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God Loves to be Thanked – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

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Deuteronomy 8:-1; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19

Among the many things which I like about living in America is this day – Thanksgiving.  My family and friends in England don’t know quite what it is.  They sort of combine it with the 4th of July and think it’s a kind of thanksgiving for having got rid of the British!  But I’ve explained it to them now, and they even phone and wish me Happy Thanksgiving.  So, what is Thanksgiving about?  If it’s not thanks for getting rid of the British, what is it about?  It’s got to be more than just the prelude to the biggest shopping spree of the year!

Thanksgiving’s got something to do with this story of a woman out shopping on Black Friday.  She was in the middle of the packed mall, and felt the need of a coffee break,  So she bought herself a little bag of cookies, put them in her shopping bag, and got in line for a coffee.  She found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, took the lid off her coffee, and taking out a magazine she relaxed and began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.

After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.  As she did, the man across the table reached out and took one, too.  She was a bit shocked at his rudeness, but didn’t say anything.  A few minutes later she took another cookie.  Once again, the man did so, too.  Now she got upset, but still didn’t like to say anything.

After a couple more sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset now – especially as there was now only one cookie left.  Apparently the man also realized there was only one cookie left.  Before she could say anything, he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her, and putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.  She was so angry.  How dare he help himself to my cookies!  Her coffee break ruined, she folded her magazine and opened her shopping bag, and there… discovered her own unopened bag of cookies!

That’s what Thanksgiving is about.  That woman had been so angry that the man had been helping himself to her cookies.  Then, when she looked in her shopping bag, she realizes that they weren’t really hers at all, but were a gift – shared generously and with a smile.  And that truth is what the reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy is all about.  After 40 years in the wilderness the children of Israel are poised to enter the Promised Land.  “The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, flowing with streams, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and honey.”  But, says God, don’t forget the most important thing: When you’ve eaten your fill and built fine houses, don’t exalt yourself and forget that it was the Lord who gave you all these good things.

That is what today is about.  It is about not forgetting, about remembering that everything we have, everything we are, is a gift from God.  It does not belong to us.  We do not belong to ourselves.  Our wealth, our talents, our very life, is not ours – not our possession – they have been given to us as a gift – from our generous God.  But how quickly we forget.  How easily we become possessive, acquisitive, angry, when another seems to have what we want or threatens to take what is ours.

I grew up with two brothers and a sister.  I remember our poor mother trying to cut up the cake at tea time into absolutely equal portions.  Woe betide her if one of us got a larger piece – or a piece with extra chocolate on the end.  With eagle eyes one of us would chant, “It’s not fair!  Michael’s got more than me.”  That’s hard wired in us.  Perhaps Saint Augustine’s right and it’s early signs of original sin.  But it’s deep inside all of us.  It’s not fair!  It’s mine!

So how do we keep before us this truth, how do we not forget that everything we have has been given to us freely by our good and generous God?  The Scriptures tell us quite clearly – and time and time again.  The key is thanksgiving.  “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever,” says the Psalmist(Ps 107:1).  Give thanks to God, urges Saint Paul, “give thanks to God the Father at all times, and for everything – in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.(Eph 5:20)  But it doesn’t come naturally.  Trying to get a bigger piece of cake with more chocolate on comes naturally.  We have to practice.

The best time to practice thanksgiving is as soon as you wake up.  When the alarm goes off on Monday morning, instead of groaning and instead of allowing waves of anxiety or weariness wash over you as you think of all the things you have to do that day, at once, say thank you God for the gift of a new day.  And then maybe think at once of at least five things to be thankful for – your health, your family, a roof over your head…  Name them, and say thank you God.  And before you know it, something has changed inside you.  God loves to be thanked.  When we give thanks, God changes us; he softens our hearts, and we become more generous towards others, and towards ourselves.  We are converted through thanksgiving.

