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Sermon and Liturgy for Thanksgiving - Year C
Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 65; Philippians 4:4-9
"Gratitude - A Necessary Attitude"



READING:  Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 65; Philippians 4:4-9
SERMON :  "Gratitude - A Necessary Attitude"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-thansesn 46802
                    
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for Thanksgiving Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".  


WORDS OF WELCOME


* CALL TO WORSHIP: (based on Psalm 100)
L    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
     fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P    And also with you.
L    Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship him
     with gladness and come into his presence with happy songs.
P    The Lord is our God.  He made us, and we belong to him.  We
     are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
L    Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. 
     Give thanks to him and bless his name.
P    The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever and his
     faithfulness to all generations.


* CHORUS: "This Is The Day The Lord Has Made"                     - VU 412


* PRAYER OF APPROACH
Loving God, Creator of heaven and earth, you confer healing and wholeness
upon your people.  You lift us from the dust and make us little less than
the angels.  You forgive our sins and grant us new life each day.  Truly
your steadfast love endures forever - and we thank you for it.  Grace us,
we pray, on this special day with hearts and minds that embrace the truth
you have revealed in your Holy Word and with Souls that seek your presence
and rejoice in the wonders you have created.  Give us too lips that
celebrate the mercies you bestow and hands that are as generous and as open
as your own.  We ask it for today - and for every day - through Christ
Jesus our Lord and our Saviour.  Amen.


* HYMN:  We Plough The Fields And Scatter                         - VU 520


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS & CONCERNS
- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Special Matters
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

              
INTROIT For The Word of God  (please stay seated)
  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear;
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
   
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!  (VU 371 v. 2 & refrain)
            

A READING FROM DEUTERONOMY 26:1-11
   (NRSV)  When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is
   giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle
   in it, {2} you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the
   ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is
   giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that
   the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. {3} You shall
   go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, "Today
   I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the
   LORD swore to our ancestors to give us." {4} When the priest takes the
   basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD
   your God, {5} you shall make this response before the LORD your God: "A
   wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived
   there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation,
   mighty and populous. {6} When the Egyptians treated us harshly and
   afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, {7} we cried to the LORD,
   the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our
   affliction, our toil, and our oppression. {8} The LORD brought us out
   of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying
   display of power, and with signs and wonders; {9} and he brought us
   into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and
   honey. {10} So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that
   you, O LORD, have given me." You shall set it down before the LORD your
   God and bow down before the LORD your God. {11} Then you, together with
   the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with
   all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your
   house.

L    This is the Word of the Lord
P    Thanks be to God.


ANTHEM:  "We Gather Together"


RESPONSIVE PSALM READING:  Psalm 65 (VU 782) and Sung Refrain
  

A READING FROM PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9
   (NRSV)  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. {5} Let
   your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. {6} Do not
   worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
   thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. {7} And the peace
   of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and
   your minds in Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, beloved, whatever is true,
   whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is
   pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if
   there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. {9} Keep
   on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and
   seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

L    This is the Word of the Lord
P    Thanks be to God.


* HYMN:   "Sing To The Lord of Harvest"                           - VU 519


SERMON:  "Gratitude - A Necessary Attitude"

     Bless thou, the words of my lips and the meditations of
     our hearts that they be of profit to us and acceptable to
     thee, oh our rock and our redeemer.  Amen

There is an old story or fable told about a far-off land which was
ruled by a tyrant.

     The tyrant had an ironclad grip over all parts of his
     kingdom, except for one frustrating area.  He was unable
     to destroy the people's belief in God.

     He summoned his counsellors and put the question to them:
     "Where can I hide God so that the people will end up
     forgetting him?"

     One counsellor suggested that God be hidden on the dark
     side of the moon.  This  proposal was debated for some
     time, but voted down because it was believed that one day
     scientists would discover a means of space travel and God
     would end being found again.

     Another advisor to the tyrant came up with idea of
     burying God beneath the depths of the ocean floor.  This
     was voted down for basically the same reason - it was
     felt that scientific advancement would lead to the
     discovery of God even beneath the depths of the ocean
     floor.

     Finally the oldest and wisest of the counsellors had a
     flash of insight.  "I know", he said, "why don't we hide
     God where no one will ever think of finding him?"  He
     explained, "If we hide God in the ordinary events of
     people's everyday lives they'll never find him."

     And so it was done - and they say that people are still
     looking for God - even today.

Today is a special day because I believe that at thanksgiving time
we see God and what he does in the normal and routine parts of our
lives a little more clearly than we normally do.

It helps, of course, that this is Thanksgiving Sunday
that the scripture lessons focus on what God has done,
and that the decorations in the sanctuary 
     and the beauty of the fall outside,
foster in us an natural appreciation for God's handicraft.

