October 11, 2020 – NineTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
A message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Thanksgiving is such a wonderful moment in the year. Grounded in the abundance of the harvest, it calls us to remember all of life’s blessings. Even in a time of pandemic, with all the disruptions it imposes on us, we are richly blessed by God who watches over us and provides for us so richly. Whether you come to worship in person, on line, or in print, we welcome you to this festival of gratitude and joy. May it be a time of hope and renewal for us all.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Bob Smith
Book of Praise – 803 “Come, ye thankful people come”
- Video with on-screen words; minor differences with the words in the hymnbook.
- Words (1844) by English theologian and hymn-writer Henry Alford (1810–1871). Music (1858; tune: “St George’s, Windsor”) by English organist and composer George Job Elvey (1816–1893). Words and music in the public domain.
- This recording made by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on November 11, 2018.
Prayer of Adoration, Confession and Lord’s Prayer
God of the harvest, we praise you for all your goodness. In this time when we are reminded of richness of your creation and the bounty of your provision for our needs, we give you thanks. We praise you for the sunshine and seed, the refreshing rains and the miracle of growth, those whose life’s work is to provide our food. And we praise you for how you feed our souls, for the fact that you have a place for us, that you are waiting for us, that you have given us a way to return to you. We praise you for the abundance of our lives, and for the love that tells us that we are yours.
Generous and loving God, we confess that in a world where many do not have enough, we enjoy more than we need. In a world where many live in fear, we take peace for granted. In a world where many have lost hope, we become indifferent to despair and grumble about small things.
Forgive us, merciful God, and transform our lives to shine with the generosity, peace and hope you offer us in Christ Jesus.
We ask this in his name, and join our voices as one in the prayer that he gave us:
Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon
Friends in Christ, the good news of the Gospel is that to all who ask, God’s grace is given and forgiveness through Jesus Christ is promised. Take heart in the new beginning that is ours in Christ.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(And also with you.)
Deuteronomy 26:1–11 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
Though the wonderful Laura Alary has now resigned from the post of Christian Education Coordinator, after eight dedicated years, we are grateful to be able to feature a few resources she has recommended. This week, it’s “Tucked In: Bedtime Stories and Prayers with Episcopalians and Others”, a Facebook page with stories and more. You can check it out here.
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor
he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien.”
So begins our lines in a ritual of thanksgiving of the harvest festival
given to us in the ancient book of Deuteronomy.
We have already been instructed
about bringing a basket containing the best of the harvest
and presenting it to the priest in the temple.
And then this script gives us our lines,
lines that will serve as a reminder
of where we have come from
and of the one who has given us
not just this harvest
but our land, our lives, our people.
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor,” it begins.
That’s probably Jacob they’re talking about,
the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.
We’re not talking about our grandfather or great uncle —
that’s the distant past now.
Jacob is so many generations before us that we cannot count them,
but he is still family.
And the ritual is a reminder
that this story from the ancient times
is also our story,
and that behind every line of this story
there is someone to thank
for blessing us and watching over us.
That someone is God
whose providence fed us,
whose blessing made us a people,
whose hand protected us,
whose spirit showed us the way,
whose word told us how to live together.
whose heart held us close.
And the script continues:
“So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground
that you, O Lord, have given me.
I will set it down before the Lord my God…
and celebrate with all the bounty
that the Lord my God has given
to me and to my house.”
So built into the telling of our family history
is a reminder
to give thanks
to remember the one who has given us all good things.
It is though our common memory
and the ritual of this solemn procession of thanksgiving
that our integrity, unity, and identity as a people
is retained across the generations.
With this background of thanksgiving,
we keep alive the story of God’s care for us in the past,
and we are given an awareness of God’s presence with us
here in the present moment.
It’s good to have a ritual of thanksgiving.
Otherwise, we might start to think
that we have done it ourselves —
that our lives,
are all simply a product of our ingenuity and hard work.
This, when most of those blessings come to many of us
simply by being born in a country
where food is abundant
and medical care is universally provided
and the social order is stable
and education is available to all
and opportunities abound.
