Here’s the first sermon I preached. I meant to add these a while back, so just for a few days I’m going to put some sermon here.
(27th September 2020 Harvest Sermon. Psalm 65, Luke 17.11-19)
COME YE THANKFUL people come! So this is a sermon about being Thankful.
So let me start with a Thank YOU.
To Fred and Janet for their bravery in appointing me. Don’t be too harsh with them.
Thank you to Derreck and Stefan and everyone who’s been keeping worship going, and Messy Church – I’ve been loving seeing Sue gluing something together Blue Peter style – fabulous, and Corrinne’s godly play and to Kate and Andy for developing St Lukes at 7
And thank you to Charlie and Tony and Malcolm and Bob for keeping everything else going. And thank you to the Church watchers – you were the first people I met when I popped in here in January. Your kind welcome played a big part in helping me apply. And now You are frontline missionaries! How you welcome people and talk to people – that’s pivotal. Thank you.
And thank you to the PCC for keeping the Church going and being focused on its purpose.
Come ye thankful people come.
So I am very thankful for all of you and all that you’ve been doing in prayer and in giving and supporting the Church. Thank you.
And thank you for your kind welcome to Lucy and myself – for your chocolates, and cards and flowers and tomatoes, and painting, and gardening, and food parcels, and help in getting set up and popping by and chocolate.
Here we are today, Harvest Sunday, giving thanks to God for all that God has given us. We give thanks to God for the farmers, for whole food chain: those who stack the shelves and work the tills, those who drive the produce up and down the country, those who prepare it, those who harvest it, those who work the land, who care for our animals. Today we give thanks.
The Psalm we read says Praise is due to you! Praise awaits you!
Its nice when people say Thank you. We feel loved and valued and warm all over. And if all you took from this sermon was the importance of making others feel loved then you’ve done well. You can tune out now.
The Gospel reading ten with leprosy – they come to Jesus – and I wonder who of the ten said Cmon lets do this, I’ve heard all sorts of funny stories about Jesus. People come to the Church, to Jesus, for all sorts of reasons. We might not always like those reasons – after all these 10 are just looking for their own miracle, its not obvious that they want to help join a rota. But Jesus.
I wonder what their sense of expectation was – they stand at a socially acceptable distance and shout at him. So that’s good but suggests to me that they didn’t feel very worthy, able to approach any closer.
But on other occasions Jesus felt okay with having a close quiet conversation: What do you want me to do for you, or reaching out and touching the leper.
But here Jesus shouts back. You have to love the way Jesus doesn’t seem to keep to a formula for how to heal someone!
I bet they stood at a distance quietly talking to themselves and saying We’re not really religious enough to go any closer. But I want to say Well done you For finding the courage to get that close.
As a church we need to be looking out for those seeking prayer, comfort, kindness, Jesus, and how we can welcome them into our family. Even, especially, those who are Not Like You.
Jesus shouts at them: Go show yourself to the High Priest. On the one hand that’s good advice, that’s the way to get a proper certificate of being clean.
Please note how I’m desperately avoiding connecting this story with getting a Covid19 test.
I wonder how they felt about that advice. Did they turn away disappointed? I was rather hoping for a flash of something exciting.
How long did it take before one of them said to another – you look different, better, Well so do you!
But only one goes back to say Thank you.
But Jesus doesn’t then go all grumpy and say Fine, well I’m going to take back my healing from the other nine. All ten were healed.
And I don’t think that Jesus needed the thanks for himself, I don’t think he needed a fresh reason to feel warm and fuzzy.
I think that Jesus is making a point about what the art and practice of saying Thank you does to the person doing the Thanking.
Did you spot how the gospel reading ended with Go your faith has made you well. And in other settings we’ve read that and wondered if the reason why my prayers are not answered is because my faith isn’t big enough strong enough.
(You realise of course that today we should be singing Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains …)
10 are healed, one comes back and says Thank you. Jesus says Your faith has made you well. The others remain well and healed.
Jesus is helping us to see how gratitude, how Joy connects to faith.
