29 November 2010

New Beginnings

Advent 1 2010

What a wonderful time we had yesterday at the Christmas Market – selling, buying, eating, chatting and overall a great feeling of community spirit.

If we had added some live chickens and several donkeys, we might easily have been in the market place in Nazareth.

When Canon Stuart writes in the Newsletter that St. Luke’s is a busy parish full of interesting and committed people who reach out to one another and to the wider community, he’s right on the mark.

This year has seen new incentives such as the Advocacy information breakfasts and a second fresh food programme.

We have welcomed the community with musical evenings, bible study, book studies, and contemplative prayer.

We have welcomed visitors on Sundays and during the week, along with those who came to St Luke’s for baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Today we celebrate our achievements. We rejoice and thank God who makes it all happen, through each and every one of us.

Today we look back with satisfaction on a church year completed and we look ahead with hopes and dreams to a new one.

Advent marks the beginning of a new Christian year.

It is a time to pause and reflect on what has been and on what is to come.

It is a time full of promise as we await the birth of Jesus.

And it’s a time to hope and to dream.

It’s also a time of commercial bedlam when we get frantic and fractured even as we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace

I recently read of a lady doing her Christmas shopping who got bumped into. As her packages spilled in every direction she said “I hate Christmas. It turns everything around in my life.” So it does and that’s what God intended it to do.

The mystery of the Incarnation is that God decided to join us here on planet earth. What’s more, he chose an unmarried teenager to be part of the plan.

He chose a stable as a maternity ward and was taken into exile as a baby to escape the mass murder plot of a deranged leader.

The miracle is that it all worked out as I imagine God knew it would.

However, it was a huge risk, and it seems to me that God showed us his vulnerability and his intense love for us by even considering it.

God has always demonstrated his love and his willingness to keep giving us second chances. From the earliest times he intended to free his people and he did this by using humans with their consent. He needed them to say yes of their own free will and if they did, he stayed with them as their guide.

That was how Abraham came to leave his country and journey to a new land where he would become the founding father of a chosen people. It was how Moses got the courage to return to Egypt and free the Israelites so that they could eventually return to their homeland. It was how the prophets got the tenacity to speak out as a force for change.

Now God has asked Mary and Mary has said yes. We cannot begin to know what the message from Gabriel meant to Mary but in her time and culture she would have to have been terrified. Yet she said yes. And that yes changed the world.

Throughout biblical history, God has used dreams or visions to speak to humans. Joseph was told in a dream to stay with Mary and protect her. The wise men were told in a dream to return home by another route rather than tell Herod what they had seen. The bible is full of accounts of dreams bearing messages from God.

Meister Eckhart, the 14th C mystic recorded this strange dream

I dreamt that even though a man, I was pregnant and filled with nothingness, like a woman who is with child, and out of nothingness God was born.

That dream changed his whole perspective of who God was and where God was

He says that he began to understand the indwelling of God in all humanity and all creation. God no longer far off but living within.

Martin Luther King had a different kind of dream – a dream of a better future for Afro - Americans. It was what some would call a pipe dream because it seemed unattainable. It took a while but that dream came to fruition.

Most of us stifle our pipe dreams.

We get stuck thinking that nothing will ever change for the better.

All of us have some reluctance to grow, to change, to open the mind, to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

When God visits us it might be in the REM dream of sleep or it might be in the pipe dream of alertness. It isn’t a requirement to have a sky full of angels singing or a blinding light on a road to Damascus.

God calling us to service frequently happens during the ordinary times of our lives. Times when we are really busy doing Very Important Things (in our own minds). Times when we mentally ask God to come back later. We may be too busy to hear his voice at all.

Now we have a second chance coming during Advent.

Advent is a time of waiting and listening. It is a time of stepping back even for a short time, from the fray which is associated with the worldly celebration and remembering the real reason for our joy.

Today God is asking you and me to be pregnant – pregnant with hopes and dreams for a better future for humanity and for our planet. If we find the Christ within and if we remember that with God all things are possible, then we can embrace our new church year at St. Luke’s with vibrancy and love. We can continue to reach out to one another and to the community and we can give birth to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world around us.

