St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church
Diocese of New Westminster
Anglican Church of Canada
Wednesday 7:00 pm
October 7th Thanksgiving, 2018 John Marsh
Joel 2:21-27; Psalm 126; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Matthew 6:25-33
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
I have a certain fondness for feast days – the gatherings, the food, the celebrations.
Even though I do not celebrate them as I once did – I remember.
And so, I remember Thanksgiving.
Yet, I must be honest, this memory is not so much a trip down a nostalgic path.
Personally, perhaps for others, hopefully for followers of the way, thanksgiving is not a day; it’s not about celebrations of harvest (although it does not preclude such); it’s more than a religious service (although it includes them)
Thanksgiving – eucharistia in Greek¹ - lies at the heart of faith; it points to dynamic celebrations of relationships with that which we name as god; it points to depths of gratitude for holy wisdom in our midst, for the joy of living ‘in Christ’ (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), for the opportunity to live alternatives to the ways to violence and domination
At the heart of gratitude lies the concept of enough – not enough in the sense of satiation, where wants becomes needs, needs drive consumption and consumption drives acquisitive economics where, in the simplest of terms, enough actually means ‘never enough’
(I seem to remember a command about not coveting)
At the heart of gratitude lies the concept of enough in the sense of balance – where limits are respected, responsibilities are honoured, inter-personal relationships are valued and neighbourhoods are built - neighbourhoods worthy of the name, which is to say, if one has more than enough it means that others, both people and neighbourhoods, are being harmed by our actions
(I seem to remember a command about loving your neighbour as yourself and doing unto others as you have would them do unto you)
In a time of consumption based economics and desire driven politics, enough points to an alternative way of living:²
An alternative religiosity where holiness is about the whole – sustaining the whole not maintaining the holes
(I seem to remember a command about paying attention to the orphan and widow in your midst, the alien at your gate³)
An alternative economics where bottom lines are not sustained by driving most towards the bottom
(I seem to remember a command about jubilee, where the upward drift of resources is periodically redressed)
A calling of an alternative politics of the neighbourhood where neighbourhood is seen as an interconnected web of neighbourhood to neighbourhood; where the earth is but a neighbourhood within the cosmos; an alternative politics where the communal dynamics of health and wellness are sought; where the warp and weft of sustainable living is practiced⁴; where cooperation replaces control and respect replaces rapaciousness
(I seem to remember a command to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to god that which is gods’⁵)
Enough is enough – so stop, look and listen⁶
Enough is the ‘no thank you’ spoken to our endless appetites (many of which are culturally mandated)
Enough is that deep gratitude that recognizes what is sufficient for life and limb
Enough is that respect for limits which if ignored engenders pain, pathos and pathology
Enough is living with an open and vulnerable heart – a heart which recognizes that lack of self-love fosters a
voracious compensatory lifestyle and that such destroys the soul and consumes the neighbourhood
Enough is living in gratitude knowing that, as we are, we are enough – we are enough to be loved, to begin, to begin again, to go on
Enough is living in gratitude, knowing that I am enough (a new sense of authority), I am good enough (the beginning of freedom) and daring to say, I have enough (a new economic sensibility)⁷
Enough is knowing that the gift of life is enough
Enough is life lived in gratitude and gratitude is gracious resistance to rapacious spiritualties
Enough is living knowing that the holy is not given to consumerist ideologies – I am enough to make a difference in the world – I do not need to improve, to change or be better in order to begin – I am enough to begin, I am enough to be loved, I am enough to be adored into action⁸
At the heart of faith, perhaps, is a god who is enough⁹
At the heart of the faith is thanksgiving, gratitude and the concept of enough
As Mary Jo Leddy says:
A given life is different from a driven life. Gratitude seems to replenish itself: as more is given, more is received. Guilt, in contrast, rather quickly exhausts itself in judgements.¹ᴼ
We are grateful.
You have given us this day
and have given us this way
to say Thank You.
We thank you for giving us
what we need to be grateful.
We offer back to you
all that we have
all that we are.
We know our thank you
is as fragile as we are
- it can be crushed by the care of the moment
- it can disappear in the heat of the day
- it can be blown away by the winds of suffering.
And so we ask You
to take our small thank you
into your great act of Thanksgiving:
You, Lord of the loaves and the fishes,
You who are from God
with God and for God,
You in whom it is all
Yes and Amen.¹¹
¹ From which we get ‘Eucharist’.
² If you are not sure about the veracity of ‘consumption economics’ or ‘desire driven politics’ ask yourself, ‘how often do we hear serious discourse about ‘the common good’ as the foundation of public policy?’
³ Biblically speaking, ‘orphans, widows and aliens’ were words often symbolizing ‘the other’ - those on the down side of history.
⁴ In weaving the weft (sometimes woof) is the term for the thread or yarn which is drawn through the warp yarns to create cloth. Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while weft is the transverse thread.
⁵ In a news item about the churches response to the very real humanitarian issues of Mexican refuges in Arizona and southern California (many of whom were unaccompanied minors), one resident said, “these groups should listen to Jesus who said ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ and that means that Christian’s should always obey the law of the land.” That ‘the good news’ is so twisted into its opposite is a testament to the extent that it has been culturally coopted. This saying of Jesus, especially when put in context (see Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25; Matthew 22:21), means everything belongs to god and is an alternative to the ways of Caesar.
⁶ Stop, look and listen is not just rules for crossing the street – it is a rhythm for living faithfully.
⁷ See Mary Jo Leddy, Radical Gratitude (Orbis Books) 2002, p. 52-53
⁸ The issue is not whether we will grow, change or learn – we will – but knowing that we are enough right now to begin to act!
⁹ Jewish people have a wonderful prayer of gratitude which they sing at every Passover. In this prayer-song they sing of the events of the exodus through which god liberated them from slavery and delivered them to the Promised Land. The song’s refrain is ‘dayenu’ which means ‘It would have been enough’.
If you had only led us to the edge of the Red Sea but not taken us through the waters - ‘It would have been enough’.
If you had only taken us through the Red Sea but not led us through the desert - ‘It would have been enough’.
I you had only led us through the desert but not taken us to Sinai - ‘It would have been enough’.
May their prayer be our prayer; may their song be our song; may their wisdom be our wisdom – Dayenu.
¹ᴼ Leddy, p.66
¹¹ Ibid, p.69-70