So why not now ask yourself, what five things am I most grateful for this morning?  Remember those five things – and when you come up to receive God’s wondrous gift of himself in bread and wine, offer to God your five thanksgivings.  God loves to be thanked, and God loves to bless us and lavish us with gifts.

As I began this homily I was wondering why I so like Thanksgiving Day.  Now I know.  Because it is at the heart of it all.  It is about remembering that all of life is a gift from God.  It is about worshipping our gracious God, who broke all the limits of generosity by giving us the gift of his Son.

It is about saying thank you.  Thank you.

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17 Comments

  1. Rebecca on September 9, 2017 at 13:51

    This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. This very day. Today.

  2. Rhode on September 9, 2017 at 09:10

    Thank you, SSJE, for these most reflective mornings. I give thanks for Gods’ love, presence and grace, For a mother who was quick to pray anywhere, anytime; for my father who came to the Lord in tears and asked for my forgiveness -I give thanks for the gift to forgive him and for the gift of years to have seen and felt and tasted the goodness of the Lord. I give thanks for my husband and for a son we were told would never happen. I give thanks for my daily bread including the hard bread of affliction, the bread of fear, anxiety and despair as well as the bread of joy, wonder and hope. I give thanks for kernels of discernment found in the Word, under the stars, in my garden and in a prison. I give thanks that as I walk through the valleys of the shadows of death I am reminded to just keep walking as there is a country I have not seen yet, but for the glimpses we are sharing – I give thanks.

  3. Chris M on September 8, 2017 at 15:05

    There is a flip-side to Thanksgiving (or Harvest Festival in UK). As a colleague from Liverpool found out after preaching in a rural area about gratitude for what we have, knowing that the weather or the market could have dealt a much worse hand to us. The farmers were angry. They didn’t want to be reminded of the anxiety they lived with week by week until the harvest was safely in. If God can be so generous then all this could equally be gone next season!
    Every day as I take my medication I am reminded of how fragile my health is. As friends divorce or struggle to hold families together, I am reminded not to take family for granted. As I increase my mortgage to pay for essential maintenance I know a shift in the housing market could wipe away what equity I have in my dilapidated home.
    Yes – important to be thankful for the gift – while it lasts! But a daily reminder of the fragility of what we ‘have’ or at least are temporary stewards of.

  4. Ruth West on November 28, 2016 at 23:28

    Thanks for this good homily. I often say, “Thanks be to God.” I have more blessings than I can count.
    Setting aside a day for giving thanks as a national holiday is one of the best things our Congress ever did.

  5. Elizabeth Hardy on November 24, 2016 at 10:11

    Every night as I climb in to bed my last words are always: Lord, thank for today, for my friends, my family, my house, my car, my job, my health and my church. Then I lift up the names of those in desperate need. The juxtaposition is educative.

  6. CHRISTINA on July 24, 2016 at 13:11

    July 22, 2016, (August 3rd, November26th, 2015)

    Blessings, again, Br. Geoffrey. I hope you are having a blessed sabattical.

    The view from my apartment is still beautiful, green trees now, the flower baskets on the balcony a joy. I give thanks for them together with family and friends, good health, the country in which I live. But, I mourn for the lands and people whose lives are not blessed as mine. It is a very sad, old world at the moment. Historically, that has been so over the centuries. Our Syrian family arrived and appear to be getting used to being here.
    All blessings and thanksgiving to all who read this reply.
    Christina

  7. Sally Baynton on July 24, 2016 at 08:12

    Everyday is Thanksgiving! Praise to the Lord! Thank you for these wonderful words and references to Scriptures. The first thing I thank God for every morning is Him!

