A Sermon Shared with the People of St. Matthew’s, St. Paul, November 22, 2012
Bob Hardman

We gather and have gathered since the beginnings of time to celebrate times of harvest, that have special thanksgiving meaning.   From our Judeo- Christian roots come the Agricultural Festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.   Why is this?  Because we as a people constantly recall the saving acts of God.  God is intimately connected with times of great need, as well as with times of great abundance.   God loves us and we love him even in times of great anxiety when we have not known how we would make it from one day to the next.

We remember in our Country's history a time when the first Pilgrims gathered for a 3 day feast in 1621 in appreciation for the rich harvest and its provisions for the coming winter.  They invited their friendly neighbors, the Native Americans, to share a meal of goose, turkey and beer as they praised God for the gift of a new life in this new land.

How different it is in the 21st century.   We no longer have to strugggle in the same way to provide our provisions.  Some one does the forming for us.. Someone inspects, processes and transports the food that will grace our tables today.  No longer do we shear the wool, spin the wheel to make strands to knit the clothing to keep us covered and warm.  Most of us would not want to.  In our prosperity we can be led to imagining that by our own skill we have what we have.  It can blind us and make us indifferent to the gifts of God.


There is a Scottish story about a minister who visits an elderly Scottish lady who is nearing the end of her life.  The minister in his pastoral way asks her if she is prepared.  She leans over and whispers in the minister's ear. "Aye!  I thatched my roof while the sun was shining."  Indeed, she never in her life felt bereft of God's goodness and blessings.  His presence and provisions were ever there and would provide for her in the time of her death.


Often, we who are given not only enough, but more than we need are paralyzed by anxiety.  Anxiety about what the future holds for us.....  The familiar verses of St. Matthew carry our  Lord's counsel:  Do not be anxious, for God will care for us as he cares for the lillies of the field and the birds of the air.   He calls for us not to be anxious lest by such worry we be paralyzed and forget God's continuing and power of that love to sustain us.   Have you ever met anyone paralyzed by fear and anxiety?  They never trust; they never let go, they become predispossesed by constant worry; they would not know how to live without fear.

But on a greater scale, nation-wise, we as a people are not without fear.  The abundance of this nation has not come without price.  Having watched Ken Burn's " the Dust Bowl" reminded me of the people's wearing away of the crops and farm land by becoming too greedy. Energy resources, erosion of land, drying up of water supply and watersheds, the pollution of land.


It's hard therefore in the midst of uncertainty about the future of our resources and our political lack to look to a style of quality living and not be anxious.  So much of our economy is built on consumption at the very time when conditions suggest our lives should be more simple.


In this time of Thanksgiving, God reminds us again and again to take care of his creation, to share the abundance of our resources.  He calls us to acknowledge our inter-dependence on "this fragile earth, our island home", to value those we do not see who care for us and make provisions for us in warehouses, in the factories, in the silos, wherever. It moves us from a very independent stance to a collaborative and communal one that not only affirms our inter-dependence on God but also our care for one another.


Today, as a time tro reaffirm our confidence in God's sustaining care for us.  He who chose to share his love by joining us in the flesh made clear by his willingness to share our vulnerabilities.  Surely he is in our midst today- willing to share those same fragile vulnerable times as we wrestle with the immplications of a lifestyle build on uncertainties.

God in Christ stands before us  - to share now as he did then, all that it means to be human.  Let us now celebrate God's presence by facing the uncertainties of our present with the confidence that in his love we and all his other children can find a way to take care of and to share the goods of this earth for the benefit of all, without threatening our existence or any one elses.


I'd like to close with a Blessing spoken by a lady who lived to one hundred and three, and who met Abraham Lincoln in her youth, the author of this holiday on the 4th Thursday of November.


O Thou who kindly dost provide

For every creatures want

May bless Thee Lord of Nature wide

For all the goodness sent

And if it pllease Thee Heavenly Guide

May never worse be sent

But whether granted or denied

Lord bless us with content.    AMEN