November 22, 2001
The Gospel: Matthew 6:25-33
Sermon: "Thanksgiving 2001"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe youyou of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, What will we eat? or What will we drink? or What will we wear? For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
November 22, 2001
I couldn't help it. I read the first line of this reading and my thoughts immediately went to the events of September 11th, of the anthrax in our mail, and of the state of our economy. For the last few months, the air in the United States has been of worry and concern, of anxiety and fear. We used to believe our government would protect us from these types of tragedies and concerns. We used to believe. What do we believe in now? Do we believe that if we catch the guy or guys who sent the anthrax it will be over? Do we believe that if we catch Osama bin Laden all terrorist activity will cease? Do we believe the economy will turn around and we can once again place our faith in the wealth of the land?
I have to be honest my faith in these material possibilities has been shaken. I did not realize how dependent on these earthly thought and goods I had become. These words on this day brought me back into focus. Jesus tells the disciples, "do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? ... Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you." September 11th brings these words sharply into focus. We live in a crazy mixed-up world. In this world nothing is sure. Nothing is eternal. Nothing is permanent. These words, these beautiful words show me what is real. God is sure. God is eternal. God is permanent.
These words give me hope. Even when the world is topsy-turvy and dangerous, these words give me comfort and hope. They comfort me because I know God is always there. They give me hope because I know no matter what happens to me or you or anyone else in this world, God will take care of us. God is the only constant we have. God is steady, unchanging, and everlasting.
I know many people wonder where God was on September 11th. I know people wonder about God's presence in the mailrooms and in the lives of those people who were killed and sickened by anthrax. Don't we wonder about the fact that the planes were not filled with people? Don't we wonder about the fact that some planes missed their target? Don't we wonder about the courage of those people to fight back? Don't we wonder about the response of the country to the families who lost loved ones and those who were hurt? Do we wonder about how quickly the anthrax was identified and how quickly the means of spreading the disease was discovered? While I cannot understand why all this happened I can surely see God's hand at work in the aftermath.
When craziness happens in this world I see God responding in the hands, the feet, and the eyes of the people. Truly the response of the people is an example of God's everlasting care. The response of the people shows us what God has planned for eternity. We will live in the compassion, love and presence of God.
Today we have the opportunity to offer God thanksgiving in two ways. First, we have gathered in worship to offer praise to God. Here we offer our thanks through praise, prayer, coming to God's Holy Table. Secondly, we offer God thanksgiving in the actions to follow. We are going to leave this worship space where we are fed with spiritual food, and then go to the Parish Hall. In that parish hall we will feed the hungry, the poor, the needy with real food. We will be the hands, the feet and the eyes of God as we reach out to our fellow human beings. Through worship, prayer, being fed and feeding we bring the meaning of thanksgiving full circle. We bring the words of our Savior to life. Do not worry about the things of this world; seek the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is near to us, in our worship and actions on this day, a day set purposefully aside to offer thanksgiving to God for our lives and for our blessings.