing his word, and this bread we eat forever, never to perish.   The bread of the field we toil and labour to eat just a few crumbs; Jesus, the bread of heaven is given to us as a gift.  All of eternity and not just a few crumbs are given to all who eat of Jesus.

There is no work, labour or toil, to receive the bread that feeds us to eternal life, as Jesus said in his reply to the question ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?” …”The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’  Here today, believe that Jesus is present feeding you in his word, and present feeding you now through the words of my mouth.

Believe in Jesus, the one sent from God; Jesus is the one with the seal of approval from God the Father, who said ‘This is my Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.’  Why would we want to be fed from anyone or anything else that is only good for this life, instead come to Jesus, as Peter confessed ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’

As you come to the Lord’s Table, to receive Jesus the bread of heaven, present in the bread and wine, stop, and like you did with the pine needles, smell the fragrance of the fresh bread and the aroma of the wine.  Close your eyes and let Jesus’ body and blood remind you of the joy of the eternal banquet that is yet to come.  Let the aroma and the taste of the wine stimulate your senses to remind you that this is the Lord’s blood poured out for you on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.  This is your meal, given and shed for you that you may eat of eternal life.

Sadly, while we are able to feast, there is a famine of heavenly bread just out those doors.  Not that the bread is lacking, its just that many, like in Jesus day, still chase after the bread that perishes.   As we leave the feast today, allow the fragrance of Jesus that is still on your lips, fill your home, your work place and the community you live in.  Let the word of Jesus stir a hunger in those who are full of perishing bread.  Just one or two words of Jesus, spoken by you, as you are prompted by the Spirit, can instill a new spiritual hunger.  You have nothing to lose, yet they have everything to gain.

Just as you would recommend a great restaurant to your friends, that served fine food, so go in Jesus name and in the confidence that you can recommend such good food that it is heavenly, for the food you bring are the words of Jesus, who declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’  Amen

Worried about being busy

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Worried about being busy Matt 6 25-33


I have a video of what it looks like to be engrossed in worry!  (Canadian police chase) What do you think?  Let’s play it again in case you missed the subtle message.

 

What is happening?  Yes, the robbers know what they want and are determined to get it no matter the conditions and no matter how futile their efforts.  They are to outrun the police and avoid capture at all costs.  The police on the other hand, also know they want and are determined to fulfil their responsibilities.  They are to capture the robbers at all costs.  And that is what they are doing.

 

However, what is all their worry and effort achieving?  Yes, nothing!  Both the robbers and police are very busy in their jobs, know their roles, know what they have to achieve, but they are in fact achieving very little.  The robbers are so concerned about getting away, so worried about doing it as they always have, with a car chase, they cannot see the bigger picture; they cannot see that their situation is hopeless.  The police, what do they do?  They are no better than the robbers, they are so caught up in the busyness of the chase, so caught up in worrying about the capture they just exasperate the situation.

 

Close up, just looking at the cars and the robbers trying to avoid capture, it seems pretty normal; something you would expect of a police chase.  But notice as the camera angle moves away from the close action and into the aerial view from the helicopter, what then?  (play again) What does the wider picture reveal?  Yes, no matter how hard they try, as long as they only worry about the problem in front of them…being stuck in the snow, the robbers are never going to get away and the police are never going to catch the robbers.

 

Are you the robbers or the police?  Is your life like the robbers? Always worrying about trying desperately to keep ahead in life, trying to outrun the busyness of the day; outrun the changes forced upon you by work or family commitments.   Perhaps are you like the police, always worried and focused on the job in front of you and never being able to catch up with the busyness of your day?  You seem to be forever running behind.  Forever chasing dreams, visions and hopes that are set before you, but only to find you never get where you want to be. 

 

All of us are either robbers or police.  All of us are either running from or chasing after something in our life.  Some of us are always worried about trying to escape the pressures and stresses of life, while others of us are always worried about chasing fading dreams and hopes of a more relaxed life.  Yet how many of us achieve it?  How many of us, by our own efforts, achieve a blissful life without worry? Do the rich, with the wealth to buy everything they want?  Do they poor, with no money or possessions to worry about?  Have you with all your worries and fears about escaping or chasing?

 

Jesus calls us to get into the helicopter of his word and rise above our escaping or chasing to gain a view of the bigger picture.  He encourages us to call off the pursuit and take a look at what is really going on; to take our focus off the job before us.  He says ‘I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Jesus sees our life like that helicopter shot of the police chase.  He can see we are doing a lot of worrying and running around after what we think is important for a good life, but in the end, from the vantage point of heaven, all we gain out of our striving and worry is more of the same.

