Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Community Thanksgiving Service Homily 2013 Big Timber

I’d like to begin by thanking the ministerial association for allowing us here at St. Joseph parish to host this year’s Thanksgiving remembrance. I’d like to thank the parishioners for the work they’ve put into tonight to be such gracious hosts. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for taking time to join with us today. I’d like to thank my housekeeper in Livingston for assisting me with the meal we will be enjoying tomorrow. I’d like to thank Macy’s for hosting the wonderful parade that many of you will watch tomorrow. I’d like to thank the Packers, Lions, Raiders, Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens for what should be an interesting day of football. I’d like to thank all of the retailers who are opening their shops on Thanksgiving Day for our shopping pleasure, and all of those who are preparing for the Black Friday madness. And finally, as I’ve heard some schools have taught, I’d like to join with the pilgrims in giving thanks to the Indians for helping them make it through their first winter in the new world. Without them we would all probably still be living in the old world. We know how great we are. We know what we’ve been able to accomplish. We know that because of us the world is a better place.

By now, I’m sure you’ve picked up on the fact that I’m being a bit sarcastic. But, as we look around our society, I think we’ve lost a lot of the real reason for our Thanksgiving Day celebrations. I’d like to share a few lines from Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of the first Thanksgiving Day.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. . . .No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

As we can see from Lincoln’s proclamation, the purpose of tomorrow’s holiday is about God. It is not about what we have done, but what God has done through us. It is not about recognizing our goodness, but about how God has used us to make a difference in the lives of others.

In our gospel reading about the ten lepers, we hear of only one that returned to Jesus to give thanks. We do now know if the other nine thank God in some fashion for their healing. I am guessing that they realized that the healing was truly a gift from God and in some way were thankful.

Here in the United States we have a lot for which to be thankful. How many of us have a refrigerator at home? How many of us have food in said refrigerator? How many of us have a vehicle to get us where we need to go? How many of us have fuel or electricity delivered to our homes to provide heat? There are many parts of the world where they do not have refrigerators. There are many people who are hunger each night. There are many who have to search for fuel to light a fire for heat or cooking.

We can thank American innovation for our blessings, but the real thanks goes to God. I’d like to go back to what I said in the beginning and maybe re-phrase it a bit.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith here in Sweetgrass County which allows us to gather here today. Thank you, Lord, for the spirit of generosity with which you’ve instilled with this community to allow them to be gracious hosts. Thank you, Lord, for giving your people a spirit of thankfulness. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of family and friends with whom to share Thanksgiving Day. Thank you, Lord, for the blessings upon our country that allow us to enjoy some of the entertainment that will be provided tomorrow for our pleasure. Thank you, Lord, for the prosperity with which you’ve blessed our nation so that we have the resources to have a “Black Friday”. As we prepare tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, help us to realize that you are the source of all of these gifts. Help us to set aside the day to give thanks, even as we might enjoy the other festivities that have become a part of this holiday.

As we reflect upon the blessings which we’ve graciously received through God’s grace, let us also generously share some of those blessings when the time comes to support the mission of the ministerial association or other worthy charities in our community, the nation and the world.
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