2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-11

I thought that since Thanksgiving is coming up this week, you might enjoy some cooking tips and recipes. These particular recipes come from a recipe book put together by children in Mrs. Geraghty’s kindergarten class. I have not personally tried any of these:

            Turkey – You cut the turkey up and put it in the oven for ten minutes and 300 degrees. You put gravy on it and eat it.—Russell

Applesauce – Go to the store and buy some apples, and then you squish them up. Then you put them in a jar that says, “Applesauce.”Then you eat it.—Shelby

Pumpkin Pie – First you buy a pumpkin and smash it. Then it is all done. And you cook it in the oven for 12 minutes and 4 degrees. Then you eat it.—Christopher

Cookies – Buy some dough and smash it and cut them out. Then put them in the oven for 2 hours at 100 degrees. Then take them out and dry them off. Then it’s time to eat them.—Christa

Don’t those sound wonderful? (lol) It seems like we all have our favorite Thanksgiving memory, or food, or tradition. Many of you will be spending time with family  – which can be both good and bad (if you know what I mean). Perhaps some will be traveling.Some will cook, some will not. But my prayer for each of you is that you will take some time to just enjoy the day with thanks to the one who has given us the greatest gift of all. The one whom we can never out-give, the one who loves us beyond our wildest hopes, the life-giver, our Lord and our God who is made known to us through Jesus Christ, who is evident in all creation, and who sustains us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Take time to be thankful. To the greatest giver-ever.

Thankfulness is a powerful thing! Something incredible happens in the world when it is confronted with gratitude. It is a powerful instrument when it is put into action. Negativity cannot stand against it. Two words sincerely spoken can transform a person, an incident, a life – “thank you.”Divisions crumble before it -thankfulness! It overflows into the lives of others in the form of generosity and fixes itself in our own lives with a sense of plenty. Gratitude has a way of seeing that is counter-cultural. Much of what we are taught through media and society, through ads that make us want more,through urgent appeals to buy this or have that is about, “ThanksHaving” rather than “ThanksGiving.” This approach calls for us to focus on what we lack without appreciation for what we have. Helen Keller once said, “So much has been given to me that I have no time to ponder that which I don’t have.” What a terrific attitude! What a goal to aspire to.

I think one of the ways to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness is by thinking about and expressing our gratitude toward those who have been placed in our lives. For example, have I told you lately how much I love you and appreciate you; how thankful I am to God for you? I really think I should tell you more often. I am kind of like the parent who brags about their children – out in the community, and in the Presbytery I am always telling others about you – but I need to say it to you. 1 Cor 1 (30-31) says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord…for he is the source of your life in Christ Jesus.” And so, I boast in the Lord and in the work he is doing in and through each of you and through us together as a community of faith. Today, we will see one such example of God’s work through you as we serve together the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. This is not the work of just one person, it is the Lord’s work in which we participate together. This is important work, it is kingdom work,it is valuable in God’s kingdom it is, as our scripture puts it today, “sowing bountifully.” This joy we have in giving of ourselves is what today’s passage is pointing out as a key value. The Community Thanksgiving Dinner is one example among many that I could point out right here in our little community of faith. It is an example of what our passage is saying this morning: “the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:6b-7) Something amazing happens when we give in such a spirit, we find that we are provided with all that we need, an abundance even to accomplish God’s good work. Sometimes this may equate to financial abundance– we started this year with $141.16 in our Community Thanksgiving Dinner account and today we have more than enough to cover our expenses, over $1,600.That is an abundant response to our prayers for this dinner. But it isn’t always that way, sometimes the abundance comes in other ways. It could come as a change in our way of thinking, a shifting of our priorities. It could come as a deep sense of fulfillment for having given.

