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The Church Within
Thanksgiving Service of 2005

Offered by

Minister Judy Girard     [visit]

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2005 Thanksgiving Service of the Church Within
Weekly On-Line Services Since September 29th 1996

Today's Service is offered by: Minister Judy Girard

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Welcome by: Pastor Daniel
Greetings my Beloved Sisters and Brothers, and welcome once again to the Church that is Within.

Many of you might be expecting a “Story of the Week” today (being Thursday and all), but it is also Thanksgiving day and so we will forego the regular S.O.W. Seeds Service in deference to our annual Thanksgiving Service. BUT WAIT!!! READ ON… Those of you who expected a Story will not be disappointed! …because our Esteemed Minister Judy has included in today's Service that she shares here with us, her exceptional version of a Classic Story that in my opinion, speaks to the Heart of Thanksgiving's significance.

In keeping with a Thanksgiving Tradition that started Thanksgiving 1999 (the 1st Anniversary of her Ordination as a Minister of the Church Within), today's 2005 Thanksgiving Service is presented by our beloved Minister Judy Girard. Happy Anniversary Dearest Sister Judy!

(From: Matthew 6:25-33, RSV)

Jesus said, "I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

(Bette Midler – “From A Distance” Lyrics)
From a distance, the world looks blue and green
and the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
and the eagle takes to flight.
From a distance there is harmony
and it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
it's the voice of every man.
From a distance, we all have enough
And no one is in need.
There are no guns, no bombs, no diseases,
No hungry mouths to feed.
From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance.
From a distance, you look like my friend
Even though we are at war.
From a distance I cannot comprehend
What all the fighting is for.
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land.
It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves.
It's the heart of every man.
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance.

The Sermon
Have you heard of the book series called "Chicken Soup for the Soul?" I find it's a little sentimental for my taste, but basically it's a book by Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen, a collection of heartwarming stories that came out about 12 years ago. And now it's branched out, and there's "Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul... for the Jewish soul, for the Teenage Soul, for the Preteen Soul, for the Mother's soul, for the Sister's soul, for the Teacher's soul, for the Lawyer's soul (which assumes that lawyers HAVE souls ;-), for the Golfer's soul, even for the NASCAR soul." I'm not making up any of these titles. And it's spawned a whole cottage industry in mugs and calendars and little inspirational plaques, and so on. lists some 707 items under "Chicken Soup for the Soul. I guess the theory is that, since chicken soup is good for what ails you, if your soul is ailing, then what it needs is a little chicken soup. I'm not so sure about that.

I think when our souls are ailing, one of the things we need is a blessing. What we need is to realize, to KNOW how blessed we are. I don't think soup's enough. But let's talk a little about soup.

I want to tell a story. I'm guessing, actually, that most of you have already heard this story before. Maybe a few of you haven't. In either case, maybe you'll enjoy it. It's the story of Stone Soup. There are many versions of it around. My version goes like this:

        Once upon a time there was a stranger who was on a journey. Late one afternoon, he was tired and hungry, when he saw a small village ahead. "I'll get something to eat there and find a place for the night," he thought.

        As he walked past the first houses the village folks stopped their activities to stare. He waved to people, but nobody waved back. Finally, he approached a woman standing in front of a small house. "Good evening," he said cheerfully. "Could you spare a bit of food for a hungry man?"
        The woman began shaking her head almost before he'd finished his sentence. "We've had a poor harvest here. We're worried there's barely enough for our family. I'm sorry." And she walked into her house and shut the door.

        The man continued to the next house where a farmer was working on his wagon. "Do you have a place at your table for a hungry traveler?" he asked.
        "No. We've had a drought," the farmer said. "We need what little food we have for our children."

        And at every home the stranger heard the same sad story: "There's not a bite to eat in the whole province. Better keep moving on." "Poor people," he thought. "Pretty soon, they'll be as hungry as I am."

        Then he had an idea. So he said to the people, "That's OK. I'll just make some stone soup to share with all of you." "Stone soup?" an old man repeated. "I've never heard of stone soup." "Oh, it's the best," said the stranger. "The wonder of stone soup is that it not only feeds hungry people, it also brings people together. Now who's got a big empty kettle?"

        So somebody rounded up a huge iron pot, and delivered it to the stranger in a wheel barrow. "Well.... it's barely big enough, but I guess it'll do," the stranger said. "Now we need to fill it with water and start a fire." And people scurried around to get water and wood.
        When the water was boiling, with great ceremony, the stranger drew an ordinary-looking stone from his pack and dropped it into the kettle. By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had gathered around. As the stranger sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.

