The Blessing of Michael’s Story – a Thanksgiving

Listen to the story here

I went to bed early last night with only a rough outline for today’s sermon. I usually struggle with Thanksgiving sermons. It’s not easy to come up with something new to say about Thanksgiving. So, I spent most of yesterday digging deeply into what other people have written about the power of gratitude so that I might be better able to encourage you to express your gratitude on this Thanksgiving Sunday. But no matter how deeply I dug into the wisdom of gratitude, I couldn’t quite pull this sermon together. So, I went to bed early, hoping that something would come to me in the night and I would arise early in the morning and somehow pull it all together.  

I was awakened in the wee hours of this morning by a howling wind and the sound of rainfall. The sounds reminded me of winter in Vancouver and my mind wandered off into a dream about the doldrums Februarys in Vancouver. February can be the most challenging month that the weather in Vancouver can throw at you. Usually by about the middle of February it has been so wet, damp, and grey for so long, that most Vancouverites cannot remember what the sun looks like. There’s a kind of malaise that rolls in over the city like a fog, that seems as if it will never lift. There are days when it seems as though the entire population is suffering from seasonal affected disorder. People don’t smile very much and depression is the order of the day. During February in Vancouver, the suicide rate is higher than at any other time of the year; and this in a city that has the highest suicide rate in North America.

I remember one damp and dreary day in Vancouver that stands out from all the other damp and dreary days. It had been a particular damp, grey February. It had been overcast or raining for weeks and weeks and weeks. I was riding on the busy to work. It was the same bus that I had been riding on for two years. Every weekday morning, I would commute by bus from the suburbs into the heart of the city. At six-fifteen, I would stand with the same people at the same bus stop and get on the same bus, that carried all the same people to their same jobs. On a good day, the trip would usually take 45 minutes. Nobody ever spoke on that bus. Occasionally people would nod or smile at the all too familiar faces of their daily travelling companions, but conversation would be reserved for sunny days, when people could only manage a word or two. It was like there was this unwritten rule that nobody had the energy or the inclination to break. We saw one another almost every day, and yet, we knew absolutely nothing about one another and that was the way we were determined to keep it. On this particular dull, depressing, February morning, in addition to being tired, I was also wet. The wind was really blowing so I carried my umbrella in vain. Unable to open my umbrella, I had to rely on my hooded jacket to keep me dry. The bus was running late and the water was just beginning to seep through my jacket.  When I finally climbed aboard, the windows of the bus were totally steamed, obscuring the view of the darkened wet world. I was determined to ignore the damp and settled in for what I hoped would be a short nap before we reached the city. I was just managing to doze off when the bust screeched to a halt. Several passengers climbed aboard. All but one of the passengers were recognizable. I’d seen them a hundred times before. But the young man, who loudly greeted the bus driver with a “Hello”, him I’d never seen before. He struggled to fold his broken umbrella as he stumbled to the rear of the bus. He sat opposite me, and proceed to greet everyone around him.  People weren’t sure how to take this.  Some just nodded and then looked away.  Others mumbled a greeting before fixing their gaze out the window. I smiled, nodded and then closed my eyes, determined to escape into sleep. Continue reading

Reckless Generosity – a Sermon for Thanksgiving

Gratitude Generosity

When I was a kid, the adults in my life were very fond of telling me how grateful I ought to be because things were so much harder back when they were kids. I’m sure most of us can remember being told by our elders just how tough times were when they were back in the day. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and just about every adult I knew must have grown up poor. Why if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say,  “When I was a kid we were so poor that…..” well I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

Today, when I hear the words, “We were so poor that…”  I brace myself for an outrageous claim like…. We were so poor that we couldn’t afford Kraft Dinner. Kraft Dinner, you were lucky, we were so poor that we couldn’t afford dinner,  all we had was a cup of cold tea without milk or sugar. Cup of Tea, we were so poor that we only had filthy cracked teacups. Filthy cracked teacups, that’s nothing we were so poor that we couldn’t afford teacups, we used to have to drink our tea out of a rolled up newspaper.  That’s nothing we were so poor that all we could we couldn’t afford newspapers so we had to suck our tea from a damp cloth.

