Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
I remember as a young lad being given a wonderful gift by my parents: a telescope on a tripod. I was maybe 12 years old, and for several years I had been fascinated by searching the sky at night to recognize stars and constellations. I knew where to look for the Big Dipper; I could spy out the North Star and Orion; I could whisk with my eyes through the night and find the Milky Way. The stars probably told stories about life, I thought, and I had a childlike sense, like with the Psalmist, that the heavens declared God’s glory and splendor.1 I loved what I saw at night, lying on my back on the grass of our front lawn, peering into the night sky with my hands cupped behind my head. And so the gift of a telescope was so exciting. It was also a huge disappointment.
The first week of November a dozen people walked to Emery House, our retreat center in West Newbury. They walked from downtown Boston, walked over 50 miles in three days. They were from Ecclesia Ministries which offers spiritual companionship to homeless men and women in Boston. Both homeless and housed, they walked in community on a spiritual pilgrimage, staying with host churches along the way. We at Emery House had the honor of being their destination: together we celebrated and feasted, shared silence and reflected aloud, rested and prayed.
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.
As I was praying over today’s Scriptures, one line in particular from St. John’s Gospel stood out for me: “Jesus said, ‘anyone who comes to me I will never drive away’.” And that for me is an apt way of describing John’s remarkable ministry. Like his Lord he would never ignore or turn away from someone in need, however desperate their lives had become.
The first time I met John was thirteen years ago, when I first visited the monastery. He was walking slowly towards Harvard Square in his own rather distinct habit: those blue denim farmers’ overalls! When I introduced myself, his whole face lit up with that wonderful smile – which has given hope and encouragement to so many over the years.
Thanksgiving Service for the Renovation and Renewal of the Monastery
We have been looking forward to this day for such a long time! The day when we Brothers have the opportunity to publically give thanks to God for the gift of our new Monastery – and to give thanks to all of you – our dear friends who have supported, encouraged and cheered us on over these past years of visioning, fundraising, and building. This past year of the exile in particular has been quite a challenge for us. St. Augustine once said that a monk out of his monastery is like a fish out of water – and over this past year we have been gasping to be back home. We’ve come home and it is wonderful to be here with all of you on this glorious day, and wonderful to be able to celebrate this service of praise and thanksgiving.
We believe passionately that God has given us so much: this beautiful new Monastery, our friends, benefactors and advisors – all for a purpose. We believe we have a mission. And that is to draw others to know and experience in their own lives, the love of God in Christ.
“It is right, and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” Familiar words from the Eucharistic Prayer, the Great Thanksgiving. It is, indeed, always good to give thanks; it is good to give thanks always. And we who are blessed in so many ways have much to be thankful for.
I heard Elie Wiesel speak once in a synagogue near Chicago. I remember him saying that gratitude is the most human sentiment. He didn’t elaborate, but his words stuck with me. Gratitude is the most human sentiment. I think what he meant was that when we are in a state of gratitude, we are most fully alive in our humanity. That such fullness of life and humanity is possible for us is yet more cause for thanksgiving. We might pause to give thanks for the gift of gratitude itself, that we are capable of a sentiment so right and good and true. Give thanks that we have the capacity to be thankful!
In 1973 an adventurous explorer named Peter Matthiessen set out on a journey by foot to the Crystal Mountain on the Tibetan Plateau of northwest Nepal.i The trip was to accompany George Schaller, a zoologist who had planned the expedition to study the Himalayan blue sheep called “bharal.” The Buddhist lamas had forbidden people to molest these sheep. And so, where the sheep were numerous, there was bound to appear that rarest and most beautiful of the great cats, the snow leopard. In the previous 25 years, only two westerners – George Schaller, this zoologist, being one of them – had laid eyes on the Himalayan snow leopard. For Peter Matthiessen, the hope of glimpsing this near-mythic feline beast in the mountains of Nepal was reason enough for the arduous journey lasting a number of months.
This sermon is available only in audio format.
In Jesus’ day, there was considerable conversation about “talent.” Hearing about a “talent” was not in reference to someone’s ability; rather, talent was about money, as we hear in this Gospel reading today. If Jesus is referring here to the talent-weight of silver, one talent would be approximately $300,000; if gold, upwards to $3 million in today’s exchange. That’s one talent.