Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thanksgiving Sermon

So what are you Thankful for?

That's the Question of the Day, isn't it? The question on everyone's lips.

I don't know about you but I always have trouble answering that question. It's not that I'm some sort of ungrateful lout, or that I think I deserve everything I have, or that in a quid pro quo world I think thankfulness is unnecessary.

It's just that there seems to be a “right” answer and a “wrong” answer to that question, a moral expectation every Thanksgiving. There are certain big ticket items that I'm obliged to be thankful for, and I'm supposed to walk right past the bargain bin, pretending its not there.

For example, I'm supposed to be thankful for family, good health, for this congregation and my relationship with God, and for living in a peaceful, democratic country. (Which I am!)

But I'm NOT supposed to be thankful for my fancy new iPod, for the price of gas coming back to earth, or for the Blue Jays missing the playoffs. To admit gratitude for such things would be...impolite. Even if the second list is just as honest as the first.

Expectations of proper gratitude as the leaves turn orange. At least that's what it feels like to me. And today's bible readings are no help.

Today's second reading drops us in the middle of an argument. Paul was trying to convince those stingy Corinthian Christians to pass the plate to help a struggling church in Jerusalem.

“My point is this, Paul says, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

In other words, “Hey folks, find a crowbar and pry open your wallets when the plate comes your way. And don't feel bad about it either.”

It's easy to be moralistic about this passage, as if Paul was waving a finger in their faces.

And where would Thanksgiving Sunday be without the story of the Ten Lepers? Or maybe we should call it the “Nine Ingrates.”

We just heard it. Jesus heals ten lepers and only one of them comes back to thank him, disobeying Jesus' command to show himself to the priests. Moral of the story: Don't be like the nine who didn't thank Jesus. Be thankful. Jesus likes it when you are.

I don't know about you but I've had to endure too many Thanksgiving sermons on these passages, telling me that I should be more Thankful (capital T) for everything I have. Admonishing me to have an “attitude of gratitude.”

But these sermons always made me feel worse than when I came in because thankfulness isn't a feeling that I can easily control. Maybe its different for you. Maybe you see thankfulness as a choice. A state you can summon when you're feeling selfish. A self-correcting moral GPS unit that guides you through the back roads of proper attitudes.

Maybe I just don't have the discipline. Maybe I'm a selfish jerk who can't see past his own appetites. Maybe I need a...(whole thing here)

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