We have the words of the prophet Micah to encourage us

Here is Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message:

God has already made it plain how to live, what to do, and what he is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple

Do what is fair and just to your neighbour,

be compassionate and loyal in your love

and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.


28 November 2010

Proper 33 C - Go Fish

Sermon for 14 November 2010

Stewardship Sunday

Luke 5: 1-11

By Sharyn Hall

On January 24, 1986, two fishermen were walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee in Israel when they discovered the remains of an old fishing boat. There had been a drought in the area and the water level of the sea was very low. The Sea of Galilee is really an inland lake, also called Lake Geneserat by the local people. People have fished on this body of water for thousands of years, before the time of Jesus to the present day. These two modern-day fishermen wondered about the age of this wooden relic, so they contacted the archeological authorities. By the scientific technique of carbon dating, it was determined that the boat was built within the time span of forty years before and after the birth of Jesus. The archeological community was excited because never before had the complete hull of an ancient vessel been uncovered.

The boat hull is about 27 feet long, 7.5 feet wide and 4 feet deep. The boat is approximately the length of two pews placed end to end and the width of two pews placed side by side. If we were to push together the front two pews from both sides of the centre aisle, we would have the approximate size of this ancient fishing boat.

In addition to its archeological importance, the boat has religious significance for both Jews and Christians because of the numerous times that boats and fishermen are important in the scriptures. For example, boats of this type are mentioned almost fifty times in the gospels of the New Testament.

In our gospel story today, Jesus was standing on the shore of this same body of water surrounded by crowds who wanted to hear him preach. When he saw two boats on the shore, he got into one of the boats and asked the fisherman to put out a little into the lake. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to the fisherman, whose name was Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Simon must have sensed something special about this holy man Jesus, but he could not have anticipated what would happen when he let down his nets again into the deep water. The catch of fish was so huge that the nets began to break and the boats began to sink. Since we have an idea of the size of the boats in our story, we might think the catch was not very large, but to these fishermen, who had caught nothing all night, and then were swamped with fish, the catch was miraculous.

Simon’s reaction was to be frightened of the power of Jesus, but Jesus said simply, “Do not be afraid.” Then he said that curious phrase, “from now on you will be catching people”. In the older translation of the Greek scripture, the phrase is, “fishers of men.” The image of catching people or fishing for men was an old one in the Hebrew scriptures, which meant gathering people together. Jesus was telling these fishermen that their new vocation would be to gather people together into a new relationship with God.

What can we learn from this gospel story? We are ordinary people like these fishermen and we too are called by Jesus to offer ourselves to his mission to bring people to God. Whatever our skills or talents we can contribute to the well-being of God’s people. That miraculous catch of fish would have provided food for many people in the village. Whatever we have, we can offer to God’s purpose as Simon willingly gave Jesus the use of his boat. Sometimes like these fishermen we are discouraged when our efforts seem futile, but we too can be inspired by the teaching of Jesus to have faith that with God all things are possible. It may mean that we need to venture into deep water, to risk failure, and to try again, perhaps in a different way. Jesus offers us renewed hope in our own abilities to participate in his mission for the world.

For centuries, an image of the Christian church has been a boat, a ship with its sails to the wind. The central space in a church building where the congregation gathers is called a nave, a term from the Latin word for a ship. Sometimes the boat sails smoothly over calm waters. At other times, the boat feels empty and is tossed about in stormy weather. We are all members of the crew, all fishers for people. We all have something to contribute to the care of the boat, and in turn, the boat offers us a way to draw closer to God. As disciples of Christ, we have been called to keep our boat afloat, to endure the storms, and to seek the winds of God. With God’s help, amazing things can happen.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Remembrance Sunday 2010

Proper 32 C – Remembrance Sunday

7 November 2010

St. Luke’s

By Stuart Pike

Today and this week we take the time to pause, and to remember those who have given their lives, or who have had their lives taken because of the horror of war.

- Questions are: what do we remember, and why do we remember.

- What: those who died, bravery, courage, valour. The stories that are told afterwards at the legion hall over a beer. The comradeship, the excitement, the adventure.

- But it is most important to remember what war is, and what it means to individuals, and what it costs in terms of human life, and human happiness. In terms of suffering and in terms of anguish for those who lost those who they loved.

