Thanks be to God


iv class=Section1> I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen

Today is of course, Thanksgiving

For some it means turkey and football – or visiting with family that you might not see as much as you would like – for others it is simply an extra day off

But for most, it is my experience, that it means more – thanksgiving is the one holiday each year that seems to keep true to it’s purpose – which is giving thanks

For Christians this is even magnified, because we have God who truly knows us, lived as one of us, - as our passage from Hebrews states

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin”

And so our giving thanks is to God, who can truly understand us

There is a movie with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfieffer called the “Story of Us”

I rented the movie one Friday night, after a long week of work, to watch a light entertaining story of marriage for Kelly and I

                       What I got was not what I had expected

You see, it is a story of a *married couple who go through hard times over   fifteen years of marriage – in fact the movie is really the high-lights or should I say low-lights of their marriage

                                               Not the light Friday night entertainment I had hoped for and needed

           But there was a real gem in the movie which has blessed our family life to this day

                        In the movie - at dinner time, the family goes around the table sharing                                                                    their Highs and Lows of the day – they is simply called this - HI / LO

                                                We have adopted this practice often at our dinner table

                       And what it does for me and I think the rest of my family, even the kids

                                    - is causes us to look back over the course of the day and to be reflective of it

In the sharing of our good points of the day and our disappointments, we are learning valuable lessons about each other …and about ourselves

                        In sharing and learning with each other and because we are rooted in faith                                                  - it provides a process of reflection – which is truly a time of Thanksgiving to God

- At least it does for me

                                                And actually it also becomes the material for my own prayers                                                                                  and the nighttime prayers with the kids

Through-out the year there are times where self reflection naturally comes to mind

            New Years - as we consider the year gone by and the hopes and dreams for the year ahead

                       Christmas as we consider whether we have been naughty or nice

But the time of year that is especially reflective is – the time of year when we seem to get the holiday right is, now … Thanksgiving

            Today in our children’s time – I ask the kids what they were Thankful for

                 And we had wonderful answers that only a child could provide

Out of the mouths of babes

Reflective thinking may not generally be a child’s strong suit – usually that comes with life experience – the essence of wisdom – but what you do get from a child is honest spontaneous answers


At first glace it would be fair to ask – what do the scriptures readings today have to do with Thanksgiving

You would be right in thinking that Job was about how he had reached near the end of his rope with all his sufferings and was complaining about the apparent absence of God*

            Not exactly a message of thanksgiving – but in fact a lament of assumed abandonment

And Hebrews was a collection of thoughts about the power of the “word of God”, the intentions of the heart

and Jesus as the great high priest that has made the ‘path of grace’ for us

            Further still, on the surface the Gospel passage from Mark is a clear indictment of the wealthy

But I am not going to be spending much time on a biblical understanding of stewardship and the wealthy of this world – that was an aspect of two sermons last month in which I spoke about the letter of James

You heard it then, and thanksgiving is no time to repeat it, however if you weren’t here, our website has each week’s sermons for you to review, going back to June

It is true the lessons are not especially chosen for Thanksgiving …however there is a connection

Each one reveals a story or statements of self-review and reflection – which is the great gift of the holiday

Today in our gospel passage we get faced head-on with one that is seeking God – One that is looking at his life, and asking the question of our Lord – /“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

You see what is happen in the moment is that this seeker is being reflective of his life

This man kneels before Jesus, and then lays his life out for judgment in a moment of self-reflection

Jesus, fresh off a few test questions of the Pharisees trying to trick him, responds carefully at first, with a question and statement – why do you call me good, only God is good

                  Then reinforces the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments)

                             The man states boldly that he has keep the law his whole life

                                         To which Mark reveals to us that /“Jesus looked at him and loved him

An interesting few words that St. Mark has included - and my imagination has Jesus in that moment

Sharing a comforting, joy filled pastoral look

A look like a kindly wise Grandparent might have when they share with their grandchild a look of love and pride for something good that the child has done.

The man in this moment is all exposed – is longing for the Lord’s blessing – he is seeking help

           In fact St. Mark clearly states that he came to Jesus and knelt before Him.

The only other times that someone came to Jesus on their knees was when they were sick and in the need of healing

           And so too, it is for the rich young man

                      He too is longing for healing for his dis–ease

Although he does not know what it is that troubles him, he comes in need of help and guidance

Not of physical illness,

Obviously not of outward prosperity, which commonly was understood as God’s blessing

No, what Jesus identifies as needing healing is - “Priority sickness”

You see, Jesus looks and loves him for his achievement of faithfulness, but He asks for more

            Jesus asks him to sell all he has and give to the poor, to directly challenge his priorities

                        This call of discipleship is a costly one

                                    More than we might imagine

                                                It certainly means the loss of life’s creature comforts

But it also means a loss of the outward appearance of blessing

                                                                        It means the loss of status – money, then as now, is power

                                                                                    Well, at least worldly power

It means a change in the relationship to the poor, from receiver to giver

            It means, no less than, the complete loss of identity

And it is too much

            This is the only time in the gospels, when Jesus calls one to discipleship – to follow Him

                        And he does not – he selects life as usual over the offer of a transformed life

The rich young man, when he reflects on his life, when he looks at all the worldly blessings that are before him – he chooses not to satisfy his yearnings for life eternal, but for a comfortable earthly life

            I don’t know about you, but I understand his choice

                        I understand how difficult it is to give up stuff

We just moved as you know, and we cleared house before we moved, we cleared even more stuff once we were here and both times it was difficult to do

And if we were to have a fire at our house and everything was completely destroyed

I would be most upset, not about the house, we have insurance for that, but I would be most upset about all our stuff, the very personal stuff and even the not so personal stuff

So I understand the difficulty of the rich young man to sell all that he had and to lose his identity

But thanks be to God that the story doesn’t end there…

When the disciples who were still caught up in the misconception of earthly blessings equaling God’s blessing, asked astoundedly “Then who can be saved?”  

            Jesus brings home the message of grace

                                    Jesus tells us what we need to hear

                        Jesus finally clarifies His tough statements on the wealthy by saying

                                    “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God;

For God all things are possible.”

As we go about our lives trying to build a sense of security

            Trying to pay down mortgages, trying to build a comfortable life of possessions

                        Jesus burst that bubble of security and declares that true security lies in the hands of God

                                    Our efforts of achieving security, lasting security of eternal life

                                                Is impossible – ‘by ourselves’

                                                            However not for God – for God all things are possible

                                                                        The rich young man’s quest and plea

                                                                                    What must I do to inherit eternal life

                                                Is answered by God in the flesh

                                                            Nothing, there is nothing that anyone can do to inherit eternal life

                                                                        It is all grace – it is all God

So as Thanksgiving is a time to be reflective and to think about what you are thankful for,

            Maybe even to start a new tradition at the dinner table and daily share your ‘highs & lows’

Remember this, as Christians we know who we ask the question to

And get the answer from       

We know that it is from God that all blessing flow

 So… Thanks be to God, in whom we live and move and have our being

Thanks be to God for all the blessings that ‘at this time of year in which we reflect’, we can plainly see are so abundantly given

Thanks be to God that he is the great high priest, that knows us, as one of us

And loves us through it all

Good times of blessings

And challenging times which we are a blessed in a different way

In the way of growth through experience and reflection

Thanks be to God for it all

Brothers and sisters in Christ – happy thanksgiving - Amen

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