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The Church Within
Thanksgiving Service of 2009

Offered by

Minister Judy Girard     [visit]

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2009 Thanksgiving Service of the Church Within 11-26-2009
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Weekly On-Line Services Since September 29, 1996

Today's Service is offered by: Minister Judy Girard

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

As is our Thanksgiving Tradition, Today's Thanksgiving Service is presented by our Minister Judy Girard. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY Judy!!!

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Quotes
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Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~ W.T. Purkiser

Today be thankful for what you have to give, not just what you have received.

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The Sermon
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Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. I think that's because it appears singularly difficult to commercialize gratitude. So we have a day set aside to glory in gratefulness, and as a friend of mine said in an email not long ago, when we cultivate a sense of gratitude “we learn something profound about God.”

When I look at the state of the world and allow myself to be reminded of the statistics which I have known but conveniently forgotten, I then can think a little further about Thanksgiving gratitude.

A brief reminder: The richest 20% of the world accounts for 86% of all private consumption, while the world's poorest 20% accounts for 1.3% of all consumption. About half the world, 3 billion people, live in what the UN calls “food deficit countries.” About the same number of people do not have safe, reliable water—half the world. This same group of 3 billion people live on $2 a day or less, and a full 1.2 billion people live on only $1 a day. In the United States, a maternal death occurs about every 3,500 pregnancies; in India the figure is one in 37, and in Africa it is one in 16. With the population expected to grow to over 9 billion by the year 2050 (the high estimate is 11 billion, the low estimate is 8 billion), and with the fastest growth occurring in the neediest places, these realities will get worse rather than better unless we make concerted efforts to change them.

The disconnect between my own little world and the vast majority of the rest of the world is jarring, to say the least. It occurs to me that among the winners, the powerful and the well off, there is a sort of gratitude that is almost narcissistic, self-congratulatory and self-referential. The publican expressed gratitude to God in Luke 18:11, “God, I thank you that I am not like all the others.” He was thinking in moral categories, but it is easy to extrapolate to socioeconomic categories: “God, I thank you that I am not like half the world—poor, despised and forgotten.” I find it fascinating that Luke's text says that this person was “praying about himself
(18:11).” Is my own gratitude merely a psychological subterfuge for self-satisfaction about my good fortune, a prayer about myself?

True gratitude is not centered on the self. I find that far too often I link God's “blessings” with my personal welfare—in which case gratitude risks morphing into narcissism. Paul's gratitude was not linked to his personal fortune, good or bad: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation
(Philippians 4:11–13). True gratitude is oriented to the Creator, not toward my self-centered sense of entitlement.

When the Apostle Paul traveled to Jerusalem to gain the imprimatur of the Apostles, he writes something telling about his experience. They did not question his theology or doubt his calling to minister to the Gentiles. No, he says, “all they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do
(Galatians 2:10). As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, may God move us to genuine gratitude, a spirit that moves us beyond our own myopic self-centeredness to embrace all the world, most of which lives in circumstances more degrading than we can even imagine.

At no time in history has the gulf between the rich and the poor been so great, and the humiliating knowledge of that disparity so powerfully experienced by the poor due to the media and the like. These economic disparities are not a simple matter of a zero sum game. Nor does worried hand-wringing or a sense of false guilt help anything. Today it is easier than ever to do something, however simple, through the numerous organizations that provide opportunities to make an impact. Some of my favorites include World Vision, World Relief, Habitat for Humanity, the International Justice Mission, and the Village Enterprise Fund that provides small loans for micro-enterprise around the two-thirds world. Look around a little if you do not have a favorite organization and consider selecting one in which to participate.

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The Prayer
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Creator God, Help us to see beyond ourselves and to measure our wealth not by what we have, but by what we share.

Praise God from Whom ALL Blessings flow,

Judy Girard
Minister
The Church Within

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You ALL are Within the Infinitely Loving Embrace of our Universal Parent,

The Creator's Infinite Love to all of You,
Pastor Daniel

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