Saturday, November 21, 2015

For what do you give thanks?

Matthew 6:24-33
There was a family gathered around the Thanksgiving table. Mikey, a 5-year-old, asked if he could say the prayer, and of course the family said, “Of course, dear.”
Mikey prayed, Thank you God for family, and for friends, and for the food on this table. And thank you for my toys – and he named the toys, one by one. And for my clothes, and he named his clothes, shirt by shirt, pajamas by pajamas. And for my books, and he named them, book by book.
By now, those gathered around the table are getting anxious. The food is getting cold, and they are getting hungrier and hungrier just smelling it. Finally, Mikey’s mother gave him the wrap-it-up sign. He ended the prayer with, “and thank you for everything and everyone you have given me.”
How often do we take time to thank God for all the little things in our lives? Mostly, we take them for granted. We don’t even remember to give thanks for them.
Mostly, we spend our time and energy working for the bigger things, like bigger houses and bigger cars and bigger bank accounts. Even though we don’t intend to, we make having more wealth, more stuff, our god.
Jesus warns us that we can’t serve two masters. In Greek, the word he uses is kurios, or lord. It’s the same word we sing at the beginning of worship in the Kyrie. Lord, Kurios, have mercy. If we want to serve our Lord Jesus well, we can’t also serve money, or whatever other lord that attracts us.
… Many poor people are thankful for some of the things most of us take for granted. For example, we turn on a faucet, and behold, cold and hot water flows into our glass or cooking pot.
Yet in many parts of the world, clean water is not so easy to come by. There is drought or a natural lack of water in the environment. In other places, there is water, but it may not be healthy to drink.
Here in Florida, we are familiar with springs. Water flows out of the ground and we drink it, we swim and fish in it, we enjoy watching the wildlife that lives in it. But in many places, animals walk through spring water, leaves and insects fall into it, the water may be contaminated by flowing through contaminated soil. It is water, but it is not safe to drink.
One project of ELCA World Hunger is to protect the spring water that emerges, to keep it safe. Spring boxes are constructed to protect the water. A box is constructed of stone and concrete or other materials, with a pipe built into the side of the box for access to clean water. The box is built by members of the community who are also taught how to maintain it. The people in such communities are thankful for clean water.
… Some people give thanks for a safe home, but most of us take it for granted. About 20 years ago, civil war in Sudan sent thousands of boys and girls fleeing their homes in search of safety. Orphans, they left home with nothing, just the clothes on their backs. They made a community for themselves as they trekked to other countries seeking asylum. Many of these “Lost Boys of Sudan” found refuge in the US. Some of them landed in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Welcomed by Grace Episcopal Church, these young men and women found new life in America. In 2008, six of them were enrolled in Grand Rapids Theological Seminary where they were preparing to take their faith back to Sudan. There they will be seen as leaders, sent by Jesus to train up a new generation of Christian leaders.
These men and women could have stayed here and lived middle class American lives, but they have felt called back home, to share their gifts with many more people. They have returned home to focus on the kingdom/ reign of God, and give thanks for the opportunities they have had here.
… Last month, when Mike and I were in New Mexico, we visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in time to catch the last dance of the afternoon. In the shade of the building overhang, several vendors had tables set up. From Maria, I bought a little pottery bowl.
The silver jewelry offered by Brad Panteah caught my eye, and I kept going back to look at it. I asked him about the symbolism of the different animals, and the prices. I bought a pair of earrings for myself, but didn’t have enough cash for the white turquoise turtle pin I wanted for Mike. The turtle is the symbol of Mike’s tribe, the Montauk, from Long Island. It represents Mother Earth for many native peoples, including the Zuni.
As I talked with Brad, I learned that he had been losing his eyesight, but was getting it back thanks to some treatments. He hadn’t sold a lot that day, so what I bought was a blessing to him.
When the dancing was over, I took Mike to Brad to show him the turtle. Brad and Mike talked about artwork, and silver, and the rarity of true white turquoise.
We decided that between us, we had just enough cash to buy the pin. When we were finished with the sale, Brad came around the table and hugged me. “Bless you, bless you, bless you”, he said, first in Zuni, then in English. Today, you have three times blessed me.
Buying jewelry was for me a simple thing. I had allotted myself a certain amount of money for shopping, and I found the kind of things I was looking for at a price I was able to pay. Yet, with our purchase, Brad said he could take his wife to Burger King for dinner. He gave thanks for us, because we had made a significant difference in the life of his family.
For what do you give thanks? This week, as we take time to celebrate Thanksgiving with our loved ones, remember to give thanks for the small things in life. Remember it is God who gives you people to love, a place to live, clean water, an education, an artistic eye, and the chance to help someone else have a better life.
Remember to give thanks daily to the Lord of your life, Jesus, and to keep the things you have in their proper place in your life.

Please pray with me. Lord, we give you thanks, but not often enough. It is too easy for us to take much of what we have for granted. Remind us to worship you as Lord of our lives, and to keep the things we own as things and not lords. Amen