Probably one of the most generous givers I know, is my granddaughter, Reagan. She has discovered joy in giving and willingly gives away whatever she can. Her mom recently told me of an experience that I would like to share with you today. The two of them recently attended a festival at the Pioneer Museum in Dade City. While they were there Reagan spotted the balloons and she really, really wanted one. She especially loves balloons, as most children do, so Hannah got her one and she was delighted and pleased to have it. Later on, as they were waiting in line for something, a little girl came by and struck up a conversation. She eyed Reagan’s balloon and expressed that she really, really wanted a balloon, too. So, just like that Reagan cheerfully gave her beloved balloon to the little girl, saying, “here you can have mine.” Now you might think that Reagan would have had some regrets later about giving her balloon away. But when I asked her about it, she said that she had felt happy when she got the balloon, but that she felt way happier when she gave the balloon away. I think she has discovered much about how priorities are set in God’s kingdom.

There are many ways we can experience abundance, but the true abundance, the real and meaningful abundance that results from our spirit-filled generosity is found in Christ. There is no greater reward, no more generous gift than life in Christ, which is freely given to us. Jesus says, “I have come that (you) may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Now, I am not talking about prosperity gospel or theology that holds the belief that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that this can be earned and that those who are not prosperous have somehow offended God. This is not the rather flawed notion that when we give away a dollar we get two in return. Rather this is about real life that is ours in Christ, which becomes increasingly available to us as we use wisely and well what God has given to us. There is a key element necessary for this to happen – and that is TRUST. It is an act of trust to place your offering envelope into the offering plate, it is an act of trust for a little church like ours to say, “let’s feed our whole community a complete Thanksgiving dinner,” it takes trust to allow God to use your time, abilities,and financial resources, and it takes trust to give your life and your future over to Christ.

Over the past few weeks, Megan has shared some wonderful messages with us on the topic of stewardship. Stewardship is a piece of the whole pie called abundance, that includes thankfulness, gratitude, generosity, a positive attitude, and trust. She talked about how we can thank God through our talents and abilities, how we can use our time wisely to the glory of God as an act of gratitude, and how we use our money is a part of our Christian way of life. All of these are a part of our response to God – it is a part of our ThanksGiving. When we recognize that all that we have and are is a gift from God, it is much easier to let go and allow God to work through us. It makes sense to sow bountifully, because we have received so much. So, take hold of the abundant life by sowing bountifully. Those who give generously of their time, their ability and of their resources find they are more spiritually dynamic and happier than those who are not generous. In the movie, A Wrinkle In Time,Mrs. Whatsit says correctly to Meg, “we can’t take any credit for our talents,it’s how we use them that counts.” We can’t take credit for what we have, it’show we use it that counts. (I once had a friend who said that everything he had he earned for himself, with no help from anyone. He was wrong! He had no control over when and where he was born, what color his skin was or who his family was, he had little control over his growth rate, whether he was gifted athletically, academically, or artistically, he had no control over much of what happened in his life. What he had control over was how he used all that God gave him and his attitude toward it.) The same is true for us. There are many things that are out of our control, but we decide how we will use all that God has given us. We decide whether we give ourselves grudgingly or willingly.We decide if we will trust God for real abundance and real life.  

Life is not perfect, I get that. I am sure this week won’t be perfect, that is not how life goes. There will be ups and downs, good and bad, but through it all, as we remain connected to the greatest giver ever we can say, Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life! Be thankful, appreciate those who are a part of your life, trust that as you give, you will have all you need to live abundantly in Christ – real life. It is God – who is the greatest giver ever and in whom we can trust.

Dear friends, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving, let me know if you try any of the recipes I shared at the beginning of this message. I pray that you will sit at a table full of gratitude, a table that overflows with thankfulness, with generosity, an abundant table of joy. I pray that you will take some time to enjoy the day with thanks to the one who has given us the greatest gift of all. The one whom we can never out-give, the one who loves us beyond our wildest hopes, the life-giver, our Lord and our God who is made known to us through Jesus Christ. Take time to be thankful. To the greatest giver-ever.

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