- The reason it is important that this be a part of what we remember brings us to the answer to the question of why we remember.

- There are many answers to that question. Part of it is so that we can remember the extent to which those who died and suffered in wars went through. Part of remembering the worst about the wars is to honour the dead in the measure of their courage and valour. But the most important reason why we must remember is to protect their honour, so that their lives needn't be in vain. If we do not learn by our history, then we are doomed to repeat it, and so we must remember our history. Not only in terms of academics. Not only in terms of dates and geography. We must remember our history in terms of human souls and human effort, and in terms of individuals known to us. In terms of brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers lost. This is how we protect their honour by doing our best to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Billy Collins was the poet laureat of the United State when 9/11 happened in 2001 and he wrote the following poem which speaks about the human cost of violence and terrorism and about remembering them. The spirit of the poem can speak to the human cost of war as well.

The Names - Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.

A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze, 

And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows, 

I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened, 

Then Baxter and Calabro, 

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place 

As droplets fell through the dark. 

Names printed on the ceiling of the night. 

Names slipping around a watery bend. 

Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream. 

In the morning, I walked out barefoot 

Among thousands of flowers 

Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears, 

And each had a name -- 

Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal 

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins. 

Names written in the air 

And stitched into the cloth of the day. 

A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox. 

Monogram on a torn shirt, 

I see you spelled out on storefront windows 

And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city. 

I say the syllables as I turn a corner -- 

Kelly and Lee, 
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor. 

When I peer into the woods, 

I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden 

As in a puzzle concocted for children. 

Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash, 

Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton, 

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple. 

Names written in the pale sky. 

Names rising in the updraft amid buildings. 

Names silent in stone 

Or cried out behind a door. 

Names blown over the earth and out to sea. 

In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows. 

A boy on a lake lifts his oars. 

A woman by a window puts a match to a candle, 

And the names are outlined on the rose clouds –

Vanacore and Wallace, 

(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound) 

Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z. 

Names etched on the head of a pin. 

One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel. 

A blue name needled into the skin. 

Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers, 

The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son. 

Alphabet of names in a green field. 

Names in the small tracks of birds. 

Names lifted from a hat 

Or balanced on the tip of the tongue. 

Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory. 

So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.


It seemed not so long ago that remembrance day was about remembering those who fought in the first or second world war. It was about watching aging veterans marching past a cenotaph. But our recent history has changed all of that. Mixed in with older veterans, we see the young, and we know that the list of names grows with new names: names of sisters and brothers, names of children, and even grandchildren. The tragedy of war continues, and the cost of it is still measured in human lives stopped short and future relationship extinguished.

What can we say about them? – about their potential dashed? If we were the Sadducees, we would say that there was no future for them, nor for us after earthly life is finished. It is not logical, it is not imaginable for us, therefore it cannot exist.

Thank God that Jesus gives us a glimpse of a reality that is far deeper than our logic and the limitations of our imagination. Our human experience cannot compare to the perfect relationships which we will share with God and all people in heaven. The very deepest and most intimate love which we can possibly know, such as in marriage on earth, gives us an indication of the depths of love which we will have with everyone in heaven. We will be in union with God and in perfect peace with everyone.

On this Remembrance Sunday, when we remember so many names of those who have died through war, let us pledge to give our lives to reflect on earth, the perfect peace which they know, who now love more deeply than we can imagine and are in the presence of God. Amen.

All Souls Sunday

Sermon for 31 October 2010

All Souls /All Saints

Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-9

John 6: 37-40

By Sharyn Hall

Recently I noticed a sign, which read, ‘Take Comfort in Rituals’. The picture on the sign was a woman having a relaxing coffee break. I do not drink coffee, but I know that for many people coffee is a ritual. In our church office, tea breaks are the ritual. Any customary or habitual behaviour can be a ritual, and we can find comfort in our busy lives by pausing for refreshment, especially with family and friends. We take comfort in the rituals that life goes on with familiar events even when the circumstances of our own lives change.

