Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Thanksgiving Sermon

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all you have done for us.
We thank you for the splendour of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen. (from the BAS)

Historically, we seem to have tended to think that ministry is something done by people wearing funny looking collars; that if we hire someone to be our rector or if we ordain a bunch of people – they can do ministry… so, we don’t have to.

If only that was true, if only it was that simple; ministry is a much broader matter than those things traditionally done by clergy. If fact, I don’t think that people have given up their ministry at all. I don’t think that you have given up your ministry. I see you doing ministry all of the time.

This sermon, by-the-way, was co-written by the clergy of St. Paul’s: by Madonna, Jay, Lorraine and me.

We see you doing ministry all of the time.

We see you singing in choirs; being servers; acting as greeters and sides’ people; as administrators of Holy Communion; setting up the altar; as Sunday school teachers, helpers and students; cleaning the church; sweeping the walk; counting the collection; preparing and serving supper in the parish hall; sitting on Parish Council and other committees.

But ministry is not only something that is done in or at the Church. It extends far beyond these four walls; even far beyond this – the community of St. Paul’s Church.

At the hospital we see you as doctors and nurses; we see you as the many other kinds of health care providers; volunteers; connecting phones, cable TV, delivering the mail; cleaning; greeting people, helping people find their way, or find the patient they’re looking for; we see you working security.

We turn on the TV or radio or open the news paper and we learn about the ways in which you volunteer your time, your skills and your recourses for the benefit of the wider community; helping the many different community groups that are so much a part of who we are. We see you lending a hand to help an organization or a charity achieve its worthy goals. We see you as writers and journalist; people using your skill with language and voice to tell the news; to tell a story. We see you as singers and actors; as performers; as painters; as knitters; as sewers.

In our schools we see you as teachers, principals, as educators and professors, as volunteers, helping children to read or feeding them in a breakfast program; we see you as people who have dedicated your lives to helping others achieve the skills and knowledge that they will need to be productive people in the world and in our society.

We see you as coaches, referees and umpires; organizing tournaments and leagues. We see you dropping children off at games and practices and rehearsals and lessons. We see you organizing community events; concerts; fund raisers; Fun Runs (organizing, running, walking to raise money for a cure or some other worthy cause).

We see you as social workers and psychologists and others who are skilled in the areas of counselling relationships.

We see you helping your neighbours, checking in on them every day, making sure their needs are met. Calling one another on the phone, checking up on one another, just to see how one another are doing. I heard one of you say recently, “my neighbour never goes out without checking to see if there is anything they can get me.’

We see you on the streets; as police officers; fire fighters; ambulance personnel; helping to keep the peace. We see you as soldiers and members of the coast guard; intent on keeping peace or saving people or rebuilding washed out roads.

We see you offering yourself in the community, to serve on boards, in politics. We see you voting.

We see you joining groups that help preserve our heritage; to help preserve our history; helping to remind us who we are and how we got here.

We see you using your skills as lawyers; accountants; we see you running businesses; providing the services our society needs to keep our community and our economy going. We see you sharing your knowledge and wisdom with others. We see you in the service industries; boasting; showing off this beautiful island home; letting visitors and new comers know about the love we have for the land and the sea (that is so much a part of our lives). We see you helping to provide the things we need; in retail; providing what we need; clothing; food; medicine. We see you driving trucks, taxies, buses: transporting people and good.

We see you as children; exploring the world around you; playing, learning, laughing, colouring. We see you in Sunday School; in day school and nursery school; helping a new person in your class feel welcome; studying hard; helping around the house and yard; baby-sitting; sharing.

We see you at the library and book stores; buying things or borrowing things that will help you better yourself so that you will be better able to give more to you family, friends and neighbours. We see you doing your hobbies; playing at your hobbies; using your skill and time for something that brings you joy; something you can share with others with a similar interest. We see you using your time to travel; to learn about other place; to be open to new places, people and experiences. We see you going on retreats; taking time for prayer; for silence; taking time for knowing the presence of God in you life.

We see you helping, caring for a spouse; a brother; a sister; helping with the special needs that they have. We see you taking care of you children, and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and the neighbours’ kids; offering them the love and support, humour and joy that they need to be healthy, happy and wise.

We see you using your hands to build; to hammer; to tighten; to fix. We see you using your hands; your head; your heart; to plant, to take care of, and to harvest. We see you using your hands and brawn to set traps for lobsters; set lines for fishing; to reap from the sea as well as the land. We see you reaping with joy from farms and gardens.

We see you making offerings to strangers; a couple of bucks for coffee; ten or twenty for a meal. We see you doing what you can to support those around you; offering to help in many, many ways.

We see you attending church to make your offering of prayer; prayers of thanksgiving; prayers of care and concern for those you love; those you know, those you know who could use a prayer; those that need to know the presence of God in their own lives.

We see you laugh; we hear your laughter; we see you as you find opportunities to spread joy in the world; to let other know about the tremendous gift God has given us in laughter.

We see your tears; we see you understand and empathise with you family; your friend; your neighbours; the people around you; feeling their pain; knowing their circumstances. Tears: liquid prayer - that’s what tears are: liquid prayer.

We see you reaching into you wallets, purses, bank accounts; a with a generous spirit; opening your wealth so that it can be used by other; by those in need; we all know, because it’s been said so often that charity begins at home, but it doesn’t end here. It doesn’t end there!

All of this is ministry; all of this and so much more is ministry, all of this is what God gives us; the skills, the interests we have which we do for the joy of it; we do it for ourselves; we do it for others; we do it for God.

And believe me when I say, simply…
God Thanks You.

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