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Margaret Mayman [AI Text]

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When I returned to New Zealand from the United States in 1995 I wrote my first sermon in Christchurch at a dining room table because I hadn't yet got a desk. The sermon was also written at a dining table because I've no longer got a desk. Both sermons were written in the early morning. Some things never change, no matter how much I wish they might be different. My Sunday reflections, it appears, [00:00:30] are always going to be fresh. I've been thinking about the sermon for a while, though ending a ministry of nearly 12 years. Surely it should be quite profound. No pressure then. Well, it's not particularly profound. It's really quite simple. I am thankful for all that has been for being part of this faith community and the city community for the gifts of living with [00:01:00] and among you. And I am thinking about living. Thankfully, a dining table is a good place to ground a sermon because it is at the heart of our everyday life, where we meet family and friends, where we offer hospitality, engage in conversation and where we practise gratitude and giving thanks for what nourishes us in body mind and spirit because we have lived [00:01:30] for the last 12 years in a beautiful place in the bush on a hillside in Kari. This particular dining table is also a place where I can see the splendour of nature, the openness of the sky, at least when Kari is not shrouded in fog and the human community of New Zealand's largest suburb. A dining table invites us to pause and pay attention to give thanks and see the small community of family and friends [00:02:00] connected to the world where there is beauty and there is also suffering. We are called to keep connected to the holy source of life and to one another, but not in a simplistic way that denies conflict and injustice. But refusing to connect to join with others at table refusing to converse is to deny the Holy beloved calling that has gripped us today. I do not want to focus, [00:02:30] as I often do on the work that we are called to do in the world, the work of peace and justice. You know that today I want to talk about paying attention to our lives and responding with gratitude. The story from Luke's gospel about the Samaritan leper returning to thank Jesus when he found himself healed offers a reminder that gratitude is not just a matter of remembering to be polite and say thank you or write thank you notes, as our mothers taught us. Neither is the healing, [00:03:00] particularly the point of the story, though it does remind us that the suffering of those with skin disease in the ancient world was more about being excluded from community and temple than about the disease itself. The story connects thankfulness with praising God. The leper returns and gives thanks to Jesus by giving glory to God. He understands to use joy. Cowley's word. The meaning of his life is gift. [00:03:30] The words of thanks are important, but more so is the turning back, taking the time to connect, reflecting on the meaning of the moment. The return trip for this man was more than a few steps. Otherwise there would be no compelling reason why the other nine would not have come back, too. Going back to Jesus definitely involves a detour, a change of our plans, And when he meets Jesus again, his actions indicate [00:04:00] his joyful heart, a sense of gratitude is an important wellspring of generous and well for a generous and well lived life. We can all recognise that we are indebted to our parents, who gave us birth and raised us a considerable sacrifice. But our indebtedness extends much further than that. Fundamentally, we are indebted to the creativity of God, source of life and the powers of nature that nourish and [00:04:30] sustain our life. So since the food that we eat travels from the soil to our dining table by passing through many hands that cultivate harvest transport, sell and prepare it, we should recognise that we rely on the labours of many people in order to survive a sense of gratitude to others acknowledges our interdependent existence. It is an antidote to the dominant myth of independence [00:05:00] and self-sufficiency. It is about respecting the humanity and those who check our groceries and bring our coffee, seeing their full humanity reflecting on the meaning of their lives, saying thanks and also working as hard as we possibly can to ensure that our society pays a living wage to its lowest paid workers. The reading from the letter to the Colossians is also a dining table letter The passage we heard [00:05:30] ends with the words and be thankful the author may have been poor. Probably wasn't. Doesn't really matter is writing to a community with a few issues conflict and disagreement about theology. But our passage today is a reflection of the nature of community and the relationship between spirit and our lives. The writer calls the community to compassion, kindness, humility, patience, love and thankfulness. [00:06:00] The letter is not written as a guide to etiquette. It's not just about what we should do. It's about the values, stories and meanings we choose to envelop our lives. We are called to put on a story like a garment to clothe ourselves with love, peace and thankfulness. And living like this is acting like the Samaritan leper, giving glory to the holy. That doesn't mean directing our lives and our worship to an out [00:06:30] there intervening deity. It means living attentive to our own reality, intimately connected with the source of all that is and honouring that in every other person. Thankfulness is a spiritual practise that grows this awareness in us. It is a practise that builds up and sustains a community, practises lead to habits they build muscle memory and moment by moment, step by step, [00:07:00] our words and deeds become consonant with our values and our beliefs. You've got to do it. You've got to live it. There is a fabulous old Jewish story about thankfulness that reminds us that it is about a perspective on our lives, about how we see and understand the situation in which we find ourselves. There is a man who goes to the rabbi and complains. Life is unbearable. There are nine of us, my wife and seven Children living [00:07:30] in one room. What can I do? The rabbi answers. Take your goat into the room with you. The man is incredulous, but the rabbi insists, Do as I say and come back in one week. A week later, the man comes back looking more distraught than before. We cannot stand it, he tells the rabbi. The goat is filthy. Then the then the rabbi tells him, Go home and let the goat out and come back [00:08:00] in a week. A radiant man returns to the rabbi, explaining, Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it. Now that there's no goat, only the nine of us. The situation was exactly the same as the first, but now his perception has changed. He saw, saw and understood the blessing that was already there. Now I don't want the story to be a rationale for justifying overcrowding and suffering. [00:08:30] Of course, there is injustice in the world, in our communities and our own lives. And of course, we should work for change. But if we only focus on what needs to change, we may miss the blessings that are already present. We may forget to turn back and experience the rich moments of joy that come with thankfulness. And I wonder in adding to the story if this attitude of mind moved the man from complaint to transformation and he got his complaining kids [00:09:00] together and built an extra room, thankfulness is not just about good manners. It is about an orientation in life that enables us to appreciate what is good and to engage compassionately, to change what is not yet good. By reframing the events of our lives in positive ways and including a glimmer of gratitude, we increase our sense of coherence with the world. Such such glimmers can lighten our pain and energise [00:09:30] our lives for love and compassion in the Samaritan and his act of Thanksgiving. We see Jesus once again, teaching an alternative way, subverting the teaching that seemed to suggest that God required strict adherence to rules and codes. God is close at hand in your neighbour in an act of compassion, a touch of healing. The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you take [00:10:00] notice, saying thanks demands attention to the moment. It demands our recognition that the present moment is precious, not to be missed. The recognition of the present moment is the beginning of abundance. Abundance means not counting. How much is enough with food or time or money, but just beginning to see what is and being able to say thank you. It means not rushing off to the next thing, as the nine did, [00:10:30] but stopping to take note of the reality of the present moment. So the saying of thanks grounds us in the present, not determined by the past or focused on an unknown future. We are simply invited to be still to let go of our stored up regrets about yesterday and our empt up fears about tomorrow. The practise of thankfulness is an alternative [00:11:00] way to live in the world. So I mark this last reflection, this dining table moment with my thanks for all that is and has been in the faith community for the faith that we share following the Jesus way for all the connections that we have known with people of other faiths and the wider community of Wellington, I am thankful for all that we have done [00:11:30] together for all that you have given me and taught me for the sharing of your beautiful, shimmering Selves. I cannot begin to thank you. And yet all I can do is thank you and bless you. Amen.

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AI Text:September 2023