Here we are at Thanksgiving Sunday, a day to give thanks for all that we have and
all that we are. And aren’t we blessed!
There is just so much to be thankful for. I was thinking about that this week. In a
world in which there are lots of hungry people, most of us have enough to eat. In a world
where people are homeless, we have places to live. In a world where many lack proper
medicine, we have affordable health care. In a world where many people of faith are
persecuted, we can worship freely and without fear of reprisals. We have so much to be
thankful for that if we all went around this room and each of us named something for
which we are thankful and then did it again and again and again until we ran out of
things, we’d be here all day. Not many people in the world can say that as easily as we
Having said that, some of the things that we’re most thankful for come with their
downsides. I know that there are more than a few animal lovers here today. I’m one of
them. I happen to love my dog. She’s an eight-year old German Shepherd and we do lots
of things together. I walk her five or six kilometers every day. I feed her and brush her.
She goes to the post office with me where the postal workers actually have a supply of
dog biscuits just for her. Sometimes I take her in the car when we do errands. In the
evening when I’m relaxing in front of the TV or reading, she’s usually on the couch
beside me. I love it when she puts her head on my lap and I stroke her soft ears. It’s a bit
of peace in a sometimes hectic world.
But she’s not perfect either and she comes with definite drawbacks. We don’t have
a fenced in yard so I have to take her out twice a day regardless of the weather – and
sometimes the weather is not pleasant. Do you have any idea how much fur comes out of
that girl? I brush her almost every day but every day more and more dog hair seems to
accumulate in the corner of the living room and kitchen. Sometimes it balls up under the
couch in the family room. It’s become part of the decor of our home but I can’t say that I
actually like it. But it’s part of having a dog. And I can either let it annoy me or I can
thank God for it. What it’s come down to is this; I would have a lot less happiness in my
life if I didn’t have to sweep up the dog hair and so I’m thankful for the dog hair too. For,
as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV), “… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is
God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Give thanks for everything including dog hair. We
truly do have so much to be thankful for.
One of the challenges we face, however, is that we don’t always appreciate what
God has given us. I suspect that all of us know people who always want more. No matter
what they have, it is never enough. If they have a car, they want a better one or another
one. If they have a house, they want a bigger one. The clothes they wear aren’t stylish
enough and the food they eat isn’t tasty enough. You know what I mean. Often even their
relationships aren’t good enough.
I think Jesus has something to say to these people. I think Jesus would say, “Be
thankful for what you have because it is my Father’s gift to you.”
We see that in the Gospel reading from Mark that I want to share with you now.
Mark 10:2-4 (NIV) says this:
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to
divorce his wife?”
“What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send
Here we have a group of Pharisees – who were people who although theologically
very close to Jesus but still opposed him – trying to trap him with a question about
divorce. Rather than playing their game – which it is – Jesus turns it around by asking
them another question. What does the law of Moses say about divorce? And they give the
right answer. The law says that man can give his wife a certificate of divorce and send
her away. That might be the right answer but it’s not an easy one for us to understand
because it was written with 2,000 year old customs in mind so let me give you some
context. Back in those days, divorce was possible. It was also quite easily done. All a
man had to do was give his wife a certificate saying that he was done with her and that
she was free to go find someone else to marry. That was it. Women couldn’t do that to
their husbands but men certainly could do it to their wives and sometimes did. Remember
that this was a very patriarchal society.
But why would the men do this? It could be for a serious violation of the marriage
such as his wife being unfaithful. But it could also be for much more trivial things. A
wife could be given a certificate of divorce and sent away because she was not a good
housekeeper or because her husband deemed her to be an unfit mother or simply because
she burned the bread she was supposed to make for supper. I’m not kidding. “I asked for
bread not toast so off you go. Don’t forget your certificate.”
The bottom line is this. A man could divorce his wife for almost any reason. It
could be a real issue or it could be a complete fabrication. It really didn’t matter. The man
held all the cards and if he was unsatisfied with his wife, he just put her out and got
another one. That’s the reality that Jesus is facing.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees answer is quite interesting. We find it in Mark
It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus
replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his
wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one
flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Why does Jesus say that people get divorce? It is because people’s hearts are hard.