The word, ‘comfort’, has a limited meaning in our society. Generally it is understood as simply a good feeling. Familiar habits like coffee breaks, and customary habits like tending our gardens, can give us good feelings because of the familiarity and the sense of order in our lives. The older and more spiritual meaning of the word, ‘comfort’, is strength. The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter in the scriptures because the Spirit gives us strength to follow God’s will in our lives.

Sometimes a ritual is a comfort for us when we are faced with hardship, tragedy or sorrow. In those times, when we don’t know which way to turn, we can turn to God for strength and guidance. Rituals have developed in the Christian faith from the time of Jesus, through centuries to the present day. The rituals of daily prayer, Sunday worship, baptism, marriage and burial accompany us through the events of our lives.

The church calendar gives order to our years beginning with Christmas to Easter, Harvest to All Saints and All Souls, when we commemorate those who have died. With each event in the Christian year, there are familiar rituals, which remind us that God our Creator is never far away. Here at St. Luke’s we have the ritual of remembering those who have died since last All Souls Day. We invite their families to be with us as we remember their loved ones, and we pray that they will find some comfort in the rituals of our worship.

In our scripture passage from the ancient text, the Wisdom of Solomon, the writer describes the common view of death as a disaster. This was true for people thousands of years ago and it is true for us in the 21st century. Medical science fights off death in amazing ways, and when death comes, it is counted as defeat. As the scripture says, the separation of death feels like destruction of our loved ones, and yet in the midst of sorrow, there is hope for immortality, for peace in the hand of God.

This passage of scripture is often read at funerals because it acknowledges the feelings of despair and disaster, which can be overwhelming when confronted with the death of a loved one, but the passage also offers hope of an eternal life of peace for those who have departed from us. Reading scripture and offering prayers are rituals, which can give us comfort.

For Christians, the most important ritual of our faith is the sacrament of the eucharist, the communion, which is Christ’s offering of hope to all who wish to receive him into their lives. The ritual of receiving the sacrament gives us hope of walking with Christ day by day in our earthly lives, and the hope of walking with Christ in the life he promises after death.

Jesus said, “anyone who comes to me I will never turn away.” There is great comfort in the words of Jesus to be with us in this life and beyond death. For those of us who have lost loved ones, recently or many years ago, we take comfort in the promise of Jesus that our loved ones have a new life without pain or suffering in the care of a loving God.

Today, on this day commemorating All Saints and All Souls, the communion sacrament is a prayer for the peace of those who have died, to remember and to give thanks for their lives with us. Today, the communion also is a prayer for comfort for those who are bereaved. God’s loving care is with us in this life to give us courage and strength through our sorrows. When our hearts are full of anxiety, despair or sadness, it can be difficult to come to worship in the church. Those emotions come close to the surface and we are embarrassed by tears, but the rituals of prayer, scripture, music and communion can give us strength to meet the days ahead. Prayer, whether formal and conventional, or simply a plea for help, is the beginning of hope because God’s comfort is generously given.

Take Comfort in Rituals.

Accept the small pleasures of kind words, simple tasks and friendly helping hands, and for spiritual strength, take time for prayer. There is no greater comfort than faith in God’s desire to be with us always.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Proper 30 C 2010

Sermon 24 October 2010

Luke 18: 9-14

By Sharyn Hall

Sometimes a simple image or phrase is so significant that it stays in our minds and we mention it often. In a previous sermon, I have referred to a billboard that I saw several years ago. The picture on the billboard was a beautiful, luxury car. I don’t remember the name of the car company, which may indicate that its advertising purpose was not very effective, but I do remember the single sentence underneath the picture. It read: ‘THE MEEK WILL NOT INHERIT THE EARTH’.

First of all, this advertisement assumes that the general public is familiar with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and in today’s society, that is a big assumption. Jesus says in his famous sermon that the meek will inherit the earth. The billboard contradicts the words of Jesus and tells us that Jesus was wrong. In other words, if you want to inherit the earth, be wealthy and successful, don’t be meek, be ambitious, competitive and proud of what you have gained. This billboard sums up the attitude of our society by preaching against the teaching of Jesus. In general, people view meekness as weakness and a lack of character to ‘get ahead’, whatever ‘get ahead’ means. I want to ask, ‘Get ahead of whom?’

