The readings were Psalm 100 and John 6, 25-35
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
It is good to say thank you. We bring our children up to do it, we say it ourselves all the time; we say “thank God” when we get some good news for a change, but we probably do that without thinking of it as a prayer, let alone a conversation. Yet God always wants to say, “you’re welcome”.
How do I know this, well, just read John 6, 33, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”. Gives life to the world – our very lives are gifts from God.
In human terms, ingratitude can eventually lead to a drying up of wells of generosity. If tasks are thankless, we are perhaps less inclined to do them. But for God, the well never dries up; his love is infinite and is not contingent on us saying thank you.
So why do we do it? At Harvest, even people who don’t believe in God understand the importance of thankfulness, and even though the food on our tables comes from a little further afield these days than it used to, this is a good time of year to acknowledge our debt both to the land and to those that till it for our benefit. These are all gifts from God too.
Have you ever been given a gift and not known how to use it, or even not wanted to use it?
This harvest, someone gave me a marrow. I didn’t know what to do with it (this is your cue to shout “stuff it”)
The marrow sat in our utility room until it went soft, as I had neither time nor energy to properly research recipes that I could cook and that my kids would eat, which involved marrow.
The story is told of a woman who was asked what she would like as a gift. She particularly liked a set of blue and white china she had seen in a shop window, so she asked to that; over many years her family and friends gave her pieces of this china until she had the full set. But when she died, it was all found in the original boxes, having been so treasured that she never dared use it.
Whether we are unable or unwilling to use them, sometimes the things God gives us go unused. So my question for us to consider this harvest time is what has God given us, that we could make better use of, and thus be truly thankful for.
Of course, if that lady had had her friends and family round to tea more often she might have been moved or encouraged to share her gift and use her china. If I had been brave enough o ask, I might have been able to get hold of those marrow recipes that you are preparing to tell me in a moment before it was too late. It seems to me a key to discovering and using our gifts – the gifts that God has given us both in practical and spiritual terms – is other people.
In the Quaker tradition they have a thing called a clearness group – a small band of people who get together and discuss each others’ gifting, and how to put it to best use.
Jesus said “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. This is a great gift, for which I’m sure we are truly thankful, but as those old words form grace at school lunchtime come back to me I am increasingly convinced that to be truly thankful means we need to properly put to use the thing we have been given.