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Grateful | A Sermon on Generosity and Thanksgiving from Luke 17:11-19 and Deuteronomy 26:1-11

This sermon is our last stop on the twelve-week series A Deep Life. The key texts are Luke 17:11-19 and Deuteronomy 26:1-11. It was presented on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and explores both generosity and thanksgiving. When we take the time to reflect on God’s activity in our lives and the world, it bubbles up in an attitude of gratitude.

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This is the final sermon in our twelve-week series on A Deep Life.

Let’s take a moment to review where we have been.

In Case you missed any of these sermons, you can always review them here, or download the app. Here’s the podcast that led up to this week.

let’s land this plane…

Let’s be honest. Most of the time we think of God like this (image borrowed from Kevin Frank)…

God is more than a cosmic vending machine…or should be, anyway.

Let’s look at two scripture texts to explore being grateful.

The first is Luke 17:11-19.

Let’s do a little word nerd on giving thanks.

Jesus used this word at the Last Supper. He took the bread and the wine and eucharisteo. Communion is a thanksgiving dinner.

The second text is Deuteronomy 26:1-11.

This is what we do each week during worship.

The challenge today is to reflect on your own story.

This quote from Parker Palmer provides a helpful meditation to conclude (found in Richard Rohr’s Meditation).

      I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about the fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green.

Today, as I weather the late autumn of my own life, I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to the ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the hardest of times.

Looking back, I see how the job I lost pushed me to find work that was mine to do, how the “Road Closed” sign turned me toward terrain that I’m glad I traveled, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to find new sources of meaning. In each of these experiences, it felt as though something was dying, and so it was. Yet deep down, amid all the falling, the seeds of new life were always being silently and lavishly sown. . . .

Perhaps death possesses a grace that we who fear dying, who find it ugly and even obscene, cannot see. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself—as devastating as we know it can be—contains the hope of a certain beauty?

The closest I’ve ever come to answering that question begins with these words from Thomas Merton, . . . “There is in all visible things . . . a hidden wholeness.” [1]

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other—they cohabit and cocreate in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out. . . .

When I give myself over to organic reality—to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising—the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so. Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

Parker Palmer

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