Someone always chimes in with, “Well we might have been poor, but you know we were happy in those days. That’s right money can’t buy happiness. We used to live in a tiny house, with holes in the roof.  “House?  You were the lucky ones we were so poor that we had to live in one room, all 126 of us, with no furniture.  Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling!  Ha!  You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor! Ohhh we were so poor we used to dream of living in a corridor! A corridor would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We were woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!!!   Rubbish tip, you were lucky, we were so poor that we lived in a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarp, but it was a palace to us…especially after we were evicted from our hole in the ground and we had to go live in a lake. Lake, you were lucky to have a lake, there were a 160 of us living in a small cardboard box in the middle of the road. Cardboard, we were so poor we lived for three months in a brown paper back in a septic tank.  We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down in the mines for 14 hours a day, week in week out.  We had to get up out of that cardboard box at three o’clock in the morning and lick the road clean with our tongues.    In case you didn’t recognize it, that was my interpretation of a classic Monty Python sketch, simply called the “We were so poor sketch”. (watch the video below) Continue reading

Who IS God? – Not One, Not Two – a sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday

Thankyou autumnA sermon for Thanksgiving inspired by Garrison Keillor and Joan Chittister; two of the best storytellers I know.

Let me tell you a classic Thanksgiving story created by the brilliant Garrison Keillor, which takes place on the outskirts of Lake Wobegon, where “All the women are smart. The men are good looking. And the children are above average.”

“It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” Keillor’s old home town. “There was a holiday this last week and the return of the exiles. The exiles who come back to their home. Children who’d grown up and moved away and had families, and learned how to complicate their lives in all sorts of new and interesting ways. They come back every year to a little town so much the same it’s hard to look at it and not believe you’re still twelve years old and that’s just how some of the returning children behaved too, when they came back.

A lot of them drive up from the cities with their families and they make a last stop at the Cross Roads Lounge, about ten miles down the road, as they come up over the rise and down into town, the last drags are taken on a lot of last cigarettes, and the first of a lot of breath mints are popped into their mouths and the last warnings are issued to their children, the grandchildren, in the back seat, not to talk about you know what, in front of grandpa and grandma, and remember that at grandpa and grandma’s house before we eat grandpa bows his head and we’re all supposed to be quiet that’s called asking the blessing or saying grace and grandpa is talking to God. So you remember to be quiet then and close your eyes and don’t say a word.

One of the Olsen boys was giving this speech to his children coming into town on Wednesday. He explained all of the rules and was surprised to hear a little voice pipe up from the backseat. And his daughter said, “Who is God daddy?”

He said, “Jesus Christ! What am I gonna do now?” “Two blocks from home! It’s a little late to get this kid shined up for the parents so she looks Lutheran you know.”
Continue reading

Who IS God? – Not One, Not Two – a sermon for Thanksgiving Sunday

Thankyou autumnA sermon for Thanksgiving inspired by Garrison Keillor and Joan Chittister; two of the best storytellers I know.

Let me tell you a classic Thanksgiving story created by the brilliant Garrison Keillor, which takes place on the outskirts of Lake Wobegon, where “All the women are smart. The men are good looking. And the children are above average.”

“It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.” Keillor’s old home town. “There was a holiday this last week and the return of the exiles. The exiles who come back to their home. Children who’d grown up and moved away and had families, and learned how to complicate their lives in all sorts of new and interesting ways. They come back every year to a little town so much the same it’s hard to look at it and not believe you’re still twelve years old and that’s just how some of the returning children behaved too, when they came back.

A lot of them drive up from the cities with their families and they make a last stop at the Cross Roads Lounge, about ten miles down the road, as they come up over the rise and down into town, the last drags are taken on a lot of last cigarettes, and the first of a lot of breath mints are popped into their mouths and the last warnings are issued to their children, the grandchildren, in the back seat, not to talk about you know what, in front of grandpa and grandma, and remember that at grandpa and grandma’s house before we eat grandpa bows his head and we’re all supposed to be quiet that’s called asking the blessing or saying grace and grandpa is talking to God. So you remember to be quiet then and close your eyes and don’t say a word.

One of the Olsen boys was giving this speech to his children coming into town on Wednesday. He explained all of the rules and was surprised to hear a little voice pipe up from the backseat. And his daughter said, “Who is God daddy?”