What does that mean? It could mean a lot of things but I think that in this situation it
means that people fail to appreciate what they have.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to dump on anyone who’s been divorced.
Not all marriages work out. As some of you know, I was once divorced. Ruth is my
second wife in chronological terms but she’ll always be first one in my heart. I’m not
passing judgment on anyone who has gone through that pain because I really do know
what it’s like. I’m just telling you what Jesus said because I think he’s on to something.
It doesn’t matter to me that there is often dog hair on the floor of my house. I still
love my dog and I’m so thankful for her. And if I can do that with my dog, how much
more important it is to do that for my wife, the life partner whom God has given to me to
bless my life. Ruth makes the best home made bread but it doesn’t always turn out quite
as it should. There are actually times when she burns it. But that doesn’t mean that I’m in
the market for a new wife because I’m very thankful for the one I have. In fact, I posted a
meme on Facebook a while ago that rather sums it up. It said, “I’m not perfect but I have
a freaking awesome wife.” It seems that everyone who saw that agreed with me as well
and they should because it’s true. I do have an awesome wife and I’m okay with dog hair
I guess what I’m saying is that God calls us to appreciate what we have and to be
thankful for it. God also calls us to understand that nothing in this life is perfect. Dogs
aren’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Relationships aren’t perfect and life isn’t perfect.
Dog shed hair and sometimes wives burn the bread. But so what? God calls us to look
past the imperfections to see the awesome parts of everything God has given us.
The way we do that is to get past the hardness that we often have in our hearts. It is
because of the hardness that we don’t appreciate what we have. It is because of that
hardness that we always want something more or something better or newer or bigger or
shinier. And as long as you approach life with that hardness in your heart, you will never
be satisfied with what you have.
I’m not saying that you should not want to get ahead in life. There is nothing
wrong with having a good job or a nice house or beautiful family. But you still need to be
thankful for what you have right now and appreciate all that God has given you right
now. That’s because you never know what tomorrow will bring. You don’t know what
the future holds and what you have right now may be as good as it gets. And if this is as
good as it gets, then you have to appreciate it and be thankful.
And here’s the other thing I want to say about this. If you want to change the
hardness in your heart, you can’t do it on your own. You will need help. The good news
is that that help is available through the Holy Spirit. Jesus talks about that in John 14:26
(NIV) where he says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in
my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
The job of the Holy Spirit is to remind us of what Jesus said and to help us to follow
But the Spirit can’t do that if our hearts are hard. And so part of what the Holy
Spirit does is soften our hearts so that we can be the people whom God called and created
us to be. We can’t do that on our own. That’s why we need to open ourselves up to the
Holy Spirit. And when we do, the Spirit works on us to remake us into new creations
from the inside out. The Spirit starts deep within us and transforms our hard hearts into
hearts of love and appreciation for all that we have and all that we are as children of the
living God. God opens our eyes to the abundant blessings that all of us have and need to
appreciate on a daily basis.
So, how’s your heart? Look within. Is your heart hard? If you’re not sure, ask
yourself if you really appreciate all that you have. If you are truly appreciative, that’s a
good sign. But if you don’t, if you always want something more or something newer or
something bigger or better or shinier, then maybe that’s a sign that you need to let the
Holy Spirit in to soften your hard heart.
Jesus talked about the law of Moses and asked the Pharisees what it said. They
were right in their response. The law of Moses did indeed say that a man could divorce
his wife. But then Jesus put it into context. The story ends with Mark 10:10-12 (NIV)
When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He
answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman
commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries
another man, she commits adultery.”
Ouch. That hits close to home for a lot of us. Does this say that those who are
divorced can never marry again without committing the sin of adultery? No, it doesn’t.
This is one of those places where Jesus speaks in superlatives. That is, it pushes the
envelope of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in order to make a point. No one is
expecting that divorce means that people can never marry again. What it’s saying is that
the expectations of Jesus are greater than the expectations of the law of Moses. The law
of Moses allowed divorce because people’s hearts were hard. But those who know Christ
should live by a higher standard. That’s because the very act of asking Jesus to sit on the
throne of our hearts means that our hearts are already softened. Because our hearts are
softer Jesus expects us act in a way that is consistent with those softened hearts.