  8. Christina McKerrow on November 26, 2015 at 09:50

    Nearly four months since my earlier post. Still so much to be grateful for, although the view across the city has changed and we await the snows of winter.
    An addition to our thankfulness is the imminent arrival of a family from Syria. Our former Bishop has spoken to the daughter who speaks English and they are so looking forward to coming to Canada. Life has been horrendous for them and life here will be difficult too while they adjust to being in a land that is so very different. We pray for their arrival and their getting used to our different ways. I also pray that we here will receive them with kindness and generosity.
    Thank you, Geoffrey, for your morning message. Something I am daily grateful for. Christina

  9. Christopher Engle Barnhart on November 26, 2015 at 07:39

    I gived thanks for the weather, full of rain for drought stricken California. I give thanks for a wonderful feast today with a close friend from church. I give thanks for our family, my wonderful wife, Jo Ellen, our two wonderful daughters, Megan and Lorene, our sons-in-law, Riccky and Ben and three grandsons, Rohan, Lucas, and Thomas. I give thanks for all the gifts from God, our home, our health, and a warm fire.

  10. Rene Perreault on August 3, 2015 at 10:16

    Thank you Br. Geoffrey…..it is not the holiday of Thanksgiving but a very needed piece for me right now ….at 73 and living on a fixed income I can find myself concentrating on what I cannot have or do rather than on what I have and can do. Simple… in a few minutes I will take my dog for a walk: “thank you Lord for the ability to walk, for the gift of my dog, for the air that I breath, for the folks I meet on the walk, thank you Lord for the gift of the desert (AZ) all around and most of all thank you for Br. Geoffrey’s wisdom…your wisdom Lord.”

  11. Christina on August 3, 2015 at 09:30

    For you, our neighbours in America, it will be nearly another four months till your 2015 Thanksgiving. For us, your neighbours to the north, we will celebrate Thanksgiving early in October. But, Br. Tristram is right, every day is a day for Thanksgiving: all the things to be grateful for here and now.
    When I wake up, I look out across the city and it may be the clouds that catch my attention. Yesterday the sky was a perfect blue, later in the day swirling heavy clouds darkened the day, this morning a layered carpet of still, motionless grey with small light blue shades here and there. Is it not amazing that the skies are never twice the same.
    And so many things too to be thankful for: family, friends, a peaceful (more or less) city in which to live, a land of plenty for many of us.
    Thank you to the Brothers for their daily sermons. They begin my mornings. Christina

  12. Christopher Engle Barnhart on August 3, 2015 at 07:58

    I thank God for a wonderful wife, for our life together,for the wonderful homes we have together, for my health, for my church family.

  13. Marta e. on August 3, 2015 at 07:51

    I grew up in the 1940’s with training to work harder, be perfect, and then asking God’s forgiveness every night for my mistakes/sins, etc. only recently have I been able to shift from that guilt which caused anxiety and inability to sleep to reviewing the day in a different light of thanksgiving for “blessings”, “miracles” and enjoyment of God’s wonderful on-going creation. I often sign mail with Peace, Love, Health, Happiness, Hope, and Hosannas Always (PLHHH&HA), particularly to my “prayer buddy”.

  14. george on November 28, 2014 at 08:32

    so many times have i been thankful for your sermons–so many days started with tears in my eyes as they touch my heart–May God bless you all

  15. Barbara Frazer Lowe on November 27, 2014 at 15:11

    Thankhyou, Br. Tristram – As I set surrounded by gifts from God, I surely among my humble thankyou’s, list you as one my major thanks. A Thanksgiving Day with family, friends, health, happiness – and Snow!.

  16. David D. Butler. Lawyer on November 27, 2014 at 10:04

    Thankgiving is, in part, the New World version of Europe and England’s Harvest Home. It is also, in part, thanks for the year passed, its joys and sorrows, a prayer for the year to come.

    Thnakgiving is also, in part, a yearly repeated celebration of Persephone’s life above ground and a wish she Go With God, but only until we meet her again next Spring.

    Thank you for your wisdom, Brother. You, also, Go With God.

  17. Susan Berkenbush on November 27, 2014 at 07:31

    Thank you Brother Geoffrey for reminding me of all the many things in my life for which I am forever thankful. And today I shall also give thanks for your wonderful words!
    (And we are also thankful for our independence…..)

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