Earlier in Deuteronomy the writer cautions God’s people
in a text not unlike the one we just heard: (paraphrased)
“God is bringing you into a rich land
more abundant than you can imagine,
where all your needs are met and more.
When you get the chance to sit back and enjoy it all,
don’t forget how God freed you from slavery
led you and supplied all your needs in the desert
and has given all of this to you.
Don’t fall into the trap of saying to yourself,
‘look at all that I have achieved’ —
it is all a gift from God.” (Deut. 8:7–18)
There is far more going on here
than our own effort.
And certainly the blessings of life itself
of love and friendship
of the great start that most of us received from caring families —
well, none of us can make those happen.
They speak to us of someone to thank,
the generosity and toil of our forebears
and the gracious hand of the divine giver,
the One from whom all blessings flow.
Meister Eckhart, a 13th century German theologian and mystic wrote:
“If the only prayer you ever uttered in your entire life
were to say, ‘Thank you,’
it would be enough.”
That’s because to offer a prayer of thanks
is to acknowledge that there is someone to thank.
To choose to see life and its abundance as a gift
is to remember the giver,
the God who gives us every good and perfect gift
the One to whom all praise is due.
It is to see ourselves as living
under the generous hand of a God of abundance,
and by the grace of God whose love formed us
and who has promised to watch over us.
Making gratitude a part of our spiritual self,
then spins off to shape the way we relate to others
and in fact how we live our lives.
Margaret Visser, Canadian social analyst,
says in her book, The Gift of Thanks
that the two words that have saved the human race
from self-destruction are “Thank you.”
Dorothy Day was an American journalist and social activist
who became known as a tireless defender
of those who were poor, forsaken, hungry and homeless.
She was devout Catholic woman,
and was a founder of the Catholic Worker movement,
running houses of hospitality
to serve the destitute and needy.
But her life did not always look like that.
In her earlier year
she was a radical activist,
but one who completely rejected God
and had no use for organized religion.
The change came quite abruptly for her,
with the birth of her daughter,
an experience she wrote about later.
She marvels as this life grows in her,
a miracle of creation in which she has a role to play,
but in which greater and more wonderful things are happening.
The baby arrives
and she is so overwhelmed with the arrival of this new life
that she experiences a strange feeling
that is fairly new to her.
She is filled with gratitude
and she needs to find a way to express it.
As she writes of that moment of discovery,
she remembers asking herself,
“To whom should I give thanks
for so much joy?”
To whom indeed?
In that moment, astounded by life,
she discovers not just God
but also her need
to pour out her heart in thanks to God
for such a blessing.
“To whom should I give thank
for so much joy?”
It’s a question for each one of us.
If not for God, who would we thank
for turkey and mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie for dessert;
for the breathtaking view of the panorama of colour
with the changing leaves in the fall;
for the miracle of new life
in the bundle of joy of a newborn;
for the people around us whom we love,
and who are such a blessing to us;
for a community in faith
where we can celebrate our identity and our calling,
and live out our calling to be Christ’s body in the world.
We can produce none of this by ourselves —
they come to us as gifts
from the gracious hand of God.
Even in the crazy upheaval of pandemic living
which has so defined our lives for months now,
and the disruption it has brought to our schools
our circle of family and friends
our church —
Who could have imagined the premier of the province
having to instruct us
about who can sit down with us
at our Thanksgiving dinner?
Even in all of this
there is a place, there is a need,
for us to be thankful:
for public servants who are working so hard
to find a way for us through this mess;
for workers in essential services
who continue to risk their own health
to ensure that our needs are met;
for those who take the trouble to keep in touch
and remind us that someone cares;
for the reminder that our church,
even though it looks and feels so different,
is still a community of faith
tied to one another by the hope of
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism
one God and Father of us all
who is above all, and through all, and in all.” (Eph 4:5,6)
When we lived in Calgary, we attended a workshop
which addressed the problem of homelessness in the city.