 

Again Jesus says ‘do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.’  Like police after robbers, we shop until we drop chasing the dream of a peaceful and worriless life, yet it always eludes us.  Interestingly, John Carrol, in his new book ‘Ego and Soul, the modern West in search of meaning’, writes ‘It is through shopping…you can believe you control your own destiny, make yourself whomever you want to be, and therefore transform your life…like Clarke Kent changes into Superman.’

 

Jesus is not saying ‘don’t worry about chasing after those things’, because it is wrong.  He is not saying to worry is wrong, or to run from change and stress is wrong, or that chasing after a peaceful life is wrong or shopping is wrong…being superman or Wonder woman for a day is always good for the ego.  No, the key that unlocks freedom from the grind of everyday worry is to begin the day with God.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’  In him, in God and from God, comes our righteousness.  God himself gives us meaning, value and purpose for living.  Listen closely to Jesus words ‘seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness.

 

St Paul in Romans clearly emphasises Jesus message  ‘For in the good news of Jesus death and resurrection a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is given to us by faith totally and completely, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”  Righteousness before God, being friends with God, because of Jesus death on the cross, gives purpose and meaning to our running our chasing. How?  It gives us a vision of the bigger picture.  Being worth something before God, or in biblical terms, righteous before God, knowing he loves us and wants the best for our life, enables us to get into the helicopter and be lifted up to get a view of our life from a perspective of heaven.  

 

Have a look at everything God has provided for us.  When we bring just a minute fraction together, we begin to see how much he does provide for us.  Have a look at the sacrament of Holy Communion, God’s righteousness given freely today.  We can see and taste how much he loves us.  Knowing this lifts us up to see beyond our chasing and running to see what lay ahead…eternity with God.

 

This week, stop yourself in the middle of what you are doing, just when you are feeling frustrated or worthless or angry, running or chasing.  Stop at that point when, like the robbers or police, you are in the midst of a hopeless situation, and by faith step back to get a heavenly perspective on life.  We can do this by remembering Jesus words ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’.  We are children of God so we have the privilege of looking at life from the vantage point of heaven.  When we do, we can see God’s love for us in all his gifts to us.  From there we can perhaps see a new way of doing things.  We can see how we might change our attitude and see how the bog we find ourselves in, like the police in the snow, may actually be what God is using to assist us in completing the task before us. 

 

This is what Jesus meant when he said ‘do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?’  For the life that is more important, is the life of righteousness given to us free by the gift of God.

 

Amen

 

    

Harvest sermon – Luke 17:11-19

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Hand out some gifts.

Why do we say thank you?

o    Our appreciation
o    In recognition of the giver
o    To give honour

Its very easy to give thanks to someone who has given you something directly, because you know them or you can see them and so say thanks mate!  What if we step back one level and think about the person who made the lollies, do we know them?  Can we see them?  Yet should we give thanks to them?  What if we were to take another step back and think about the people who produced the raw material in the first place?  The sugar cane and the cocoa trees, do we know who this is?  Can we see him?  Should we give thanks to them also?

Yes of course, but as you can see, the further we get away from the actual giver, the person who gave us the gift, the harder it is for us to recognise them as the giver. Here in Australia, a civilized country, where science and technology, shops and product outlets provide us with everything we need, we are so far from the actual giver, it is easy for us to forget to say thanks; after all, who do we give thanks to – ebay?

Yes, many of us have lost track of who to say ‘thanks’ to, because face to face giving, where someone actually gives us the present, is becoming a thing of the past.  We are far away givers and receivers.  Often the gifts we give are now posted, emailed, or express delivered, rather than given in person.  And the things we need for daily living, food, drink etc, we simply buy off the self, no face to face service or shaking the dirty and calloused hands of the local producer.  We have what we want without even recognising the giver.

And what is the result of our far-away giving and receiving?  We become focused on the gift and not on the giver.  We become selfish.  The further we remove ourselves from the giver of the gift, or the provider of our needs, the more selfish we become.  Where’s my quality fruit?  Where’s my new years harvest wine?  Little thought goes into the provider; the giver of our needs.

I’m sure that all ten of the lepers that Jesus healed that day, were grateful as they walked away along the road and noticed that their leprosy had been healed. I’m sure they were very thankful to Jesus in their hearts for answering their cry for mercy; curing them from their leprosy. I’m certain they were brimming over with gratitude as they showed themselves to the priest and were welcomed back into their communities.  Yet the distance travelled away from the giver, had its toll on their thanks.  The further they went from Jesus, the less chance they had of returning to him to give him thanks.  Why?

