By Pastor Linda Dolby
Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:7-8, 11-18
While wandering in the desert, suffering continually reminded the people of God, and the danger was that when they grew prosperous in the Promised Land they would forget him. Beginning in v. 10 with “When you eat, and are satisfied, you are to bless. God for what he has given you.” V.11: Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God. Then in v. 12 it says: “Lest when you have eaten ...” and in v. 14: “that your heart become haughty...” The people are to remember, in times of plenty, that it is God who brought them out of slavery, led them, and fed them, to test them and ultimately to give them prosperity. It is not by their own “power and ... might” (v. 17) that they will become wealthy, but rather it is God who gives them this power – in accordance with the agreements he made with Abraham, Isaac and Noah.
The same is true for you and me. In times when we are wandering in the desert times of need or suffering we know our dependence on God. But, when are feeling prosperous and self-satisfied, we think of ourselves as self-made men and women. We sing “I did it my way,” thinking that all that we are and all that we have is by our own right and might. We forget that it is God who gives all good things, and we are who we are only because we belong to God and we are God’s own. God gives the bounty.
And the proper response is not like that of little Jack Horner who put in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said “what a good boy am I,” but rather that when we enjoy our plums – our riches and blessings - we say, “what a great God we serve. Thank you Lord.”
That’s why this sermon is titled “Thanks for Noticing.” When we notice, we thank the Lord our God. Alice Walker wrote a book called The Color Purple. In it, the main character says (and I am quoting, so please forgive the language):
"But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and cried and I run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it…I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple somewhere and don’t notice it."
In other words, she is saying that it angers God when we don’t notice all the good God has done and is doing for us. And how can we be thankful when we don’t notice?
That’s what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. It says, in part:
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... 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 hath 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, 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.
That’s what Thanksgiving is about, to notice, to remember, to give thanks. In this week of Thanksgiving, I'd like to suggest that "Thank you" is the feeling we have when we notice. When we really see the world and our place in it. When we remember the wonderful people who helped us get to where we are, folks whom we can never really pay back. When we open our eyes to wonders surrounding us. When we remember and give thanks to our great God.
Pay attention. Don't forget. Do you remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? His famous line is "Thanks for noticing me." Don't you think that that is what God is saying at times to us? "Thanks for noticing me." And when we notice, we say "thanks."
The biblical word for notice is behold. Do you know that the word behold appears 1,326 times from Genesis to Revelation? Let me read my top 6.
Gen 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good.
Psa 121:4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Luk 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy , which shall be to all people.
Mat 12:18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.
Jhn 19:26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Behold. Pay attention. Observe. Take notice.
One day a young and successful businessman was traveling down a neighborhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no child appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag's side door! He slammed on the brakes and backed the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That's a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost a lot of money. Why did you do it?"
The young boy was apologetic "Please, mister ... please, I'm sorry but I didn't know what else to do," He pleaded. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop..." With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car.
"It's my brother," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me."
Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat He hurriedly lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out a linen handkerchief and dabbed at the fresh scrapes and cuts. A quick look told him everything was going to be okay.
"Thank you and may God bless you," the grateful child told the stranger. Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable, but the driver never bothered torepair the dented side door. He kept the dent there to remind him of this message: Don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention!
That’s the moral of the story - don't go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention. Slow down, you're moving too fast. Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss the important. We don’t notice and so e may fail to say hello, please, thank you, or to congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, to give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.
Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast says "To be awake, aware and alert are the beginning, middle and end of gratitude." Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses the same: "Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries." Earth's crammed with heaven. Have you noticed?
This year my friends, as we prepare our hearts and minds and tummies for Thanksgiving, I invite you to pay attention on paying attention, to have an attitude of gratitude by noticing, considering the works of God surrounding us. One of the best parts of living in Indiana is that it is fairly easy to be in nature. It's wonderful - watching the crops grow, seeing the lilies in the fields and the perennials by the roadside. I've enjoyed the beauty of the earth, the color of SPthe leaves the blueness of the sky. Have you noticed? Are you paying attention to the glory of God that surrounds us?
It is impossible to say thank you for something that we are not aware of. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." When we live in this knowledge, we know that all that we are and all that we have is a gift - a blessing freely bestowed by our loving Creator. Scientist Loren Eiseley suggests we approach each day with astonishment. He warns that, "The world is a miracle we've grown accustomed to." Pay attention. Miracles abound. Don't wait for a brick to hit you. Take notice. Say thank you. And happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Amen.
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