And so Jesus pushes it to the extreme. In the law of Moses, all the man had to do
was write a certificate of divorce to his wife and show her the door. But Jesus says that
that’s not how his followers are supposed to act. Those who know Jesus have an extra
obligation to take their marriage vows seriously. Remember what he said: “For this
reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will
become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has
joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus takes that seriously.
What he is saying in no uncertain terms is that divorce is not what God intends. It
might be allowed but it is not part of God’s plan. And since it is not part of God’s plan it
is a sin. By extension, when a divorced person gets remarried there is sin place up on the
sin. But thanks be to God that through faith in Jesus and by repentance our sins are
washed away and we are made new creations.
And this is where the softened hearts come in again. The hard hearted person reads
what Jesus says and, taking it out of context, condemns a divorced person to unwanted
singleness for the rest of their lives. These are the actions of a hard heart. But a person
whose heart has been softened by Jesus understands that people still make mistakes and
people are not perfect and sometimes divorce, like any other sin, happens. But, by the
grace of God, the sinner is released from their sin and enabled to live the full abundant
life that Jesus offers to all people.
Jesus’ standard may be higher than the standard given by the law of Moses but it
still allows for sin and it still provides for that sin to be washed away.
So, what about your heart? Is it hard or is soft? Does it look for condemnation or
does it embrace life in all it’s fullness?
God wants to soften your heart. Open yourself to that possibility and let him
transform your life from the inside out.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, come to us now. In the midst of our lives, make your presence known.
Too often we crowd you out in favour of less worthy gains. But you, O God, offer us
more than we could ever expect to receive from any other source on earth or in heaven.
Your glory fills the skies. Your beauty touches the earth. Your grace rolls over the
oceans, seas and lakes of Creation. Thank you for your wonders and your awesome
Thank you for Jesus, in whom we have our salvation. He alone has reconciled us to
you. Thank you that in dying on the cross, he paid the price of our sinfulness; that in
rising to new life, he gave to us the gift of eternal life; and by ascending to Heaven, has
prepared a place for all in your heavenly realm.
We give thanks for the beauty of creation but are also humbled by its power. We
pray for the people of the east coast as they continue to clean up in the wake of hurricanes
Fiona and Ian. We pray for healing, wholeness and cooperation to bring back some
semblance of normalcy.
All of us need to feel your healing touch. Sometimes our wounds are obvious.
Sometimes they are less noticeable. Touch us, O God, in those deep places that only you
can know. Mend our brokenness. Bring peace to our suffering. Bless us with healing. We
also pause to pray for any others in the silence of our hearts especially for Mark, Carol,
Ron, Rachel, Hazel and Dawn as they seek your Healing Spirit.
Heavenly Father, hear our prayers and, in your loving way, answer our honest and
heartfelt petitions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
October 2, 2022 / Thanksgiving
Psalm 137; Lamentations 1:1-6; Luke 17:5-10; 2 Timothy 1:1-14
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come, O God, from a world of your making,
to gather as followers of Jesus.
We come from many places to many tables,
to seek our unity in the Spirit.
We come to the table as sisters and brother,
to celebrate our common faith in Christ.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come before you, O God, unable to fully understand the sufferings of the people of the world. It is
sometimes difficult to be with those near to us, let alone those all around the world. Yet on this
Worldwide Communion Sunday, we would stand side by side, heart to heart, arm in arm, with all of our
sisters and brothers of Creation. We stand recognizing that you are the Lord of all Life, the God of us
all. We are in awe of you and the healing work you call us to do. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Compassion, we confess that it is often easy to give up. We become discouraged. Sometimes, we
just plain forget. Forgive us, O God, for our lack of diligence. Forgive us our tardiness, our blinded eyes
and our deaf ears. Forgive our limp hands and our silent tongues. Forgive us and light a fire so deep
within our hearts that we may burn with the same love and passion as your Son, Jesus. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God loves. God forgives. God renews. Be assured that by seeking God’s promised forgiveness, we can
find new life, new hope, and new vigour to be faithful followers of Jesus.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Our needs, O God, are no greater than your ability to provide. We bring our gifts with gratitude for your
infinite love and caring. With courage, we share them with others through the work of your Church.
The bread has been broken. The cup has been poured. God’s love has been shared among us. Let us go
and share it with all those whom we meet along life’s way, guided by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.