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Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving Meditation - 2012


It was rather inevitable. This morning as I was reading Scripture and praying, I was thinking about Thanksgiving Day. I pondered how my family and I could have gratitude with a richer seriousness and deeper joy. How we could have a thankfulness that was not market-driven or consumer-compelled. My reading this morning brought me across Matthew 6.25-34 and Luke 17.11-19.

In Matthew Jesus addresses the deep fears of a people who lived just above subsistence. Food was not stored in rows and rows of a grocery market, and clothes were not lining racks upon racks at an apparel shop. Instead, these people lived, like most of our world today, with the daily recognition that money could fail and crops might not survive blight, bugs or drought. Jesus speaks into this environment, and says three times to his followers, “Don’t be anxious”.  First, don’t be anxious for your life. Second, don’t be anxious about food, drink or clothing. Finally, don’t be anxious for tomorrow. To be anxious is to be oligopistoi [a shallow-faith, teensy-faith people v.30]. Instead, Jesus challenges us to look beyond these consuming concerns; (1) to move out in life with confidence, “…for your heavenly Father knows you have need of these things.” And (2) to lift up our hearts and be reoriented, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”

In Luke, Jesus is met by ten men with a serious, marring disease (leprosy). They cry out for him to heal them. He sends them on their way to see the priests, because the Scriptures direct someone healed from leprosy to have the priests see it, and announce that they are restored into the fellowship of the covenant community. Off they go, with nary a glance back, except for one. The surprise is that this one who returns is the wrong race, the wrong kind of person, someone not part of the Church. He is a Samaritan. And he falls down before Jesus and expresses his thanks. Jesus approves, and then humbles us all, “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” In other words, what a wonder that this fellow, who was not part of the Church, actually did what the Church ought to do – be thankful.

What’s the point of laying out these two unconnected scenes? To simply remind us of the obvious:
(1) That of all people, Christians should be those who move forward in life, turning from teensy-faith anxieties, confident of our Father’s care, concern and provision. In this confident assurance we can then “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4.11-12).

(2) Then, freed from those anxieties and confident in the Father, we hunt down, seek out, look intensely, for the rulership of God and his righteousness. One way [out of many] this will be evident is through a liberality of sharing. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6.10). “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1.26-27).

(3) Finally, freed, confident, and submitting to the rulership of God, we should be a people known and characterized as thankful. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4.2). “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18).
“O Most loving heavenly Father, who desires us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but you, and to cast all our care upon you who cares for us; preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties; and grant that no clouds of this mortal life would hide from us the light of your eternal love manifested in Jesus Christ your Son, and our Lord and Savior. Amen”
(Adapted, tweaked, and modified from the Book of Common Prayer)

Mike

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