Written by Pastor Mark
We’re headed towards the Thanksgiving holiday. Odd that we need a special day to remind us to be thankful. Christians, and especially we Christians living in this country, in this valley, in this city, ought to be continually filled with thanks to God. But are we? Thanksgiving is the practice of concentrating on what we have. Our society is gifted at focusing our attention away from all of our blessings, and instead focusing us on all of that which we do not yet possess.
The gospel lesson today is troubling. Isn’t the farmer doing what we would all do if given such abundance? Or, more to the point, and painfully, what we already do in our lives when we have accumulated so much abundance. Nature, it seems, hates a vacuum, and the sixth law of thermo dynamics clearly states that “stuff will expand to overflow the space allotted for it.” (OK, it’s my sixth law of thermo dynamics, but I think it is accurate.) We talk a lot about stuff, but that is not our theme for today. Our theme is focus. The problem with the farmer is not how richly he has been blessed, or the size of his barns. The problem is focus. He is totally focused on himself. Wouldn’t you think that at least one responses of the farmer to his over abundance might have been to look around and see who around him might be in need?
The focus of the first lesson starts with hospitality. Some of us have even entertained angles without even knowing it! Or, perhaps many of us have turned a cold shoulder to angels without even knowing it. Then the author of Hebrews offers us simple advice, “Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things.” Right. He might as well have said, “Don’t think about purple elephants with pink polka dots.” Maybe the second part of the advice is more helpful, “Be relaxed with what you have.” And, finally, trust in God. When we fix our focus on God, it seems that it will naturally find a focus in those around us who are in need.
Being a thankful person is not natural (especially in this culture.) You must practice. So, here is an assignment for this week. Take your non-food shopping list and tear it up. Instead, try taking an inventory of everything you have (this is a good idea for insurance purposes anyway.) I would be willing to wager that the list will surprise you.
Next, try making a list of all of the non-material blessings in your life. Start with your family, your friendships, and your neighbors. Move on to the place where you worship, the community who surrounds you there and the leaders God has given to lead you. Finally try to focus on the God who gave you life, the one who was willing to send an only child down to earth to share a message of just how much you are loved. Now there is a good focus for life. But to find that focus, we have to stop, get off the merry-go-round of this crazy culture, and be struck by just how blessed we are. Over a billion people in the world live on a dollar or less a day. Think about that the next time you are struggling to get something to fit into a cupboard or closet. The answer is not a bigger house, with larger closets, it’s a different focus.
Quotes for the Week
“”Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic” – John Henry Jowett
“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” -Albert Schweitzer
“Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.” – Alfred Painter
“Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plane living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” Mahatma Gandhi
“When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘O yes—I already have everything that I really need.’” Dali Lama
“I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.” George Carlin
1st Lesson Hebrews 13:1-8 (The Message)
13 1-4 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
5-6 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,
God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?
7-8 Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.
Gospel Lesson Luke 12:13-23 (The Message)
13 Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”
14 He replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?”
15 Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”
16-19 Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
20 “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’
21 “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
Questions for the Week
Where is your focus right now?
Do you suffer from too little, or an overabundance?
What are three things for which you are grateful this day?