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Gratitude Living:

Luke 17:11-19
Philippians 4:1-9

There is an old story or fable told about a far-off land which was ruled by a tyrant.

The tyrant had an ironclad grip over all parts of his kingdom, except for one frustrating area. He was unable to destroy the people’s belief in God. He summoned his counsellors and put the question to them: “Where can I hide God so that the people will end up forgetting God”

One counsellor suggested that God be hidden on the dark side of the moon. This proposal was debated for some time, but voted down because it was believed that one day scientists would discover a means of space travel and Godwould end being found again.

Another advisor to the tyrant came up with idea of burying God beneath the depths of the ocean floor. This was voted down for basically the same reason – it was felt that scientific advancement would lead to the discovery of God even beneath the depths of the ocean floor.

Finally the oldest and wisest of the counsellors had a flash of insight. “I know”, he said, “why don’t we hideGod where no one will ever think of looking?” He explained, “If we hide God in the ordinary events of people’s everyday lives they’ll never find God.”

Thanksgiving is a time to pause, to notice God hidden in the ordinary events of our lives; to open our hearts in gratitude for how God works in our ordinary lives; We notice how we too often take our life, our relationships, our blessings for granted. It is so much more fashionable to complain and blame, than to express gratitude and look for signs of God’s presence.

How wonderful to celebrate Baptism on Thanksgiving Sunday. It reminds us of the sacredness of each life, each ordinary life. Children are signs of hope, of promise, of choosing life and future. Our children challenge us to concern for our world and their future. In the native tradition each generation is called to care for the next seven generations. Children remind us of God’s intention for us and of the wonder of life. In so doing, they already minister to us, even though they do not yet know how to talk.

These parents come with a profound sense of gratitude for the lives of their children; and with a profound sense of responsibility for the life entrusted to them. And they entrust their families into our care as a congregation. We are indeed grateful.

How wonderful as well, to celebrate that 9 people choose to become members of Cedar Park at this time. We rejoice in this new life among us. These are people who have found God in the ordinary things of their lives, and of their life in this community.

I am aware that as we gather today, there are those among us who have been through profound loss and shock in this week. You, better than most, know how we cannot take life for granted, how precious it is, to be treasured. Others have been very worried by the financial meltdown that seems to be affecting the whole globe, threatening financial security. Elections both sides of our border for many also create uneasy times, fearful times.

Sometimes it is hard to feel grateful when pain overwhelms. Yet it is precisely in such dislocating times that our scriptures emerge. Paul is in prison in the heart of the Roman empire when he writes to the Philippian church. That church is also in some turmoil, finding life difficult in the middle of the Roman Empire. Yet Paul writes about rejoicing in all things, Do not worry about anything he says, a nd the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This peace of God, is not the same as Pax Romana enforced with military force. And then in these times of turmoil he tells them to focus on what is true, what is honourable, what is pure, and pleasing and gracious and excellent, and admirable. To fill their thoughts in thanksgiving with this and the peace of God which passes all understanding will be with them. He seems to be challenging the people of that early church to focus on looking for God in the ordinary things of their lives, noticing the positive with thanksgiving as a way to live well in dangerous times. … And the story of Jesus healing the lepers takes place amongst the outcasts of the society , in the midst of racism, and religious division,. Jesus dares to cross those lines to touch the unclean, to heal even a Samaritan. Only the Samaritan, the outcast returns to give thanks. The famous hymn Now Thank We all our God, which we will sing in a few moments was written in 1648 by Martin Rinkart, the only surviving clergy person in a Saxony town ravaged by war and plague. This kind of thanksgiving, like the thanksgiving in our scriptures is not just a warm fuzzy feeling of a prosperous people It is a choice of a stance of gratitude towards life. A choice to proclaim a resistant gratitude and thanksgiving in the middle of chaos and adversity.

Some would such thanksgiving indicates complete madness. Either that, or it is involuntary response to a spirit that leans over the wild world like a mother over the cradle of her fretting baby. A spirit that is undefeated by the worst that comes hunger, suffering, death itself. A spirit that bends the years to its slow use, that never gives up, never leaves us alone, A spirit that draw us together whatever our hard circumstance, and lifts our hearts into even momentary awareness of its presence and its dauntless love.

So think about your own ordinary life; mixed with the good, the bad, the stressful, the mundane.? Where is God hidden in the ordinary routine events of your life? What do you need to give to God in thanksgiving. Our practice of thankgiving will bring God to our sight and in so doing bring to others and ourselves a better world. To whom do you need to say thank you? Gratitude heals; gratitude grounds us in God’s grace; gratitude makes us realize that we are not alone; we live in God’s world. Thanks be to God.

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