10 October 2010
St. Luke’s Burlington
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.