We are no different from our ancestors in the time of Jesus. In the Greek and Roman world, meekness was equated with humility, and humility was regarded as a character flaw, associated with the lowly, poor and servant classes. However, in the Hebrew scriptures, humility and meekness are praised as the proper approach to God. In psalm 51, God desires a humble spirit and a contrite heart. The prophet Micah urges the people to walk humbly with God.

In the New Testament, humility is associated with Christ, and therefore, is regarded as a virtue by his disciples and followers of his ministry. This was contrary to the cultural values of the time. The most striking example of the humility of Jesus is his act of washing the feet of the disciples. The disciples were astonished because foot-washing was a task for the lowest servant of the household. By this act, Jesus demonstrated the attitude he wanted his disciples to adopt. The humility of servant-hood was to be the standard of their relationship with God and with their neighbours.

When I read today’s gospel, immediately I was reminded of the billboard with the luxury car because of the contrast between the teaching of Jesus and the common attitude of people. In our gospel parable, each man describes himself in relation to God and as a person in society.

The Pharisee is an educated, religious pillar of society. He approaches God with pride in his righteous behaviour. He believes he has earned God’s favour, perhaps even is entitled to God’s praise for his strict adherence to the laws. To emphasize his superiority, he compares himself to the tax-collector, who is undoubtedly inferior in every way. The Pharisee is locked in himself. He leaves no room for the possibility that God might have a different opinion, or that God’s grace may have enabled him to overcome any flaws in his character.

The tax-collector, who is condemned by most people for being an agent of the oppressive government, approaches God with humility and repentance. He is fully aware of his sins and failures. He prays for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Jesus says that the tax-collector is ‘justified’, that through God’s grace, his sins are forgiven. The tax-collector is praised by Jesus because he has approached God with a humble soul open to God’s judgment. These two men give us two contrasting views of God. The Pharisee views God as a law-maker, a rigid judge who demands perfect obedience. The tax-collector sees God as merciful and forgiving.

The message of this parable is stated clearly in the introduction. “Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt.” Jesus is telling his audience to beware of believing themselves righteous and others contemptuous in the eyes of God, because God’s opinion may be very different. This would be shocking news to those listening to this parable. Why would God accept the prayer of a sinful tax-collector and not accept the prayer of a righteous Pharisee? The answer is sincere humility. The tax-collector approaches God with humility and a prayer for mercy. The Pharisee is so sure of his superiority that his arrogance blinds him to his own sins and need for repentance.

Perhaps most disconcerting for the people hearing this parable was that it is a story about secret thoughts. The two men in the parable are talking only to God. They are not announcing their opinions to others. They are praying silently and privately. They are revealing what is in their hearts. Outwardly, in society, the Pharisee may appear to be a man of God, but God knows his true nature. The tax-collector is condemned by people as unworthy of God’s mercy, but God knows his heart.

With this parable, Jesus is challenging those around him, and any of us who would listen, to open our hearts to God, to pray with sincerity, and to walk humbly with God day by day. In that way, we can truly aspire to being God’s people. Amen.

St. Luke’s Day 2010

Sirach 38: 1-4, 6-10, 12-14

Luke 4: 14-21

By Stuart Pike

Today we celebrate our Patronal Feast – that is the feast of our Patron Saint, St. Luke. It is also our opportunity to celebrate 176 years of being a Church in this place – 176 years of ministry and making a difference in our community.

Fist of all regarding St. Luke. St. Paul refers to him as “the beloved physician” and so he is also the patron saint of Physicians and Surgeons.

More importantly, St. Luke is best known as the author of two of the books of the new testament: Firstly, the Gospel of St. Luke which, more than any other Gospel, tells the story of Jesus, from birth until after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, and secondly the book of Acts, which picks up from Jesus Ascension into heaven and tells the story of the formation and mission of the early community of Jesus’ followers which would develop into the Church.

More than any other writer in the New Teastament, St. Luke, the beloved physician is a story-teller. I am grateful then, that our Patron Saint is a healer and a story-teller, and I think he models for us what ministry can be and has been in this place.

Firstly, I want to look at story-telling. We have a long history in Burlington, longer than Burlington itself, And history is story, it’s about telling the stories of what our forbearers did in the past, so that we can learn wisdom from those stories.

