“Thanks be to God for his incredible gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15
It is hard to miss the incredible beauty of this season, a gift which is unveiling itself all around us. From the warm summer nights that fade into the mysterious darkness of winter, to the cold mornings and windy rain which replaces the lush foliage of our city with the blazing colours of fall, life is full of many gifts at this time of year. This time of year gives us a chance to reflect on these gifts and offer them back to God in gratitude for our role in stewarding them for the development of the kingdom in our midst.
Not too long ago, Thanksgiving was a time of agrarian collection. We would collect the fruits of our labours and store, share, sell, the overages to support our year ahead as well as share the bounty of what we have. For the vast majority of us, those days have long passed and we are more likely to spend our time collecting provisions for the winter at the local supermarket. Indeed, unless we grew up with farming in our families, it’s unlikely that we would even know how to grow anything. Instead we will be planning dinners, visits, large family events, where the good china comes out. We will spend hours and hours in the kitchen making our family recipes, trying again to make brussel sprouts palatable, and hoping this is the year the turkey comes out looking like a Martha Stewart special, all in order to give thanks. But why do we give thanks?
Growing up, it was always something we did. October meant turkey crafts at school, and long overly formal dinner at home. The altar guild would spend hours decking the church out with every kind of seasonal vegetables, festooning incredible cornucopia with an abundance rarely seen. Friends would come over, and we would always pray with special intention for those who did not have what we had. Giving thanks, I was taught, is a way of being, an orientation, which needs to be practiced and honoured in order to live it everyday.
Living as a people of thanksgiving takes a reorientation of our world view, away from the consumerism which tells us happiness is in a product or purchase, and into a deeper appreciation of who everything we own actually belongs too. This church, our money, our food, our tables, our china, our fine wines, delicious desserts, and Martha Stewart turkey, all of it belongs to God. Like our ancestors who worked the land in order to have a living, we depend on God to supply our needs. It is God who gives us our intelligence, abilities, personalities, we need in order to make our livings and acquire all the things we have. This means that our houses are God’s, our bank accounts, our cars, all of it are God’s, and unlike the world who would willingly take everything if we told them it’s theirs, God says asks us to keep it and share it with the world as we build his kingdom. A kingdom of thanksgiving and abundance.
As a community, not unlike the community that the apostle Paul was writing to in the passage that opens our letter, we are acquainted with the riches of God's grace. In Paul’s ministry, he was writing letters to communities asking how they were supposed to follow and live like Christ in the world, as the church continued to grow. Sometimes we hear of the joys of what it means to live in Christ, and sometimes we hear Paul chastise us for missing the mark. We are human, we will make mistakes but what is important is that we keep trying again and again to live differently because of what we believe. Living differently always starts with a question: ‘I see this need, how can I/we help?’ For sixty seven years now, this parish has continued to ask that question, from homelessness, to students, to property use, to new Canadians and many more, we have looked outside our walls with thanksgiving to see how we can respond with what God has entrusted us to steward for his kingdom. A ministry which is transforming people’s lives every single day.
This Thanksgiving we are asked again to be stewards of God's abundance in our world, as we gather with our friends and family to break bread and make memories. Please consider making a contribution to our ministry as you gather around the table with thanksgiving this year. Together we continue to build a kingdom of abundance, where all are welcome, through the vibrant ministry we share together in this parish. What an incredible gift from God!
As you gather this thanksgiving, know of my prayers for you and the abundance of God's blessing you bring to the life of this parish.
Thanks be to God, for you!
Rev. Alex Wilson