Thanksgiving Eve, The Rev. Kristin Schultz, November 25

I am one of those people who lives a lot in my head.
I carry so much – my calendar, the church calendars, the calendars of my three children, thoughts for the class I’m getting ready to teach and what I need to say to Noah’s teacher as his conference and whether we can pull off dinner with what we have in the refrigerator -- 
With all this noise in my head,
I don’t always see what’s right in front of my face.

For example: 
The first church I served had one of those signs – 
you know, the ones with clever sayings that change every week.
Our sign message changed on Mondays, and after a while I noticed that people could ask me about a message on the sign on Thursday or Friday – when I’d driven into and out of the parking lot approximately a dozen times – and I would have no idea what it said. 

So a top spiritual discipline in my life is to notice.
To stop and breathe, inhabit the place I’m in, see what and who is around me.
And I’ve found that the practice of noticing usually leads me
into the practice of giving thanks.
And it’s become easier – noticing the gorgeous trees changing color in the bosque as I cross the bridge each morning;
noticing the moon rising over the mountains while I sit at an afternoon soccer game; interrupting my work to notice my son sitting next to me on the couch,
and invite him into a cuddle.
And when I notice, and breathe in the beauty of the moment, I naturally breathe out – Thank You. Thank you, God.

Seminary president and blogger David Lose says that it is noticing
that sets the Samaritan apart from the others who are healed
in the gospel story about the 10 lepers.
It is so often read as a morality tale – 
10 were healed, but only one came back to say thank you.
Make sure you are like that one!
And the zinger is that the one who came back is a Samaritan – 
an outsider, mistrusted, even despised.

But, Lose says, the other nine don’t do anything wrong.
They do just what Jesus tells them to do.
But the Samaritan does something more.
He notices – his healing, and the one who healed him.
In noticing, he is filled with gratitude – a gratitude he has to express.
He returns to Jesus, and gives thanks – 
and in so doing, he is blessed a second time.
Jesus says to him, Your faith has made you well.
He was already healed.
But his gratitude, his return to Jesus, brings another blessing – Jesus says he is saved – made whole – even beyond the healing of his body.

What is your experience with noticing and giving thanks?
In this season, we are invited to look for things to be grateful for.
A number of my Facebook friends have been doing 30 days of gratitude,
and it’s fun to see what people post.
Everyone expects to see friends, family, teachers, coworkers, pets
 – but I love the list of one of my friends who includes text messaging,
the NM growing season, and Sharpies.
You’ve got to think there’s a story behind the sharpies, and I’d love to hear it.

It’s a good reminder to ourselves, to “count our blessings,”
and remember the things we are grateful for.
But I think it’s even more than that.
It’s realizing there are more blessings around us than we ever knew.
It’s moving from the world’s attitude of scarcity – 
there’s not enough, so I have to look out for number one –
to an attitude of abundance –
knowing we are surrounded always by God’s love and mercy and grace,
which appears before us in natural beauty and the people we meet
and sometimes even the challenges we face.

Earier this fall I was listening to a radio show called On Being, with Krista Tippett.
The guest was linguist and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, the daughter of the iconic anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson
Bateson spoke about one of my favorite moments in the Bible, in a way I’d never thought of before.

You probably know the story of Job – how he loses everything in a bet between God and the Satan, and how his dubious friends try to convince him it’s his fault.
Finally – in the 38th chapter of the book – God speaks from a whirlwind.
And God says, where were you when I created all this? Do you make it work?
Do you give it life?

But Bateson points out another direction God’s lengthy response to Job takes.
Have you noticed what I’ve made?
Have you seen the light that shines in a dark night?
Have you watched a storm rage?
Have you noticed the wild animals – the mountain lion, and the deer, and how they go about their lives apart from humans?
Have you watched a horse run, or a hawk soar?
In essence, God says – Job, have you seen the wonder of the world around you?
Have you seen the beauty and power in my creation?

God invites Job into healing by inviting Job to open his eyes.
To see what is beyond his own suffering and be in awe of it.
To take that first step from suffering and grief to new life.
It’s not a short journey, or an easy one,
from grief and suffering back to fullness of life.
But noticing, and giving thanks, starts us on the path.

So tonight, we come to practice Thanksgiving.
To notice what we may not always notice,
and speak aloud before God and one another our words of thanks.
It is our second blessing.
It is our invitation to healing.
It is an experience of wholeness and salvation here and now.

Thanks be to God.

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