Let us pause for a moment to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God:
Gracious God, in this wondrous Autumn season
we appreciate the work of your hands
and the power of your goodness.
Even as we pray, fields are being harvested,
fruit ripens, and birds begin their migration to warmer places.
Our eyes feast on the magnificence of the colours
that enrich the scenery around us
and our hearts fill with silent awe
at the wonder of life on this earth.
At this time of Thanksgiving, help us to remember
the things in our lives for which we are truly grateful.
We know you are the wellspring of goodness in our lives
and for this, and much more, we are thankful.
I grew up in a farming and fishing community that was situated on the land of the Fraser River Delta. On Sunday afternoons we would often go for a drive on the narrow country roads that intersected the vast acres of farmland. At those times a peaceful and thankful feeling filled my heart and soul. Although we lived in the village, we and all the people we knew, had large gardens. The soil of the delta was rich and the harvest of garden produce was bountiful.
Thanksgiving Sunday, in farming areas is very much tied to the land and to giving thanks to God for the good earth that provides food for the body and for the soul. The little United Church I attended in my childhood was always richly decorated on Thanksgiving Sunday with the abundance of the Autumn harvest and the rafters would practically shake as we sang, as we did today, “Come, you thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home! All is safely gathered in, safe before the storms begin…”. (Voices United # 516)
However, you don’t have to live on a farm or even have a garden to appreciate God’s good earth and be thankful for the bounty, wonder and blessing that is the foundation of all life. We need only to look outside at the brilliant Autumn colours on a blue sky day, to listen to the sound of birds or the whispering voice of the rustling leaves in the breeze, to look into the eyes of someone we love or to listen to the voice of a cherished friend, to remember and give thanks to God for the gift of life.
There are many things for which to give thanks and many ways of expressing our gratitude. Sharing our gifts and blessings with others is one of those ways. Today, on this Thanksgiving Sunday we not only offer our thanks and praise to God but we also remember in prayer and in action those who do not have as much as they need, those who are grieving, and those who are struggling in some way to find contentment and gratitude.
Whether you gather around a table filled with fine china and crystal, around a simple table with simple food, or sit on the ground and share basic food as Jesus did with his disciples, it is the attitude one brings to the sharing of food that is important. Gratitude, hospitality and generosity, are essential ingredients in any Thanksgiving celebration.
Mary Jo Leddy who is an author, social justice advocate and devout Christian speaks of Jesus as the ultimate example of what she calls “radical gratitude”. In her own words we hear that, “In the person of Jesus, we see the example of what it means to live in radical gratitude. …In the life of Jesus we see someone whose life gave weight to his words. …He has shown us the way of the loaves and fishes, when what we give away multiplies, ignites, and sustains. He has shown us how one good word grows and gathers into a symphony of truth. He has shown us how one small hope whispered in the dark fills out and flows until it becomes a movement. …He has shown us the way of the supper when you set the table with your life and it becomes as real as love, friendship, and community.” (Radical Gratitude, Orbis Books, 2002, pg. 68)
On this Thanksgiving Sunday, which is also Worldwide Communion Sunday, we remember and give thanks that we are part of a worldwide community that follows the teachings and example of Jesus. On this day, all around the world, Christians are gathered in small numbers and in large groups to share in the feast of faith and love that we call communion. Together, we remember Jesus and give thanks for his life and ministry, we celebrate the gift of God’s spirit and the light of Christ that shines in each of our lives and extends out into the world. This feast of the spirit enlivens our faith and reminds us that we are not alone and that in little but persistent ways the world is being transformed, moment by moment, with kind and loving actions. We are inspired to make a commitment to strive to live in right relationship with God, with Christ, with friend or stranger, with all Creation.
On this last Sunday of Creation Time, we give thanks that we remember the blessings and responsibilities of sharing this good earth with others. We also give thanks for our community of faith and the wider community of the United Church of Canada. In this era in the United Church’s history when so many are worrying about shrinking numbers, both human and financial, I was blessed to be part of the Candidacy and Admissions process for BC Conference this past week. The Candidacy and Admissions Board has the responsibility to interview potential candidates for ministry and assess their suitability and readiness for ministry in the United Church. Always, before these meetings, when I am in the midst of preparation, both for the interviews and for the work that I still need to do for our congregation, I consider the time and energy it takes for preparation, travelling, and the intensity of the meetings themselves and I
question whether I should continue to serve in this capacity. But, always,
no matter how exhausted I am when I arrive for the meetings, I leave with a renewed sense of excitement, enthusiasm and hopefulness for the future of the United Church. I can assure you there are currently a good number of fine women and men that have a deep sense of call and extraordinary gifts for ministry who are part of the candidacy process in BC Conference.
There are people who have a passion for outreach, multicultural and congregational ministry, some who already have theological education and want to transfer from another denomination and many who are at various stages in their educational process for ministry in the United Church. For God’s presence, inspiration and guidance in this work and in my own call to ministry, I find myself in a continuous state of humble gratitude.
This week I was reading a book by Joyce Rupp in which she talks about living in the reality of the present and being grateful for present blessings while at the same time planting seeds of hope for the future. She says, “Thankfulness for what has already been given is the foundation for hoping for what is not yet.” (Out of the Ordinary, Ave Maria Press, 2000, pg. 206)
I believe that is what we do in our congregation all the time. We gather and give thanks, we pray and learn and work together and set about to respond faithfully to God’s call to us in the present. With our faithful commitment and our gifts of time, talent and financial resources we plant and nurture the seeds of hope for a continuing United Church presence in our community.
We live in a beautiful place – I practically kissed the ground at the Cranbrook Airport Thursday morning as I was so glad to return home. We are surrounded by the beauty of the East Kootenay landscape and we are especially blessed to be part of a vibrant, beautiful and richly gifted community of faith. With this in mind I’ll end this Reflection with a Thanksgiving Blessing by Joyce Rupp:
May an abundance of gratitude burst forth
as we reflect upon what we have received.
May thanksgiving overflow in our hearts,
and often be proclaimed in our prayers.
…May we always be open, willing, and ready
to share our blessings with others.
(Out of the Ordinary by Joyce Rupp, Ave Maria Press, 2000, pg. 207, adapted)
May this be true in our life together as a community of faith, this day and in the days to come.