Blessings: recipe for life

given on Sunday November 23, 2008
Only a few times each year, do we gather for the traditional family feast.  Why, just say the word “Thanksgiving” and the smells flood the memory—turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, coffee, not to mention homemade bread.  At least those smells are ones that come into my mind when I think “Thanksgiving.”
My brother and I go round and round about whether or not there are certain foods that are simply for special occasions or certain times of year.  He thinks chili can be eaten on a hot, humid summer day just as much as on a cold, wet, snowy winter day.  I disagree because I like chili on cold, nasty days.  I know that there are certain menus for certain holidays, but not my brother. Why I can tell you the menu depending on which family is hosting the event!
I am sure you wondered why there is a recipe on the bulletin.  Well, it is Thanksgiving and we know how important food is.  Food is one of the basic staples in our life.  Bloom’s taxonomy is familiar to teachers, but others may not be familiar with it—Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchy of human needs.  The first level is the need to meet the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.  Educators know students cannot learn until the basic needs are met.  No learning can take place if a student is missing any one of these three basic needs.
The recipe on the bulletin may be a real treat, but look at the list of ingredients.  Each ingredient is chosen to represent a blessing:
∑ Bugles: Shaped like a cornucopia or Horn of Plenty, a symbol of our nation’s abundance.

∑ Pretzels: Arms folded in prayer, a freedom sought by those who founded our country.

∑ Candy corn: Sacrifices of the Pilgrims’ first winter. Food was so scarce that settlers survived on just a few kernels of corn a day.

∑ Nuts or seeds: Promise of a future harvest, one we will reap only if seeds are planted and tended with diligence.

∑ Dried fruits: Harvest gifts of our bountiful land.

∑ M&Ms: Memories of those who came before us to guide us to a blessed future.

∑ Hershey’s Kiss: The love of family and friends that sweetens our lives.

(Source of the recipe:  swdkylamaestas.blogspot.com/2007/10/thanksgiv…)

