“But strive first for the kingdom of God ”
The change of our seasons brings with it the vibrancy of a city awash in God’s glorious colours, announcing the coming of new beginnings while giving thanks for what has been. Thanksgiving brings with it the agrarian customs of bringing nature inside as the weather turns and we begin to think of winter. Thanksgiving also brings the other custom, worrying about all the thanksgiving day meal logistics! Who is going to cook the turkey? Do we have room to seat everyone? What about the centerpieces, and grandmothers gravy recipe? Do we have options for our friends with dietary needs? What about the wines, and the dinner service, the glasses, and dessert? The details are endless, the worry incessant, and the season comes and goes before the turkey even gets cold. At its heart, however, is family of either birth or choice, something that our parish knows very well.
In the passage that opens our letter, Matthew is setting the scene for us of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. In this moment in Jesus’ early ministry, he is teaching about the morality of how his audience should act together. Jesus speaks about our desire to do good works, and indeed at thanksgiving there are always moments when good works are needed. Serving at soup kitchens or homeless shelters are always a top of the list when it comes to the news coverage, but at the center of this is a reminder of Jesus that Thanksgiving is not just a single day, it is an everyday experience. As Christians it’s a way of life for us. Every Sunday here at the parish, we practice this act of Thanksgiving in the great Eucharistic prayer, where we hear time and again the greatest story ever told- a story about a way of life that you and I are invited to re-enter again this year as we gather around our festive tables.
To give thanks is to see all around us the bounty and beauty of what God has given and provided for us. From the internal strength to achieve our dreams, educations, and aspirations, to the patience and love of raising our kids, to the economic and its ability to sustain and provide for us. God, in all of these areas and many more, continues to move directly in our lives to create and guide us into new and exciting opportunities, friendships, loves, and challenges. In our way of life, these experiences begin to expose for us the qualities of the kingdom of God which we are asked to seek first above all else. This kingdom, which Jesus invites us to see as present in our life here and now, is one that is reflective of the diversity of humanity in its splendid colours, cultures, and languages. This kingdom is one which sees rich and poor eating together, sharing stories and lives without division. This kingdom is one which sees old and young sharing and learning from one another, where the truth of the love of God is lived as a way of life. This kingdom life, this thanksgiving family, is something that is a hallmark of our parish.
Striving for the kingdom of God is reflected in the nature of our parish family. We hail from many places all over the world, with an abundance of abilities, backgrounds, and gifts that inspire me. We are a parish that loves to eat, care for, and challenge each other, into a gospel way of life. We are also a parish that has experienced doubt about its future, in the same way the people gathered around Jesus during the sermon on the mount did. Yet even in our doubts, as a parish family, we continue to look outside of ourselves to serve and look after those who call the UBC and UEL home. From our concert series, weekly worship, fairs, BBQ’s, teas, life groups, pastoral visits to shut ins, and the neighbourhood ministry, we are living into the thanksgiving way of life which ushers in the kingdom of God.
In the Eucharist, our great thanksgiving meal, we gather and contribute from our time, talent and finances to the common striving for the kingdom of God in our midst. From the altar guild who prepares cups and plates, to the readers and greeters who orientate us into God’s word and presence, to the intercessors, comunion administrators, our choir, clergy, and gathered congregation, the offering of the altar represents the totality of our thankful way of life. As I hold the collection plates in my hands, praying with gratitude for the abundance that God continues to give us in the bread, wine, and finances offered to His glory through His church, I look out and see the kingdom present in my midst. In the faces of each and everyone of you, your stories, your gifts, your talents, your treasures, your humanity, is present in the striving and yearning of God’s kingdom here and now. Enclosed is a thanksgiving envelope for you to offer financial thanks and support to the Glory of God in this parish as we continue to seek the kingdom of God together.
Worry not about the details of the party, worry first about the kingdom of God, and invite those you know and love to experience that kingdom with you here at the parish on October 8th as we give thanks for each other, this parish, and the in-breaking of the kingdom in our midst during our thanksgiving Eucharist at 10:30. There is room for everyone!
With thanksgiving for you and your family,