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Explorations in Just Living

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About this blog

Welcome to the blog of the Enough for Everyone program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). By "just living" we mean both justice-based living and just simply living – freeing ourselves from the clutter of stuff so we can focus on living faithfully and living well. Join us in the exploration!

About the Author
Bryce Wiebe coordinates Enough for Everyone, a ministry of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. He loves slow food and is fascinated by the way things are made.  He is excited to dive into experiments in simplicity with you.  His sacred cow of consumption: kitchen gadgets.

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November 10, 2014

Thanksgiving invitation and Children's sermon

How do we say thanks? 


During these upcoming holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, many of us will draw our attention to what we have.  We will be encouraged to set tables full of wonderful and abundant foods and we will fill shopping baskets to overflowing.  We will gather these things together and in heaps and piles along with our loved ones and count them each as a blessing.  This season is, certainly, about being grateful for what we have.  The practice at many Thanksgiving tables is to have each person dining there offer one thing for which they are thankful.  It is good practice on that, and every day, and I think there’s reason to believe that focusing on what we have received in abundance: It ought to make us joyful and it ought to make us feel satisfied.  It ought to free our minds, for a brief moment, from the anxiety born of the constant pursuit of more.


That’s how it ought to work.


I wonder, though, if we get a little too focused on what We as individuals have during this season.  That is to say, too often when counting our blessings and naming things for which we are grateful, it is a comparative enterprise.  I fear that gratitude and thankfulness are just foreign enough to us that we only observe things for which we are grateful because others don’t have those same things.  A trip to the developing world often ignites a renewed appreciation for the comforts and convenience of a modern, middle-class American life.  A trip to the soup kitchen makes us thankful if we, ourselves, are not poor.  While these might things for which we are truly grateful, I think we can do a bit better during this season and on the day set aside for gratitude. 


The many blessings that we have should not only be revealed when we discover those who do have the same ones.  To dwell only there would cause us to cling closely, and fear losing those luxuries that set us over others.  Gratitude, in the Reformed tradition is a response to Grace.  Gratitude is an orientation of life, not a list of economic benefits.  It means that our gratitude draws us closer to all that has been graced by God, which, for me, means all nature and people of the world.   Grace reveals the unity of all that God loves and so, my gratitude this season will seek to draw me closer to that unity rather than mark my individuality.  There is, in the Reformed faith an active and lived nature of gratitude.  We are moved to action because the grace we have received is so powerful and so overwhelming that the gratitude flows into all parts of our life.


So this Thanksgiving, when asked around a table to name something for which I am grateful, I plan to name something and also claim an intention or action for my gratitude.  Something that draws me closer to the earth and humanity so loved by God, that the Word, God’s very self, was drawn into it, made flesh, and lived with us. 


I am grateful for meaningful work to do and intend to practice invitation.  Whenever I plan an event or meal, or engage in some volunteerism, I intend to invite someone who is often overlooked due to their age, economic status, or social location.


Will you join me this year in activating our gratitude?


Children’s Sermon



Text: Luke 17:11-19

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’


Lesson:  Sometimes the cure for what ails us is to say thank you. 


What you need:  You will need to read the story to them.


Our friend, Jesus, did a very special thing in the story today.  There were ten people who were sick, and their sickness caused them to have big sores on their bodies.  More than just being painful, lots of people were mean to them because of the sores that they could see.  But Jesus did something amazing!  He healed those people, and their sores disappeared!  Those ten people were so happy to be made well!  They were so happy that they ALL made sure they said “Thank You” to Jesus…. Wait a minute, is that what happened?  (the children should respond ‘no’).  No, it isn’t, is it.  How many came back?  (‘One’)  That’s right, just one. 


Now, do you think it’s important to say ‘thank you’?  Do your parents and teachers say that it’s important?  I think it’s important, too.  Now, Jesus says something kind of funny to the one who comes back.  He says, “your faith has made you well”.  He says that this person has shown faith because he came back to say ‘Thanks’.  But weren’t the other nine still healed?  Yes they were.  I think Jesus has a very special lesson about being thankful.  When we are grateful and remember all the things we have to be grateful for; for love, and family, and our church, and enough food to eat and shelter it makes our hearts feel good.  It makes that part of us well.  When things are hard and you are disappointed, it helps to remember all the things we have to be thankful for.  It’s a way to heal our hearts. 


The one who returned to thank Jesus teaches us a special lesson.  We know that the hurts in our hearts; from disappointment or people being mean, they can start to be healed when we say thank you to God for all that we do have, and thank you to the people in our lives who love us and make sure we have all that we need.


Prayer:  Would you repeat after me:

Dear God,

Thank you for all that we have.

Thank you for all those that love us.

Thank you for sending us Jesus.

Help us,

to remember to be thankful.

Heal our hearts

When they hurt,

In your name we pray,