In the last few weeks, we have talked about a wide range of social issues.  We have talked about seeing this world through God’s eyes.  We have joined together in communion.  We have shared stories, concerns, and joys.  We have shared hugs, laughter and tears.  Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize our blessings.  These ingredients listed on the bulletin definitely cover many of our blessings as Americans, but blessings are certainly one of the ingredients in our recipe for the Christian life.
Each time we share our offerings on Sunday, we are able to do so because God has made it possible for us to have more than we need.  Sometimes it is very difficult to write the check or to drop in that cash into the collection plate because of the uncertainty of our financial security.  Right now our country is reeling with news of layoffs, of businesses closing, of foreclosures, of bailouts, and more.  The news makes it difficult to feel blessed.
This week we all stop for a little while and remember that we have much for which to be thankful.  The list in the recipe reminds us that our country does have an abundance compared to so many others around this world.  We do have freedom of which religion is one.  We are reminded, too, of the sacrifices not only of the Pilgrims’, but of the military men and women, the elected officials, the taxpayers, and the average workers who stand up for what is right and serving to meet the needs of others.
Still, the list of blessings seems endless.  We are blessed to live in a land that feeds not only our people but is able to feed others all the way around the world.  Despite pockets of hardship and poverty within the nation’s boundaries, we have the natural resources and the land to harvest grains and raise livestock. The blessing of harvest lets us feed our own neighbors right here in the community.  The blessing of abundance allows us to reach far beyond our coastlines to help feed the starving in Africa, in Asia, in Central America and even more.
The final two ingredients cannot be overlooked.  As the month began, we remembered family members and friends who we lost this year, but at Thanksgiving we stop to thank God for all the generations who did come before us and to recognize the blessing these people were in our lives.  We also know that the family and friends who are with us right now, whether sitting beside you or sitting down at a table many miles away, are indeed blessings to us.  The love we share among ourselves is only a small measure of God’s love for all of us.  God’s love is a blessing that we must not overlook in this recipe for a Christian life.
John Wesley and Charles Wesley wrote literally thousands of poems and hymns.  They worked closely together in ministry, but they each wrote a separate piece about blessings.  John’s Hymn XVII is the basis for our doxology we sing each Sunday.  The first stanza reads:
Jesus, from whom all blessings grow,
Great builder of they church below,
If now thy Spirit moves my breast,
Hear, and fulfill thine own request!
We are beginning a week in which we consciously count our blessings and give thanks for them.  Sometimes one of the most important blessings is overlooked:  God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  John Wesley certainly did not forget that God is the source of our blessings.  Have we forgotten that?
Now Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” reads a bit differently in that first stanza:
Christ, from whom all blessings flow,
perfecting the saints below,
hear us, who thy nature share,
who thy mystic body are.
The two titles both talk about blessings all come from Jesus, but the differences are there.
But that is only the beginning of the two hymns.  I have included the hymns as an extra flyer so that each of you may read what the two brothers did with the same idea of blessings.  We are blessed, too, simply that these two men loved God so much that they devoted their lives to sharing God’s word, to writing poems and hymns, to doing all that they could…yes, there is that Wesleyan motto once again…
“Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.”
One of the reflections I find myself doing at this time of year is to wonder if I have done all the good that I could.  I wonder if I have used all the time that I could.  I wonder if I have given all that I could.  Another words, have I kept John Wesley’s motto or do I need to do an upgrade on my Christian behaviors?  Thank goodness God has blessed me, because I know that in my human state I can always improve.  Charles’s version of his hymn seems appropriate for this self reflection because the blessings from Christ help to perfect us here on this earth: “… perfecting the saints below, hear us, who they nature share…”   Now John’s blessings from Jesus seem to call us to action to build the church—another words, spread the message “… that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)
Whether you select Charles’s version or John’s version, we must agree that God does bless us.  We are blessed in so many ways that sometimes we just take things for granted.  Thanksgiving Day is a legal holiday for we Americans to stop, review, and give thanks for our blessings.  The scripture from I Corinthians 12:4-11 provides a different list of gifts, too, which we might not consider as God’s blessings, but this list is critical in that it provides for us, if used properly, to reap our earthly blessings:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestations of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues,  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

These verses connect to both of the Wesley’s hymns.  For Charles, the gifts given to us are shared by the same nature—Christ.  For John, the gifts are given to us by the Spirit and it is our responsibility to fulfill God’s requests using those gifts.  Listen to the John’s words in the seventh and eighth stanzas:
This only thing do I require:
Thou knowest ‘tis all my heart’s desire
Freely what I receive to give,
They servant of they church to live:

After my lowly Lord to go,
And wait upon thy saints below;
Enjoy the grace to angels given,
And serve the royal heirs of heaven.

John acknowledges that God has granted us blessings but it is up to us to use them at God’s request.  John goes on to say that all he wants is “to enjoy the grace…and to serve the royal heirs of heaven.”
Are we giving thanks to God for our blessings or are we asking for more?  The recipe for a Christian life tells us that we are to thank God for our blessings, but we are to serve others using those blessings.  In the recipe for Thanksgiving blessings, we are reminded just how much we have as Americans—and I am sure that other countries have their own list of blessings—but the recipe for a Christian life seems best stated by John and Charles Wesley because Jesus Christ is “from whom all blessings grow and flow.”
Thursday when you are sitting down to the table overflowing with food, remember to pray.  Let that prayer be the old Wesleyan grace …Be present at our table, Lord, …or Praise God from whom all blessings flow…or a prayer from your own heart.  Take the time to review your blessings, share your blessings, and resolve to use the blessings to follow John Wesley by doing all that you can for all that you can in all the ways that you can for as long as you can.  This is the recipe for a Christian life.
Dear God, Giver of Blessings,
Thank you for allowing us to live in this community that is so full of abundance.  Thank you for granting us each individual gifts so we can meet our basic needs.  Thank you for giving us the skills and the resources to serve as your servants.  Thank you for the opportunities to share our abundance with the people around this earth as we try to meet the needs of all that we can in all the ways that we can for as long as we can.

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