One of the greatest Thanksgiving traditions that so many in our culture participate in is this: giving to and serving those in need. Statistics show that, during Thanksgiving, food pantries are filled to overflowing, abundant baskets are prepared and delivered, community dinners are cooked and served, and through it all the lonely, the elderly, the poor, the addicted, the infirm, are loved and cared for with a grateful and generous giving that far surpasses the giving of any other season of the year.
For this brief time, we, as a culture, seem to remember more pointedly that the blessings we have been given aren’t simply for us to enjoy, but also for us to share with those who are in need. Indeed, we may remember at this time of year, a time in our own lives when we were in need.
Health, faith, opportunity, prosperity, loved-ones, and good times aren’t guaranteed in life. In fact, in the course of a lifetime all of us will experience significant loss and want in some areas of our lives. We do well to be reminded that we arrive in this world with nothing and we leave this world with nothing… everything we have (or will have) is a gift or opportunity granted by God who made all things.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeats the same awesome proclamation ‘I AM’ seven times to remind his followers of who he is and this dependence we have on God for all things:
I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life
I AM the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved
I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep
I AM the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die
I AM the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing
I AM the way, and the truth, and the life.
And, appropriate for this Thanksgiving time of year as we anticipate an abundant meal with family and friends:
I AM the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35)
We have all come to God, at some point, broken, hurting, desperate, in need physically, emotionally, relationally, and/or spiritually. When we do, whenever we do, and however often we do… Jesus is there… the bread of life who satisfies our hunger, our thirst, and our need.
Throughout November we have been dedicating ourselves at St. Andrew UMC to deeper discipleship. Deeper discipleship is to faithfully, wisely, and generously commit our time, talent, and treasure to the God who has given us everything. We’ve reflected on serving in the life of the church, reaching out into the community, giving resources with generosity that matches our gratitude, but let’s not forget the stewardship of our own personal faith formation. It is through daily and regular commitments to prayer, Scripture study, worship, expressions of Christian love, acts of kindness, acts of justice, and spiritual disciplines (like fasting etc.) that our daily lives take on the character of Jesus.
If we don’t get personal faith formation right… we won’t get anything else right because it is through our growing, maturing personal relationship with God in Christ that we come to fully know how in need and dependent upon God we are. Knowing THAT we are naturally moved to gratitude, generosity, service, and mission. This life of faith isn’t just a blessing given to us to enjoy, but also for us to share with those who are in need.
We do this together and together with God through the ongoing ministries and mission of St. Andrew.