Because the gift becomes the centre of their attention; the further they walked, the more their thoughts turned to the gift.  Wow!  Look at me! Now I can go see my family, now I can do this and now I can do that.  As they walked away, unknowingly and most likely, unintentionally, so did their thanks to Jesus.

The text doesn’t say whether the lepers made it to the temple or not, or whether they went straight home to their families, but one thing is clear; the further they walked away from Jesus, the further they separated the gift from the giver, the less likely they were thank him.  It’s a fact.  It happens.  And it happens in our own lives.  On that special day of our baptism, we are given the greatest gift of all; Jesus heals us spiritually.  In the water we are cleansed of the leprosy of sin, which was killing us.  We are given a second chance at life, just like the lepers were.

And how grateful we are, very thankful to Jesus, and with every good intention, we plan to go to church, to show ourselves in God’s house, yet as we go, the gift becomes the priority over the giver.  Wow, look at me, I am free, no longer under the burden of guilt and fear; I don’t have to do this or that, or can do this and can do that.  And as the years go by, its so easy to distance ourselves from Jesus, travel away from him.  And this is reflected in our failure to give thanks; we no longer give thanks, that is, we no longer stay close to Jesus; we no longer worship. We don’t return to the giver to give him our worship of thanksgiving.

This was not the case however, with the one leper.  The further the Samaritan went from Jesus, the more he realized he was walking away from the giver.  It is most likely that he never even made it to the temple, and why should he.  He realized the place where God is, was not in the temple, but in Jesus.  For him, the place to give thanks for his healing was where Jesus is, for he is the new temple, the new place where God is present.  He fell down at Jesus feet and gave thanks – he worshipped.

To worship is the give thanks to God. Luke uses the word ‘Eucharist’, the verb ‘giving thanks’, Jesus ‘gave thanks’ to God when instituting the Last Supper; that is why the Supper is often called the ‘Eucharist’.  The service of giving thanks to the one who gives the gift of his body and blood for our healing.  In the Lord’s Supper we come to Jesus and he gives us the gift of a second chance at life, the gift of forgiveness and healing; an opportunity to start anew.  And like the one leper, we come to give him thanks; we come to worship; we come to be face to face with our giver, Jesus our saviour.

I often hear people say to me ‘I don’t need to go the church to be a Christian’, and perhaps you have heard this yourself, and perhaps this is what the 9 lepers thought, ‘I don’t need to go to Jesus to give him thanks, I can do it at home’.  But why wouldn’t we want to go to where God is; the gift giver?  Why wouldn’t you want to be were Jesus is?  Why settle for a distant relationship; a far away giving thanks?  Perhaps this is what we are used to, I don’t know.  Perhaps we are afraid of being close to Jesus; perhaps to say our thanks to Jesus, means more than words.

A lady named Barbara began keeping a list of her favourite things as a shy teenager.
Soon the list became second nature; she found herself making additions while riding the bus, eating breakfast, even in the middle of the night. Twenty years later and dozens of spiral notebooks later, she had listed 14,000 things to be happy about. (Why not write your own book?)  As wonderful and important as this is, giving thanks is more than drawing up lists of your blessings, thinking thankful thoughts, and feeling gratitude in your heart.  It means more than just giving lip-service.

To ‘give thanks’ is a verb, a doing word. Giving thanks involves our whole person.
When the one leper returned to Jesus and worshiped him, Jesus gave him a command – Arise, journey, your faith has made you well.  Jesus is on a journey to the cross, a journey to save and he calls those he has healed to join the journey with him.  Once we have come to Jesus in worship, he calls us in faith to arise and journey with him; to no longer travel away from him, but to walk with him; to be with him, so that we may serve others as he has served us.

Just as St John says ‘This is worship, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ And this is our thanks, ‘since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’

Yes, so let us be thankful people of God.  People who are thankful enough to care about those kids in Dubbo North Primary School who don’t know Jesus; who are thankful enough to offer ourselves for service to those in our community; those who don’t fit in, to those in the hospital suffering alone.  We could probably make a list as long as Barbra on the ways we could live out our thankfulness in our community.  But remember, it is Jesus who heals and it is Jesus who is the gift giver, so first and foremost we journey with him; live in him and meet with him face to face and it is to him that we give our thanks and praise.
Amen