He said, “Jesus Christ! What am I gonna do now?” “Two blocks from home! It’s a little late to get this kid shined up for the parents so she looks Lutheran you know.”
Continue reading

Reckless Generosity – a Sermon for Thanksgiving

Gratitude Generosity

When I was a kid, the adults in my life were very fond of telling me how grateful I ought to be because things were so much harder back when they were kids. I’m sure most of us can remember being told by our elders just how tough times were when they were back in the day. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and just about every adult I knew must have grown up poor. Why if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say,  “When I was a kid we were so poor that…..” well I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

Today, when I hear the words, “We were so poor that…”  I brace myself for an outrageous claim like…. We were so poor that we couldn’t afford Kraft Dinner. Kraft Dinner, you were lucky, we were so poor that we couldn’t afford dinner,  all we had was a cup of cold tea without milk or sugar. Cup of Tea, we were so poor that we only had filthy cracked teacups. Filthy cracked teacups, that’s nothing we were so poor that we couldn’t afford teacups, we used to have to drink our tea out of a rolled up newspaper.  That’s nothing we were so poor that all we could we couldn’t afford newspapers so we had to suck our tea from a damp cloth.

Someone always chimes in with, “Well we might have been poor, but you know we were happy in those days. That’s right money can’t buy happiness. We used to live in a tiny house, with holes in the roof.  “House?  You were the lucky ones we were so poor that we had to live in one room, all 126 of us, with no furniture.  Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling!  Ha!  You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor! Ohhh we were so poor we used to dream of living in a corridor! A corridor would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We were woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!!!   Rubbish tip, you were lucky, we were so poor that we lived in a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarp, but it was a palace to us…especially after we were evicted from our hole in the ground and we had to go live in a lake. Lake, you were lucky to have a lake, there were a 160 of us living in a small cardboard box in the middle of the road. Cardboard, we were so poor we lived for three months in a brown paper back in a septic tank.  We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down in the mines for 14 hours a day, week in week out.  We had to get up out of that cardboard box at three o’clock in the morning and lick the road clean with our tongues.    In case you didn’t recognize it, that was my interpretation of a classic Monty Python sketch, simply called the “We were so poor sketch”. (watch the video below) Continue reading

THANKSGIVING: Not One, Not Two

I AM the bread of lifeA sermon on Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and John 6:25-35 inspired by Garrison Keillor and Joan Chittister; two of the best storytellers I know.

Listen to the sermon:

Reckless Generosity – a Sermon for Thanksgiving

Gratitude Generosity

When I was a kid, the adults in my life were very fond of telling me how grateful I ought to be because things were so much harder back when they were kids. I’m sure most of us can remember being told by our elders just how tough times were when they were back in the day. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and just about every adult I knew must have grown up poor. Why if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say,  “When I was a kid we were so poor that…..” well I’d have a whole lot of nickels.

Today, when I hear the words, “We were so poor that…”  I brace myself for an outrageous claim like…. We were so poor that we couldn’t afford Kraft Dinner. Kraft Dinner, you were lucky, we were so poor that we couldn’t afford dinner,  all we had was a cup of cold tea without milk or sugar. Cup of Tea, we were so poor that we only had filthy cracked teacups. Filthy cracked teacups, that’s nothing we were so poor that we couldn’t afford teacups, we used to have to drink our tea out of a rolled up newspaper.  That’s nothing we were so poor that all we could we couldn’t afford newspapers so we had to suck our tea from a damp cloth.

Someone always chimes in with, “Well we might have been poor, but you know we were happy in those days. That’s right money can’t buy happiness. We used to live in a tiny house, with holes in the roof.  “House?  You were the lucky ones we were so poor that we had to live in one room, all 126 of us, with no furniture.  Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of falling!  Ha!  You were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in a corridor! Ohhh we were so poor we used to dream of living in a corridor! A corridor would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We were woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!!!   Rubbish tip, you were lucky, we were so poor that we lived in a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarp, but it was a palace to us…especially after we were evicted from our hole in the ground and we had to go live in a lake. Lake, you were lucky to have a lake, there were a 160 of us living in a small cardboard box in the middle of the road. Cardboard, we were so poor we lived for three months in a brown paper back in a septic tank.  We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down in the mines for 14 hours a day, week in week out.  We had to get up out of that cardboard box at three o’clock in the morning and lick the road clean with our tongues.    In case you didn’t recognize it, that was my interpretation of a classic Monty Python sketch, simply called the “We were so poor sketch”. (watch the video below) Continue reading