Indeed the very atmosphere at this time of year seems to encourage
us to pause and to identify just how blessed we are, just how much
we are subjects of God's grace.

And that's good - because it leads us into the transforming wonder
of thanksgiving.

I believe my friends that thanksgiving is an important part of our
faith, and by this I do not mean the time of year called
thanksgiving - though that is blessed,
but the act of thanksgiving.

Indeed I believe that gratitude, the root of thanksgiving - is  a
necessary attitude, an attitude that is needed by us if we are to
experience the fullness of the salvation that God has planned for
us.

Look at this building -- this sanctuary -- everything about it and
everything in it, from the cross at the front to the doors at the
back, is here by the grace of God - indeed we are here by the grace
of God.

In the 26th chapter of Deuteronomy which I read from this morning,
the people of Israel are told what they should say when they bring
their offerings to the temple.  They are to say:

     "The Lord brought us into this place, and gave us this
     land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  So now I bring
     the first fruit of the ground, which you, O God, have
     given me."
     
The Lord has brought us into this place,
and the Lord has given us the fruit of the earth in this place,
he has given us our daily bread,
he has brought us safe to this point in time.
                    
This is the message of all scripture - that everything around us,
and everything that we are and everything that we have is a gift of
God..

Indeed the scriptures go further  -  they reminds us 
that the gifts of God are often given to us through others,
     - some through the work of other folk who are known to us,
     - some through folk who will always be unknown to us, nameless
     servants of God's grace.

Look at this building again - this gift from God.
     
The decorations were placed here yesterday by particular people,
they just didn't happen to show up 
- time and energy was expended, time and energy which could have
been used for a shopping trip or a visit with a friend, but which
was instead dedicated to the glory of God.

The fact that the building is warm is due to the fact that someone
out of love for God and concern for God's people came early and
turned it on, turned it on while the rest of us were enjoying a
late breakfast or getting an extra few minutes snuggled up in our
bed.

The Sunday School classes that are going on - they didn't just
happen.

Those classes, the music we hear and sing today, the pews we sit on
and the pulpit I stand behind - everything here represents a series
of gifts from God to us.

Gifts of God - gifts that have come to us through the labour and
the dedication 
of the people beside you, 
of the people who went before you,
and of the people who went before them,
people - who despite the flaws they undoubtedly had, served God as
best as they could.

Are we aware - from week to week, let alone from day to day, just
how much has been done for us?  How much we have received through
no merit of our own?

Are we who serve God in one way aware of how much others who serve
God in other ways have helped us?  Of how much God has helped us?

And have we thanked God enough?
His servants and his instruments enough?

I call this sermon Gratitude - A Necessary Attitude because it is
a wonderful truism!  Without the attitude of gratitude our
salvation is incomplete and the health of our families and of our
churches, and of our nation and our world is in jeopardy.

A few years ago Dr. Nick Stinnett of the University of Nebraska
conducted a group of studies called the "Family Strengths Research
Project"

     Stinnett and his researchers identified six qualities
     that make for strong families.  The first quality and one
     of the most important to be found in strong families was
     the quality of appreciation.  Families that are strong
     are strong in part, Dr. Stinnett concludes, because
     family members express to each other their appreciation
     for what the other members DO and for who they ARE.

In a similar study another researcher looked into the effect of
praise in the workplace.

     His study showed that the ratio of praise to criticism in
     the workplace needs to be four to one before employees
     feel that there is a balance - that there must be four
     times as much praise as there is criticism before they
     feel good about their work and about the environment they
     work in.

That is pretty staggering information - information that tells us
that if we want to do something good, that if we want to have a
healthy family, a strong workplace, or any other effective group
that we need to be sure that appreciation, praise, and thanksgiving 
are heard at least four times as often as is criticism.

Praise and thanksgiving are important - and not just to our
families and our workplaces, but  in the end important to us as
individuals before God.

It is very easy to get discouraged - to get down in life.
We might be living in chronic pain,
or suffering from a decline in the standard of living -
out on strike or laid off,
or we may simply not feel appreciated or valued by others
- any of a hundred things could be asailling us
and making us feel miserable - even making us question God.

That is normal enough - but it is important that we go beyond the
questions and back to our faith - and it is here - in the difficult
times - that thanksgiving is of crucial importance to us as
individuals  - that turning to God and remembering before him all
that He is his, and all that He has done is so very significant and
very helpful.

One of the most beautiful people I ever met was a 92 year old lady
who was a parapalegic.

     She was confined to a hospital's extended care ward - a
     hospital outside of Vancouver - and there she lived all
     her days between her bed and her wheel chair.

     She had diabetes and several other problems - and over
     the previous five years she had first one foot, then the
     other, then a leg, and then another, amputated so that
     she might be able to go on living.  She had considerable
     pain, most days she was very uncomfortable - and there
     was  for her no family to come in and visit - she had
     simply outlived most of them.

