We heard this reading tonight from the letter to the Philippians: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:6-7)
And, we read from the psalms this message of encouragement: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise; give thanks to him and call upon his Name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his faithfulness endures from age to age”. (Psalm 100:3-4)
In our collect this evening we heard this admonition: “Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need.”
My takeaway from these passages is this: In our collect, we are admonished to give thanks for the fruit of our labors and the necessities and blessings that come our way. And we are encouraged to be thankful for the Lord meeting our own needs, but then we are called upon to meet the needs of others who are less fortunate. Many of us have been on both sides of this table. On one side of the table is the giver, and the other is the one who receives. For most of us it’s much easier to feel comfortable being on the giving side of the table rather than the receiving side.
For this give and take to work, there must be a thankful heart on both sides of the table. If you give grudgingly, the one who receives does recognize graciousness as well as discrimination. The provision is for two purposes. One, is for our necessities. The second is for the relief of all who are in need. Remember this verse: “God loves a cheerful giver”. (2 Corinthians 9:7) The same is true on the other side of the table. I have seen situations where pride or embarrassment keeps people from receiving. It’s not easy being on the receiving end, especially if in the past, it’s been the other way around.
Just as all bounty comes from the hand of God, so we should expect God to use us, to use each other as the hands of that bounty, as agents of God. Just as we are hands, the feet, the mouthpiece, the ears of Jesus, so we too become the channels of God’s blessings to others. Victoria and I recently saw a video at a meeting we attended, and in this video about homelessness, a lady yells out to a homeless person with these words: “Get a job”. I agree, that if someone can get a job, they should do it. However, I work with people on the street, and it’s not as easy as it may sound. How do you get a job if you’ve been on the street for a lengthy period, and how do you fill out applications if you have no home address?
Another comment that is often repeated is this: “People are homeless because they choose to be homeless”. Anybody that has worked with homeless people, and if you study the trends, we know that is not true. We do know that people make bad choices that are costly. Have you ever made a bad choice? Did it cost you? We do know that people make bad choices that are costly. How many times has your bubble been burst concerning your dreams? It’s called the “school of hard knocks”, and we have all been there. Statistics point out that there is a large percentage of the population that are one or two paychecks away from being homeless. Are all homeless people guilty of substance abuse? No, that is not true. There is plenty of substance abuse on the street, but you can’t always paint with a large brush. We all know that the liquor stores would all shut down if they depended on what “street people “bought. The liquor stores stay open with our “housed neighbors” who stop by on their way from work to buy a six pack of beer or a bottle of Jack Daniels. We all know that to be true, but somehow, we consider that to be a different measure for the “unhoused”.
In our gospel passage this evening, we read: “Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) Just as Jesus blesses us with food for our bodies, let us not forget that our souls need food too. The Psalmist says: “Taste and see, that Lord is good”. (Psalm 34:8)
I love Thanksgiving dinners. It’s got to be my favorite meal of the year. Sure, I love good cooking, and there’s a lot of that in my family, but I especially love getting together with family and friends and to spend time enjoying the blessings of the Lord, and in all things “being thankful” for what God has done in our lives.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 4:6-7)
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen