Many of us have had, either one or both doses of a vaccine that we hope and pray will lessen the continued impact of Covid-19 on our lives. Those of you who have not yet – soon will.
And its clear that the vaccine has made all the difference, and though the virus will continue to evolve the vaccine works. Those who developed, manufactured, delivered and administered it deserve our thanks.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that charities like Christian Aid identified this moment in which we want to give thanks and donate money to support those less fortunate then ourselves.
But if we feel the need to give thanks for the vaccine at the moment just imagine the response of the poor woman described in our gospel this morning who has ‘endured much under many physicians’.
Just imagine her desire and need to give thanks for the miracle she received from Jesus just by touching ‘his cloak.’
Then there’s Jairus whose daughter who is at ‘the point of death’. He pleads with Jesus to come and though he arrives too late to everyone’s ‘amazement’…‘she got up.’
What would Jairus have wanted to do in response to Jesus giving him his daughter back? Surely from that moment on he would’ve been for ever thankful and spent his life telling others of the miracle that happened that day.
But Jesus says ‘tell no one’. He does so because he knew that his teaching could so easily be distorted by these acts of love, for faith in him is more than miracles. It was and is about transformation of life, a way of living and loving that changes everything.
If people were and are to have an enduring relationship with him then it must be built on the sometimes wobbly foundation of faith. A faith that doesn’t demand miracles, proof and certainty yet something we know to be true.
And it is by faith that we believe the Jesus who walked amongst his followers, who healed the sick and raised the dead is at work amongst us and even present with us now.
Indeed, each of our lives and our presence here this morning is a testament to this faith. And if I think of my own story I am deeply thankful for how faith has enriched my life beyond measure. That despite my many failures and wrong turns God’s grace has overcome them all.
I give thanks daily that Jesus has been and continues to be alive and with me. And that presence of Jesus in my life has been revealed, in part at least through the life of the church. A church which for all its flaws continues to be a means of grace where Jesus is known.
And here I want to turn to St. Paul writing to those Christians in Corinth. In this eighth chapter, underpinning all that he writes is his understanding that the church was a community in and through which Jesus is known.
Paul had of course been amongst them once. He planted the mustard seed of the church there and it grew. We don’t know how long he was there but one day he left to continue his work of sowing that mustard seed elsewhere.
Some time on he writes to them asking for help for the church in Jerusalem to test ‘the genuineness of’ their ‘love.’
That genuineness would be expressed thought Paul in their thanksgiving for the new life they knew in and through Jesus at work amongst them. And how from that thanksgiving flows generosity to help the church elsewhere. To look beyond their own need to the need of others.
And though the word is never mentioned he is of course talking about money, not quite as we understand currency, but you get the idea.
It’s the unnamed backdrop to the reading as he tries to prize open their wallets by reminding them that ‘Christ…though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.’
He is challenging them to see how deep the roots of their faith in Jesus go – the genuineness of their love, their thanksgiving for their life of faith with Jesus at the centre.
And that takes us back to my beginning and the sense of deep thanksgiving we feel when something directly impacts our life like a vaccine. We need to say thank you but then what? And that is Paul’s challenge to us; is thanksgiving something for special moments or is it a part of our daily life?
The Christian church has over the generations taught us that thanksgiving is a way of living, part of our discipleship. And so it’s no surprise that it’s part of our liturgy, our service too. The word ‘thanks or thanksgiving’ occurs several times in this Eucharist – a word which at its root itself means – thanksgiving.
So, ‘It is right’ as we have so often said ‘right to give thanks and praise’.
It is right to give thanks in small ways, when we say, or write a note, or send a text to say thank you.
It is right to give thanks when we awake to a new day.
It is right to give thanks when we consider all that we have and often take for granted.
It is right to give thanks for the love we know.
It is right to go back to Paul as we consider how generous we are with our money – particularly when we think of how we support the church.
It puzzles and saddens me still that though I am thankful for all your support over the years and though there have been particular challenges before us recently we have never in my incumbency managed to pay in full our parish share to the diocese.
For as I look around this parish, and though I know there are various demands on us financially at different stages of life we have so much here to be thankful for and yet that thanksgiving is not fully recognised in what we give.
My hope is still that one day we shall through our giving be able to pay for two priests through this share. One priest is your vicar and one is a priest to serve those communities that could never afford one, for everywhere priests are needed to proclaim, as Paul puts it ‘the glory of Christ’.
It was the German mystic Meister Eckhart who hundreds of years ago said ‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you. It will be enough.’
So, for vaccines, for each other, for this precious life, for the life of the church ‘but above all’ to turn to the prayer of General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer we give thanks ‘for God’s immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.’ Amen.