     What this lady did during her days was quite wonderful -
     when she was able - she wheeled her chair up and down the
     corridors of the place and popped in and visited all the
     other folk in the place.  She learned their birthdays and
     sent them cards, she checked when they seemed depressed
     and listened to them talk of it and gave their hand a
     squeeze and prayed with them if they were willing.  She
     went to the recreation room and took part in the games -
     often helping the staff help others.   She was a light in
     a dark place - full of joy and peace despite her own
     troubles and woes. 

     I always prayed with her on my visits - I would pray for
     her and she would pray for those around her and she would
     always give thanks to God at the end of each prayer for
     his goodness and his love - for how he worked his will -
     and helped her each day - even in the days of pain.

This woman's beauty 
- her ability to help others 
- her faith and love and compassion 
was rooted in her thanksgiving 
- thanksgiving that was made even when it might seem crazy to other
people to make it.

A marriage counsellor suggested that one of the problems with our
society is that we work mainly on our feelings - on whether or not
we "feel" like doing something.  When we've lost a feeling for
something we discard it.  For example, we believe that "if I feel
love for you I will act in a loving way."  

The counsellor's premise is the opposite - it is this - if I act in
a loving way, my love feeling will grow.  And so he recommends to
his clients various "caring exercises" to do each day - one of
which is of course - the expression of appreciation and gratitude -
of thanksgiving.

God asks us for our thanksgiving -
     whether we feel like making it or not -
          so that we might experience the blessings it brings -
               blessings it brings to us,
                    and blessings it brings to others..

Look around you - find that which is good and thank God for it - 
find that which is caring and thank God and the person who is doing
it - look around - look inside - look outside - and think on that
which is noble and true and beautiful and express your praise for
it - express it no matter what the bad or the ugly may be up to..

God is hid in the ordinary routine events of our life - our
practice of thank-giving will bring him to our sight and in so
doing bring to others and ourselves a better world.  Thanks be to
God for all that he has done - AMEN


* HYMN:  "For The Fruit of All Creation"                           - VU 227


JOINING TOGETHER:   "The Divided Forest" (A Thanksgiving Play by
                    the  children)


* HYMN:  "For The Beauty of The Earth"                            - VU 226


PRAYER TIME AND THE LORD'S PRAYER
Loving God - indeed this is a wonderful world, a world in which share with
us the riches of fertile  land, the resources of mountains and streams, the
abundance of oceans and sky.  We thank you for all the gifts you have given
us on this planet we call Earth  - for all the gifts you have called us to
treasure, to husband, and to share.  Grant O God that we may show respect
to you and to the gifts you give by using them aright and by remembering
from whence they have come and what purpose  you have assigned to them..... 
Lord hear our prayer...

Generous God   you have poured out riches of the Spirit as well as riches
of earth, sea, and sky.  We thank you for the power that sustains this
universe and which is to be found in every human heart.  We praise you for
the love that creates beauty and for the care which creates tenderness and
mercy and for the truth that creates justice and honour and glory.  Grant,
O God, that we may respond always to the urging of your Spirit and use the
riches it provides to uphold truth and to show love and care for all people
and for the creation itself....  Lord hear our prayer....

Giving God - there is much in our lives for which we are readily thankful -
but there is also much  in our lives that we have difficulty thanking you
for - either because we do not see or acknowledge  you in it - or because
those things come to us as afflictions - as trials and tribulations.  Help
us, we pray, to see you in the ordinary things of life - that we may have
the trust that we need to overcome in those things that test us our
faith..... Lord hear our prayer.

Finally O God, you who are the mother and father of us all - hear the
silent prayers of thanksgiving and of intercession that we make before you
in our hearts as even now I name those names and those things that have
been lifted up this day by these your people.... (BIDDING PRAYER)... Lord, hear our prayer...

We pray to you O God, in the name of Christ Jesus, the one who taught us to
come to as one family, as your children, saying: "OUR FATHER


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand
for the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541)
and Prayer of Dedication
  
   O God, we bring to you our tithes and our offerings,
       symbols of the work you make it possible for us to do,
       that they may be used in works of love and obedience.
   We present to you the food of your earth,
       food that you gave to sustain our life in this place,
       that it may be used to feed and encourage others.
   We dedicate to you our lives,
       lives that can only be made whole by your holy presence,
       that you may use us as your grateful servants,
       to bless one another and the world you have made.  Amen. 


* HYMN:  "Now Thank We All Our God"                               - VU 236


* COMMISSIONING (unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, 
and may the Lord grant unto you an ever grateful heart,
indeed may our God bless you with eyes that see his wonders and ears that
hear his loving word,
and may the all the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit fill you
and flow forth from you,
both now and forevermore.  Amen


* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                  	          - VU 964


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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