Since 1834 the people of the Parish Church of St. Luke have been making a difference in ministry in this place, even before it was called Burlington. A great deal of that ministry was about telling the story of God’s great love for us, known to us in the life of Jesus Christ.

Thank God that we have St. Luke’s stories to help us in this task. St. Luke is the story-teller who really gives us the human story of Jesus. St. John gives us all the theology, which is really important, but it is St. Luke who makes the story of Jesus really relate to us.

St. Luke’s stories deal with family life, and with human frailty and struggle and goodness. It is Luke who gives us the birth stories about Jesus. It is he who tells the stories of Jesus reaching out to the poor, the outcast and the women of his society.

It is Luke who tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and so inspires us to bring healing to those who suffer physically, or from injustice and cruelty.

It is Luke who shows how human dignity can be restored through healed relationships by asking for forgiveness and forgiving in turn, as in the story of the prodigal son.

It is through Luke’s stories that we see Jesus as a friend to the despairing as he even comforts the thief who is crucified beside him.

And so, in today’s Gospel lesson we have the first story of Jesus’ initial public appearance when he begins his ministry. It is Jesus’ inaugural address, so to speak.

And the lesson he chooses is the one from Isaiah which announces the Jubilee: the year of God’s favour, when the captives would be released, the oppressed would go free, the blind would see and good news would be preached to the poor.

It reminds me of the Mission Impossible series eons ago when at the beginning of each show Ethan Hunt gets a new message describing the mission that he and his team will have to accomplish. The tape always ended with “This message will self-destruct in 3 seconds” and a little puff of smoke would go up as you could see the cogs whirring in Ethan’s mind as he was already figuring out how they were going to accomplish the impossible.

In Jesus’ case the scroll didn’t go up in a puff of smoke, but Jesus showed even more confidence in his mission than does Ethan, because he begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor...” and all the rest. Jesus knows that it is the Spirit which is calling him and equipping him to do his mission. His mission would indeed be impossible without God’s spirit enabling him.

This mission is about bringing healing to broken relationships and broken people and to bring freedom to those held captive or oppressed in any way. It is about bringing Good News, and that’s the Gospel truth.

In the reading from Sirach, the writer honours physicians and explains how it is that God works miracles through the hands of physicians, for “the Lord created him.” It is God who gives the physician the gifts that they need to heal.

And this leads us to our mission as the current members of St. Luke’s today. Jesus’ mission is our mission. It is St. Teresa from the 16th Century who writes these lovely words:

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours.”

Thank God for the spirit which anointed Jesus to do his work. Thank God for the same spirit which enabled our forbearers to do Jesus’ work over these 176 years. And on this feast of St. Luke, let us continue in Christ’s mission into our future, for, the spirit of the Lord is also upon us, that we may bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Amen.

Thanksgiving Day 2010

Thanksgiving Sunday

10 October 2010

St. Luke’s Burlington

By Stuart Pike

There’s this story about a rather hurried and harried woman who has been having an exhausting day at the mall. And so she felt the need for a coffee break. She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag. She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she 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 seated across the table reached out and took one too. This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie. Once again the man did so too. Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.

After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie. So did the man. She was really upset by this - especially since now only one cookie was left. Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was 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.

Was she steamed. Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

I like that story - it makes me think about how well God treats me even when I am not treating him well or thinking all that kindly about him.

It also makes me think about how, sometimes, I do not really appreciate what I have or act like I know where it has come from.

What I often forget is that everything that is exists because God has created it. And that God has created me and all of us to live in the midst of all of her bounty.

We live in a society where capitalism is King and Consumerism is Queen. We are brought up within a human-made system of property and ownership. Rather than the scriptural image of human beings having the stewardship over creation, we simply think that we own it - or at least each one of us owns our little part of it. We have laws about ownership - about selling and buying and about trespassing and all the other laws which fit into our scheme of the universe. We forget to be thankful to God who has made and continues to create everything that is.

I need to be reminded from time to time to be thankful and to see things from what seems to be closer to God’s point of view, if we are to interpret the Scripture correctly. The scriptures speak of a God who provides for her creatures through her creation. A God who allows us to help in the creative act by working alongside her.