Towards the end of the program,
the presenter, a housing outreach worker,
made an observation which has stuck with me.
He was urging us all to get involved in being part of the solution
to the indignity of the presence of people who are homeless
in such a wealthy city.
“There are not too many families who cannot look back
and say at some point,
something was given to us,,.
so that we could start out…
a gift from someone,
a gift from God —
His question was,
“Can we in turn give a gift to these neighbours
who are so desperate?”
I wonder if the beginning of true gratitude and generosity
lies simply in an awareness of that gift,
of our blessings,
and in wonder about the love that has granted them to us.
Thanksgiving is grounded
in being attentive to the world around us
and how we experience so much of what it gives us
as a gift.
Thanksgiving is demonstrated
in a spirit of peace about our well-being,
of contentment with what we have,
and a confidence that ultimately God cares for us.
Thanksgiving is expressed in a spirit of giving
that humbly receives blessings as a gift,
and passes them on in our turn to others,
as we recognize that we have been blessed
in order to bless.
Thanksgiving invites us to realize how infinitely blessed we are
and to be awake to the fact that we are surrounded by gifts.
Behind them all we see the form of someone to thank,
God who has blessed us and our forebears in the faith
through countless generations
and whose love gives us life.
“To whom should I give thanks
for so much joy?”
As the hymn so beautifully puts it,
“For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God;
for the good we all inherit, thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all that love has found us,
thanks be to God.”
We will be inserting a recording made live in the sanctuary during this week’s service shortly. In the meantime, you can enjoy all our previously recorded music on our Music playlist on YouTube (our videos with audio) or on SoundCloud (our audio-only pieces).
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Dedication of our Offerings
For every blessing we praise you, O God. For every gift received and for each gift we are blessed in giving. For all your goodness we thank you: the gift of life, your presence with us, and your call to life in Christ. For all your gifts we give you thanks, and present to you our offerings. Use them, we pray to bring your blessings to others. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Gracious God, by your gracious hand we live and work and join in families; and from your hand we receive those things we need, gift upon gift, far above what we need or deserve. We thank you for the harvest of goodness you supply: for food and shelter, for words and gestures, for all our human friendships. Above all, we praise you for your Son, who came to show mercy, and who names us his own brothers and sisters. We thank you for your great kindness to us and all your children.
We pray this day for those who lack those things for which we are thankful. Food and shelter, health and security, friends and fellow believers. We remember those who will not sit down to a feast of the best that the land has to offer this weekend, but who will still be hungry and homeless. We think of our brothers and sisters, not so far from us, who are without shelter and food, and also of those in far away places whose land cannot support them or whose circumstances prevent secure living. May they know the peace and acceptance that you bring, and may our gifts feed and encouraged them. Thank you for an opportunity to give, and to stand with them.
We think also, O God of those who struggle and carry heaven burdens, that you would be present to them and bring your hope and healing. We give you thanks that you are always close to us, especially in times of pain or struggle. We remember too families that are grieving, that the good news of the resurrection of your son would be a hope and comfort to them
Great God, everything around us speaks of your wondrous and extravagant care for us and all creation. You call us to trust that as you care for the flowers and grass of the field, you will also care for us. Release us from our attachment to things and from our worry over our well-being, and help us to learn to rest in thankfulness in the peace of your presence. Release us from the fears that constrain us, and deny us the ability to delight in your spirit of abundance. Give us grateful hearts, we pray, to help us to live with joy in the blessing of each day. And as we find ourselves renewed by your living spirit, send us to help the weary and dispirited find the peace of your presence. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Book of Praise – 802 “For the fruits of all creation”
- Video with on-screen words; the words are identical to those in the hymnbook.
- Words (1970) by English Methodist minister and hymn-writer Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000). Music (ca. 1784; tune: “AR HYD Y NOS”) is a traditional Welsh tune. Words © copyright 1970 Hope Publishing Co; music public domain.
- This recording made by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on July 23, 2017.
Go in peace, and whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all, now and forever. Amen.
© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church