Last Sunday I was invited to preach at one of the senior homes in town. “Expect 8-10 people,” I was told, “Most of them won’t really follow what you are saying.” I accepted the invitation, and sat down to write my sermon. Thanksgiving was the theme, based on the story of the ten lepers healed, with only one returning to say thank you. My main question posed was, “How often do we forget to give thanks for the good things in our lives amidst isolation, pain, and grief, and how much grace and how many glimmers of God do we let pass us by unnoticed?”
I arrived at the home, and checked in at the reception desk. Chaos ensued for the next few minutes, as no one knew where the person who was supposed to greet me was, or the musician, and they wandered around looking for her. Then she appeared around the corner, pushing a wheelchair of someone who had wanted to join the service. Others were brought in, or walked in themselves, and soon a dozen or so of us were gathered and the musician came and sat at the piano. I figured I was just supposed to start, so stood up and we began the service.
We sang, prayed, heard scripture, and then I stood to preach. Most people were following what I said, a few others used the time for a quick nap. And when the service was finished, some people were wheeled out and others left. Most spoke briefly to me, thanking me for the service, and some asked where my accent was from. A couple of people thanked me for a new view on a Thanksgiving theme, and one just said, “I’m lost too, like you.”
As I reflected on our time together I was most touched by the singing. People were struggling to sing the familiar hymns, and some would just hum the tune, or stumble over the words. But when we sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness, people picked up on the chorus. Each time the refrain came, loud, sure, strong voices sang out,
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided--
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
These women and men knew the words at such a deep level that they could sing with conviction and certainty. Morning by morning new mercies I see! And that was what I had been asking them to pay attention to in my sermon. New mercies in the form of a smile, a hand reaching out to help, a meal placed in front of us, a glimmer of sunshine on the white bark of a birch tree, the sun trying to break through a wintery sky. Morning by morning, day by day, evening by evening God’s faithfulness abounds!
As many of us gather around tables tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving, will you look for new (and old) mercies? Will you seek to have a heart of thanksgiving? Will you remember the ways God has been faithful to you?
I will be one of the ones working tomorrow, and for that I will be thankful! And I will hope to offer a smile, a friendly gesture, an extra helping hand, a heart of gratitude to all I meet. May others remember God’s faithfulness in this.