Over these next few months I’m going to be preaching this four fold point. Its not todays sermon, this is a month of sermons – I’m going to preach about the importance of Receiving Joy. Because when we’re grateful, thankful, to what God is doing in our lives, our community, then that helps us to Live Love,
and I think we will be needing to explore some of the lessons of the Desert Fathers as we find ourselves in some variation of lockdown and in how we show that love to others.
Receiving Joy, Living Love, Giving Hope … to others. Because all of that is what leads to Growing Faith.
The art of gratitude has a profound effect on how I see myself, my life and purpose. It shapes my day, it effects my generosity, it stirs up courage and it even helps me to … protest.
What I would like you to do is to literally count your blessings. To write an evening diary in which you write out a list of what blessings you have noticed this day.
Its not as easy as it sounds. Try it. For the first few days you’ll be scrabbling around and you might make four or five. But then you’ll wake up the next day and start saying to yourself, Oh dear, I need to be on the look out for God’s blessings today. And that will help.
Now some of you are thinking – Ooh Look the Preacher is trying to turn me into an Optimist! It will never work!
Again if that was your take home point, then I’ll live with that. And if that’s your conclusion then I think maybe you’ve learned something about yourself today, but it might be a while before you’re ready to count that as a blessing.
I had something more in mind than encouraging you to say Thank you because of the power that kind words contain for the recipient, I’m trying to say something about what the activity says about you, and how it shapes you.
Some years ago I preached open air outside Holy Trinity Eastbourne. I was scared witless. Afterwards one chap said to me Well done, that was done well! And another said to me: oh ignore him, he’s always encouraging.
I’m trying to say something more than count your blessings so that you can learn to be an Optimist, or so that you can learn to spot silver linings. Though frankly that wouldn’t be such a bad skill.
The Psalm that we said, Ps65. It starts off with praising God because our God answers prayers. And then goes on to list some of those wonders, those joys, those abundant blessings – pause for a moment – you would expect Psalmist to list some of the enormous miracles the Exodus from Egypt, the Crossing over the Red Sea, the defeating of enemy armies, instead the Psalmist gives thanks to God for the little things like the water and the grain and the people who work the land and so concludes that its God who makes the meadows sing for joy!
(we should really be singing You shall go out with joy! And be led forth with peace!)
This is about practicing the spiritual exercise of giving thanks, of counting the blessings that we do see – because it helps open our eyes slowly to see more blessings.
((We are shortly to have Holy Communion. What do you see? A Wafer and some port? Can we learn to see more? Can we learn to see in this wafer the love of God, as we nibble this can we think of the possibility that we are consuming some good medicine for the soul, that we are taking into ourselves a symbol of the divine, of God’s peace and presence with us through this day, this week. This moment of communion, this is a moment of indescribable joy!))
I don’t want to preach an unnecessarily fluffy sermon. Ooh look at all the lovely things in the world – and so turn a blind eye to all the less than lovely things.
But I do think that the place to start is in finding joy, receiving joy, spotting the blessings that God is giving you, learning to see other blessings.
My Dad used to roar with laughter and rejoice that he was paying more tax. He saw a higher bill as a blessing – now that’s a real gift – he had a generous naivety that said Clearly the government need it more than I do and have great plans for making this country a kinder country. I pray that I may grow up to be as generously naïve as him.
The News is so draining and depressing, and ever changing. But if you have been counting your blessings you will at this point find a little resilience, a little strength, some courage to pray to God and say
Look you’re blessing me in all these wonderful ways that I’ve been counting, now Lord bless those that I’m praying for, bless this town, this county, this nation, keep going.
So that’s where this art of being Thankful will take you. But it is a muscle and we must exercise it every day.
There’s more than enough trouble and strife that is working to bring us down, working to divide us but if we can live a life that is open to receiving joy, that is living a life of thankfulness, an attitude of gratitude, then together we can change the conversation, we can find the strength to build each other up, we can grow in our faith and this Church family will grow too.
So, Come ye thankful people, come.