Press pause to give thanks

Read today's gospel scripture Luke 17: 11-19

PLEASE NOTE: This homily contains direct and indirect references to the Gospel passage. Having it fresh in your mind will be helpful for understanding and reflection.

Listen to the homily.

When I intentionally think about being thankful… being consciously thankful for all the blessings in my life, I find that it really makes me stop. It’s as if everything comes to a sudden halt. I think that’s because it is difficult to be thankful when we’re caught up in the flurry of life.

 

I think the same goes when things gnaw away on our attention. The unrelenting persistence of the Coronavirus can be one such worry.

 

For me, it’s kind of a corollary. When I become conscious about being thankful, all the flurry, whirr, and worries suddenly go on hold; it all freezes and there is this kind of peace in the eye of a storm, a still small voice in the midst of a whirlwind to quote a piece from scripture. To be thankful, I have to stop. Or by being conscious of being thankful, it makes me stop. And then I'm seized by the moment.

 

I don’t know if any of that connects with your experiences in the Season of Thanksgiving (as for example today as we observe Harvest Thanksgiving) or about other moments of being thankful. How does that go for you?

 

Please remember in what I am saying that I do not mean that the realities that affect us in daily life go away entirely. And I am not trying to minimize our legitimate concerns for the well-being of loved ones. I  am saying that seeing things through a lens of thankfulness helps us cope.

 

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Something that made me think about all this a while ago happened when I was at a certain dinner meeting. That was back when we were dealing with the proposed amalgamations of the parishes in Peterborough. The agenda was heavy so it was much more than just a social get-together for supper.

 

When I got back home later that night, it struck me that I had not formally said “thank you” to the person who had invited us and covered the cost of our meal. I wasn’t really thinking about being thankful in the midst of the heavy agenda for the evening. In a way, I was like the nine lepers in Jesus’ story in the gospel today.

 

***

I imagine those nine others in the story had lots on their minds. Maybe even their healing was a distraction. There’d be so many things they could now do without being shamed or cast aside that they’d want to get at them. Maybe they’d want to go and show family and friends how they were each now a new person. You and I can see how they’d get caught up in the miracle.

 

***

There are a lot of clichés about being thankful and about  Thanksgiving. I’m trying to avoid them. Still I wonder if our first-world affluence gets in the way of our being thankful. In the flurry and whirlwind of every day, I don’t think we’re looking or conscious of things for which to be thankful. We have so much. How does one pick anything out?

 

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What made that one fellow in story of healing see things differently than did the others?

 

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It seems to me that just shifting the brain to think about being thankful instantly brings about a change. Try it for a moment. When you shift your thoughts to being thankful and pondering the things for which to be thankful, what happens?

 

Try it.

 

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It seems to me that worries, anxieties, concerns, even hurts and pain fall away … at least while you’ve shifted your focus from the flurry of things to a different way of seeing things. It’s like some kind of a respite in the midst of all that’s going on in everyday life. The pressures don’t’ go away … but for a few moments, I find that they don’t have the same weight or same level of distraction. It seems to me that the change in attitude brings a new way of seeing things.

 

I should take more time to be thankful.

 

Anyway, all I’m sharing is that for me I can’t think about being thankful and be at the same time preoccupied by the flurry of things around me. To be in a state of thankfulness, for me I have to stop and then things just seem to go on hold, the motion freezes, there is stillness and quiet. It happens two ways. By being conscious about being thankful, I have to stop. And when I do that, the thankfulness seems to bring a state of calm. It is meditative and contemplative. Maybe moments to savour. It’s like the being apprehended by thankfulness.

 

***

So, there are a few of my personal reflections about Thanksgiving while trying not to be clichéd. Maybe they ring a bell for you maybe not. But I offer them to you for what they may be worth to you. Maybe my thoughts will spur some of your own thoughts and reflections in the midst of your own experiences.

 

In any event, I wish each of you a Happy Harvest Thanksgiving. May our being conscious about being thankful be a prayer and meditation that becomes part of our spiritual practice on all the days when the flurry of things weighs us down or distracts us.

 

May we find time to pray and meditate on being thankful. And may being in a state of thankfulness clear away the whirr and flurry of life so that we see what really counts. In that way, thankfulness can be something that apprehends you.

 

That’s what made the one, who returned to Jesus that day in the story, different from the others.

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The Rev'd W Glenn Empey

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