Let us pray. Gracious God, “Thou hast given so much to me, Give one thing more, – a grateful heart; Not thankful when it pleaseth me, As if Thy blessings had spare days, But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.” Amen. (George Herbert)
One of my favorite outings as a kid was going to any restaurant that had the big Lazy Susan in the middle of the table. As soon as you saw it you knew there was going to be lots of food, everyone was going to have to share, and there would be plenty of choices. Now, I’ve always been one of those people who suffers from entrée envy. It is a terrible affliction. No matter what I order, no matter how well I plan it out ahead of time, when the food comes I invariably feel that all the other orders look better than mine. So whenever we went to restaurants with a Lazy Susan I would get very excited because I knew I would literally get to eat everything everyone else ordered.
You know how it works, the food arrives, it is placed all around the Lazy Susan, and then the spinning begins. Depending on how hungry folks are the spinning can be quite civilized or a little out of control. Sometimes there is the methodical 360-degree clockwise rotation with everyone being quite polite and patient. But sometimes it gets exciting with folks flicking Susan back and forth – quarter turns, left then right, and the occasional 180-degree speed turn when a very hungry person tries to quickly get something at the opposite side of the wheel. When that happens it is inevitable that something light like a roll shoots off into someone’s lap like a satellite “sling-shoting” its way around the moon. And there is always that person who no matter what variety sits in front of them always spins it back to what they ordered. They are polite about sharing but what they really want is just to eat their meal. No matter what spins up in front of them they always serve themselves the same thing.
I think the Lazy Susan can be a great metaphor for how we look at life. Too often many of us think of our day like we are ordering off the menu rather than spinning the Lazy Susan. We wake up in the morning and think about what life is serving us for the day rather than realizing that every day is full of choices. How often have you slapped the snooze button on your alarm clock and thought to yourself as you rolled over – I have so much work to do today, I have to go the dentist today, it’s my turn to do the laundry, all the bills are due today, etc., etc. We focus almost immediately on the thing or the things that we dread most, the tasks we are least looking forward to, the difficulties that await us during our day, like life has served them up and we have no choice but to eat what lies in front of us. When in reality every morning we have such a smorgasbord of choices about how we are going to go through our day. Certainly everyday presents it challenges, its difficulties, its duties that we would rather not face. But everyday also serves us its blessings, its opportunities. Sometimes we just have to spin the Lazy Susan and pick something else to focus on. I am reminded of the preacher who exhorted his congregation by saying –
Be Thankful for: The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that you’re alive. The mess to clean after a party because it means you have been surrounded by friends. The taxes you pay because it probably means that you’re employed. The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means you have enough to eat. A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means you have a home. All the complaining you hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech. Your huge heating bill because it means you are warm. The piles of laundry and ironing because it means you have clothes to wear.
In our lessons for today, Moses reminds the people of Israel not to forget the Lord who brought them out of slavery in Egypt and led them into a land of milk and honey. Jesus wonders why after healing ten lepers only one of them returns to give thanks. In both cases Moses and Jesus are talking about gratitude – the need to always be grateful for the blessings of this life; the need to always remember where those blessings come from. It is wonderful that we set aside a national holiday to give thanks. But the Bible teaches us that living in gratitude is fundamental to the fulfilled spiritual life. Being grateful isn’t something we do on occasion; in the Judeo-Christian tradition being grateful is the only correct way to understand life. Sure life serves us up some lousy meals, but life is rarely a single entrée sort of affair, rather there are always some sweet treats on our Lazy Susan mixed in with all that is hard to swallow. For you and me its all about the spinning, it’s all about what we choose to serve ourselves.
In my former parish there was a young man I used to visit quite often. He suffered from terrible cerebral palsy and lived in a local group home. He spoke only with great difficulty, his arms and legs were knotted and twisted, his hands were clumsy and barely functioned, but he lived each day as what it was – a joyful gift. At first I found it hard to visit him. His mangled body was difficult to look at. His slurred speech was almost impossible to understand and all conversation took a lot of effort. But as I got to know him I found myself drawn to him, drawn to spend time with him. Because in spite of his struggles everyday, struggles just to accomplish the simplest of tasks, tasks I took for granted, his attitude was always one of gratitude and joy. He was always smiling, always wanting to share something good and positive about his life, always looking forward to what comes next. His Lazy Susan was literally overflowing with heaping servings of heartache and struggle, but day after day he served himself generous portions of hope and gratitude. To many he was just a tragic, crippled-up guy; to me he was a spiritual giant.
This Thanksgiving between mouthfuls of turkey and sweet potato fluff remember the bounty not only of this day but also of your life. Remember all the blessings God has given you – the opportunities, the love, the beauty that surrounds you. Sure life is tough, it’s full of challenges and struggle and pain. But those are not the only things being served. We are all blessed beyond measure just to be here and the sooner we recognize it, claim it and live in gratitude for it, the sooner we will find life’s deepest meaning.
In closing, I leave you with the amazing words of Mr. e e cummings:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)