        "Stone soup needs a little salt and pepper," the stranger announced, and two children ran to find salt and pepper. After the water had boiled for few minutes the stranger sipped the brew. "Mmmmm.... this stone makes an excellent soup, but it would be better if we had a few carrots." "We have a few carrots we're willing to share," a farmer replied. Immediately his daughter ran home and returned with an apron full of carrots. "Ahh," the stranger said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup with carrots in it. Too bad the harvest was so bad, because stone soup with carrots AND cabbage -- that's hard to beat." And pretty soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage she'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Wonderful!" cried the stranger. "You know, the last time I made stone soup was at the castle of a rich man. He added a few potatoes and a bit of chicken. THAT was nice." Several people whispered amongst themselves: "A bit of chicken and we can eat like rich people," they said. And pretty soon, someone showed up with not only chicken, but potatoes and onions and barley too. By the time the soup was ready it was almost dark. It was the most delicious soup that they'd ever smelled and to think, it all came from the magic stone. The stranger finally declared that it was done and invited everyone to have as much as they could eat.

        After everyone had eaten their full, some folks brought out fiddles, and everyone began to sing and dance - and they carried on 'till the wee hours of the morning. Never had the village people had such a wonderful party.

        The next morning the whole village gathered to say goodbye to the stranger. As he started to walk away, a small child called out, "You forgot to take your magic stone!" The stranger smiled. "I'll just leave that with you as gift of gratitude for your hospitality," he said. "Remember, as long as you make stone soup, you will never have to worry about being hungry.... or lonely."

This weekend we celebrate the goodness of our God in providing to us the bounty of earth, sea, and sky - the goodness of God who grants to us both seedtime and harvest, the goodness of God who shares with us divine love and calls us to share. We are indeed blessed.

I've got a few factoids for you. . I thought they were useful for getting a little perspective. They're about some of the blessings we've received, and it goes like this: If you own just one Bible, - and how many of us have several? - you are abundantly blessed. One third of the world does not have access to even one.... If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, maybe with some aches and pains, maybe even sick, but getting better, or even sick, but with access to health care... basically with more health than illness, then you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive the week.... If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people around the world... If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed that almost three billion people in the world... If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world... If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy... If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not... If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God's healing touch… If you prayed yesterday and today, you are in the minority because you believe in God's willingness to hear and answer prayer... Are we blessed? Yes.

The story of Stone Soup is a story about sharing and caring when blessings seem mighty scarce. The stone brings people closer together, and feeds those who are hungry. And one of the things that story shows us is that TOGETHER, we have enough.

It reminds me of a song I love, "From a Distance." From a distance, we all have enough.... when we think we are not blessed, we need to regain a little perspective here... perspective is defined in art as the view from a distance...... when we step back and look at the world, look at our lives, from a distance, with a little perspective, we realize that there is enough.... And it reminds us that everyone, no matter how poor they may seem, has some gift or contribution they can make for the betterment of all. A gift for which we should give thanks. A gift which we, who may be rich as the world counts riches, should not slight or ignore - no matter how small that gift may seem to us. We are blessed. Some have more - some less - but each one of us has something we can share - some way in which we can offer God's healing touch - some way in which we can come together and add to the pot that feeds all who hunger for food and drink and for warmth and love. 'Cause it's not just about giving thanks; it's also about sharing.

We're fond of the scripture passage that says "judge not, lest ye be judged." But that same passage goes on to say "Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." It will be given to us, according to our own measure.

Recently at the church I attend, we have been collecting food for our food pantry and for some families at a local elementary school. This past week alone about 12 full bags of groceries were shared with our brothers and sisters in need. Most were single parents. Yesterday we sent 10 boxes of food to be shared with families at the school. That may not seem like very much, but we are a small church, averaging about 60 people in attendance regularly. The gifts given were a blessing to other people; they were blessed in body and soul. So we have our own version of stone soup happening - without the pot or the stone - and that's good.

But Thanksgiving isn't simply about sharing, whether it is from our abundance or from our relative poverty. Rather, Thanksgiving with its two components - - the giving of Thanks - and the sharing or giving of a portion of the blessings we have - be those blessings little or be they much, is about trust and about faith. - the trust that God will provide all we need day by day - and the faith to live as God has directed us to live no matter what our circumstances may be. The scripture today reminded us "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?" or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles run after all these things, and your heavenly Parent knows that you need them. But seek first the dominion of God, and God's righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Thanks be to God who indeed has given us all that we need - blessings not just of food and drink, warmth and shelter, but blessings as well of love and acceptance and justice, forgiveness and hope, prayer and praise, love and joy. Now, the stones spoken about are not magic stones. They have no super soup powers. But you know what? The stone in the story wasn't really magic, either. You know that. It just brought out the best in the people around it. So take this stone, maybe make a little soup with it, and be reminded of what we've been given, what we can share.

The Prayer
Take my lips O Lord, and speak through them; take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire. Let us see how the stones we have can be shared. AMEN



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