There is an obvious place to start – I can start by asking everyone what they are thankful for. I can suggest that you take a moment and thank God for the good things in your life. Perhaps I should remind you that no matter what happens or what you feel there are still reasons to be thankful; maybe this should be a there but for the grace of God go I type service...
Of course, there is also the stress of this day – of heading off to family, or preparing dinner for 462 and realizing you have forgotten the cranberries....
But instead I want you to think about something for me... what is your favourite television show?
Stories to Tell
This is the thing. I think that the stories we tell make a huge difference. Does anyone remember the “little engine that could?” what was the moral of that story? How about a Christmas Carol... what are supposed to learn from that?
And they affect us, don’t they? It is like a ‘self fulfilling’ prophecy. When we tell stories about how great life is, we see life that way; and when we tell stories about how terrible things are... well... they seem that way.
Our moods, our attitudes, and our lives are affected by stories.
Each of us has a personal story, each of us has a family story, and we also have a religious story.
So what are yours?
Here is a quick one of mine... When I was just starting out in Seminary I took half a year off. I went to Guatemala and did some “International Observing” of a refugee camp and return.
One day a friend and I were driving a pickup truck through the countryside surrounding the camp and we came across a habitat for humanity build, just completed. The folks actually flagged us down and got us out of the truck. It was at that point that one of them hoped onto a motorbike and sped off.
We were a little bit nervous. Norm and I each had our own secret police tail, and we had lost them to head out here for some freedom. We thought the guy had gone to get the cops on us two gringos... a few white knuckle minutes later back comes the motorbike with another guy on back. The other guy was carrying beer and corn tortillas... turns out the only thing they were thinking was they didn’t have enough for these huge white guys to eat.
That story changed my mind about people – about hospitality – about a lot of things.
How easy is it to rub the belly and pat the head?
OK how about bad stories, things that make you sad....
What about thinking good thoughts; your own good stories...
Can you think both at once?
Thanksgiving is a time to remember the good stories, the good times, and allow them to push all of the bad things out....
I am always curious how we relate to the stories of our faith.
You see, we are meant to be able to understand that they are our stories too. So if I say, My great, great, 24 times great grandfather was a wandering Aramenian...
Does it mean anything to you? Can you see yourself in the story? Does it mean anything to you?
What if we re-tell it in a slightly different way?
In the Book of Deuteronomy in our Bible (hold up Bible) there is a story about Moses gathering the people together to say something very important to them. They had been many years travelling in the desert without much food, but they had trusted God and always had enough to eat.
And they gathered regularly to praise and thank God for all God’s love and care, in their hard times. Now they were moving into the land that God had promised them. It was filled with bees for honey and olives and grapes and dates and figs, and many other wonderful foods grew there. Moses was afraid that the people might forget God when things were so easy for them and they had lots to eat.
So Moses asked the people to have a special festival every year to say “Thanks” to God for all that God had done for them. They were to come to their place of worship and bring some food from their crops before they ate any themselves, and take time to tell the story of how God had helped them through their difficult times and brought them to their new land. Then they were to have a big feast and share what they had with those who had very little, and with people who had come from other countries to live in their land...
Now tell me... Was Moses right? Do you think it is easy to forget to say thank you? I do it all the time....
So of course, I am thankful for things. I am thankful for many, many things... but the trick is that it has to come more than once a year. I am a glass half full type of guy; and I want us to celebrate each and every day as thankfully as we can. Because all life is filled with grace and beauty.... even the dark places.