Sermon, Thanksgiving Sunday, April 23, 2017, Vintage Festival
Luke 17:11-19 (Pastor Adrian Kitson)
The gifts and the Giver
I am thankful for what we see and sense all around us in this building this morning! All of this art, colour, expression and creativity is a divinely inspired witness to the goodness of the God of amazing grace. It has been handcrafted with deep thankfulness to the Lord of life. It tells our story – the story of all Christians. It is entitled, “Amazing Grace”.
Amazing grace from the Garden of Eden to the birth of the Saviour, to his Palm Sunday entrance and his last meal with his friends.
Amazing grace from that Friday of the cross and the Sunday or the new dawn, the ascension to ruling the world in grace and the coming of the Spirit’s power to establish the church.
Amazing grace in the words of Jesus that say his door is open to any sinner who wishes to return and see and believe. We as a local church are captured and compelled by God’s amazing grace.
And not just us here, but others out in our Valley. Amazing grace singing on the St Petri Float and giving gifts to many in the Parade. Amazing grace providing a family place of fun and rest on the main street in and near The Cottage Bookshop, and of course, “feeding the 5000” at the Barossa Comes Home event yesterday at Centennial Park.
I notice this week that we are not alone in being thankful for life in the Barossa. For the past 70 years and this weekend, in ninety events over five days, people have handcrafted moments that express thankfulness; for the vines, the cheese, the herbs, the wood, the stonework, the bread, the skills, the grapes, the wheat people seem very thankful. That is certainly better that being ungrateful!
But as we hear of this moment when ten dying people are given new life by Jesus, we hear that only one returns and give heartfelt thanks to Jesus for his new life. So there different kinds of thankfulness.
It is one thing to be thankful for good things we have, and another thing altogether to recognize the giver of the good things we have and thank him.
It is one thing to have a general kind of appreciation of what is good in life and another to truly see that all life and wellbeing is dependent on the good grace of a Giver of all good gifts.
This general kind of thankfulness, is not compete in itself. In fact, St Paul suggests in Romans 2 that this general thankfulness is actually a lack of seeing the Giver of the good gifts behind the good gifts.
It is a symptom of a human disease that is as incurable as leprosy was for these ten men in their day. Paul says that people with this good but limited general thankfulness have in fact;
“25 ….exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 2:25)
So, a mere general thankfulness of what is tasty and beautiful and good is still blind to the Giver of the taste and the beauty and the good.
Paul calls this an “unhealthy exchange” by which we give our hearts to the food and the vines, and the place and the human skills over giving our heart to the One who gives the taste and the beauty and the many gifts.
With only a general thankfulness we cannot see the Giver of the gifts and trust him with our lives and reap the rich harvest of forgiveness and true life and joy only he can provide us.
With a merely general thankfulness many things continue to take life away from us; Evil, greed, poverty, lack of wisdom and understanding, envy, malice, lies and trouble between parents and kids, lack of faithfulness in relationships, a lovelessness without mercy for each other; even at times, arrogant boasting in the self, and the replacing of God for everything that is not God but other lifeless, breathless, characterless dead gods made of stone and wood (Romans 2:29-31)
So, in Jesus’ story, what is the difference between the nine and the one?
All ten dying, alienated, shamed and dying people called out in desperation to Jesus. “Lord, Master, have mercy on us!” They were all on the fringes of this Vintage Festival state. They weren’t living. Their incurable disease ensured that they were only just existing.
They were scratching out an existence under the surface of the life the glossy tourism brochures and celebration events depict. They were thankful to get a few scraps from the long tables lunches, the mountains of leftover food in the rubbish bins, the empty drink containers they collected when everyone when home so they could cash them in a make a few shekels.
They were all seen by Doctor Jesus and told to go to the experts so they could be re-patriated into society once declared well again, clean before God, and fit for duty.
All ten received the good gifts and were given a very good life – a new life – return to community, to work, to wellness, to family to status, to God’s acceptance and love, and yet settled for a general thankfulness.
Nine did not return and see beyond their gifts to the Giver of the gift.
But only one came back to cry out some other words – words of thanks at Jesus’ feet in deep, deep gratitude for that he had been given.
Only one could truly return or repent to Jesus and be overwhelmed in a flood of thanks and good words about the giver of the gift and not just the gift.
Is that you today? Is that me? Is this our community?
What helped this one out of nine truly see? Jesus drops the hint. This man of deep thankfulness to the Good Giver was an outsider; a foreigner. The person who was least expected to see, saw, and those who should have seen better did not.
Friends, oh that many more people would see the Giver and not just the gifts!
Who will help them see? Maybe us? We are becoming outsiders. In fact in this shifting culture we are more on the outer of the general stream and maybe that is where we need to be.
Many believe nothing good can come from us Christians. But plenty of good can come through us from the Giver of all good gifts. Us “outsiders” are not expected to deliver what people long for, but by God’s amazing grace, we are also the people through whom God gives his good gifts which are way more important to life than even a Vintage Festival of food music and wine!
How will they truly see the Giver?
“Sow generously”, says Paul (2 Corinthians 9:6).
“Whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures for ever.’[a]
We “foreigners, strangers and travelers” who are completely dependent on the kindness of Jesus are called to sow the gospel generously here.
We are in prime position. We are outsiders who live between western capitalism and the economy of God’s righteousness and grace.
Here’s something to crow about on thanksgiving Sunday – it is a promise as we keep sowing generously;
“ 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them…”.
We have freely scattered Amazing Grace this weekend.
In Jesus we endure with a heart of thankfulness and praise because he is the real joy-giver, he is God’s amazing grace.