The Scriptures speak of how everything we have is a gift from God, a gift worked upon by our hands, most certainly; a gift perhaps even enhanced by our own strength, but a gift none-the -less, for God gives us the hands we need, and God gives us the strength we have.

Not that long ago a magazine put out the question to famous people all over the world, “If you could have one wish granted which would come true right away, what would that be?”

There were all kinds of answers from all sorts of people who already had so much, but the one answer which impressed the editors the most was this”

“I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.”

Imagine what it would be like if that gift were granted to each one of here, and to all those we know.

Imagine what happier lives we would live if we remembered to be appreciative of all the things that are all too easy to take for granted. Imagine how our loved ones would feel if we showed our appreciation more. Imagine how we would feel in return for their smiles.

Imagine how potential crises in our families could be averted if someone stopped and thought to be thankful. Giving thanks is a beautiful thing because it is blessing to the one being thanked as well as to the one thanking. Thankfulness lights up a room which would otherwise be mundane. Being thankful reminds us that we are in relationship with each other and with God, rather than simply being alone.

It’s something which we teach our children from their earliest days. We teach them to give thanks whenever someone gives them anything. It is something which we need to practice as adults. We need to have thankful hearts

The problem that we have, though is that there is a seriously competing force which directly opposes the thankful heart; and this is the anxious mind.

In our world, stress is a way of life. And so many people are filled with anxiety about so many things. We worry about: making wrong choice with major investment; having major dental work or surgery; being audited; speaking in public; being outdoors alone at night; getting fat; being pulled over for speeding; seeing one's spouse flirt; being caught in a lie by a close friend; having a credit card declined in public; and using a computer. The list could go on and on.

Do you experience anxiety in your life? Are there unresolved issues, nagging problems, worries over health, finances, work, and relationships? What success have you had in dealing with these kinds of problems? Have you accepted worry and anxiety as a natural part of your life?

Of course, we are not the first people to experience stress and anxiety, although we may think that ours is greater than anyone else's. Anxiety, however, has been around for a long time. And it has been afflicting us for centuries. In Jesus' day, anxiety was everywhere, as it is today. The people standing on that mountainside when He delivered the Sermon on the Mount were no different than you or I. They had to deal with the problems of paying their bills, feeding their families, pleasing their employers, raising their children, paying their taxes and saving for the future just like we do.

Jesus tells them not to worry about what they will eat, or what they will wear. If God provides for the birds of the air and for the plants of the field, will he not provide so much more for you?

What are we to make of all of this. Is Jesus sounding a little like that song quite a few years ago, by Bobby Mcferrin: "Don't worry, be happy" Is it simple platitudes that Jesus is giving us?

I don't think so. Jesus doesn't just say to forget your worries and be happy. Jesus gives us another way to use our energies. Don't strive for things, such as what you will eat and what you will wear, Jesus says instead for us to strive first for the kingdom of God. How do we do that?

The clues of how to strive for the Kingdom are all through the Gospels. This is indeed our task throughout our Christian life. We can never think that we have arrived and that we need no more seek nor strive. But we will have times when we know that we are on the right track. Jesus says, "What you do for the least of these my brothers or sisters, you do unto me." I'd say that is a huge clue about how we are to strive for the Kingdom. Christ says that we can find him in our needy brother or sister. You can get much clearer than that.

When Christ, at the last supper tells his disciples about the bread and wine of the new kingdom, and about his body and blood, I'd say that's pretty clear too. Sharing our communion with each other, being in communion with and a part of a community of brothers and sisters in Christ is a clue about who we can strive for the kingdom.

In Canada we have every reason to be thankful and to respond generously in thanksgiving. It appears that all too many Canadians have no idea about how most of the rest of the world lives, and what they live without.

Sometimes when I am hearing an all too common litany of complaint that a Canadian might have (and all too often I catch myself in this way) I will stop, and remember how it really is in this world.

Today let us stop and pray first for the gift of appreciation - that we will be even more appreciative of what we already have. Secondly let us pray that we may put our thankfulness to God into action by lovingly sharing what we have with others and otherwise using our gifts and ourselves for the building up of God’s kingdom. Amen.