You’re Welcome 11/20/11

November 20, 2011                          You’re Welcome

Did you ever reprimand your kid (or someone close to you) for not saying “Thank you”? Often it goes like this. You’re busy doing some important work; he’s in another room watching TV and he asks you to get him his homework notebook that’s just across the room from him. You decide that because it’s his homework notebook, you’ll ignore the fact that it would be a lot easier for him to get it, and you go and give it to him – and he grunts.

You say, “Hey, you’re welcome!” And then, he may (or may not) say “Thank you.”

That can be kind of aggravating. But it may be one of the only times we actually say “You’re welcome” anymore.  Somebody says ‘thank you,’ and we say, ‘OK’ or ‘no problem,’ or ‘sure,’ or perhaps most commonly, ‘Thank you!’   I do it, and I noticed it particularly on the radio when someone is thanked for being on a show.  They almost always say, ‘Thank you!’  It’s as though we have trouble accepting the fact that we have given someone something, that we have been helpful to someone.  We always want to be gracious and thank the other person. ‘Thank you!’ ‘Thank you!’ ‘Thank you!’ ‘No, thank you!’

On Halloween this year, I sat outside and gave little bits of candy to about a thousand kids. I noticed the parents were very anxious for their children to do the right thing – to say “Trick or treat,” and then to say “Thank you.” Over and over. The kid’s saying, “Whatever you say, Mom, just give me the loot and let’s get on to the next house.

When I was growing up, I distinctly remember a friend of mine coming back from a church work project in her city. She declared that the people they helped were totally ungrateful for the work the church did.  They didn’t even say, “Thank you.”  She was ready to give up all service work because somebody hadn’t shown her enough gratitude.

Saying “Thank you” is a wonderful, even an important thing. But it’s not the most important thing in the world. Our passage from Matthew this morning portrays a final day of judgment, an imagined time when Jesus comes back in glory and some people gain approval and others are weeded out because of the way they treated other people. Jesus in the passage is not worried about whether we are polite or not. Jesus judges people not by whether they say “thank you.”

In fact, whether people find approval or disapproval from Jesus in this scenario, they are often surprised when Jesus identifies them. I always imagine self-righteous religious people and dishevelled, seemingly undeserving people alike saying in bafflement,  ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison?’

And Jesus says “Whenever you fed, clothed or visited me, or whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was naked, hungry, thirsty or in prison, that was me – you did it or you failed to do it to me.”  This commitment to the poor, this commitment to the hungry is at the core of what it means to be people of faith.  The real mark of being followers of Jesus, Tony Campolo  says, is simple: ‘Has your heart been broken by the things that break the heart of Jesus?  Do tears come to your eyes for the same reason that tears come to the eyes of Jesus?’

On this healthy135th anniversary of our church, we dare not give ourselves credit for our longevity. Lots of institutions last a long time. What I hope we can claim more than longevity is that over the years, this church has not just been a place where people came to learn to say “please” and “thank you,” but a place where people came to become Easter people, people who have come back to life, people whose hearts come alive with compassion for the sick, for the depressed, for the jobless, for the lonely, people in prison, for the disturbed and the outcast.

We give thanks this week not for what sets us apart from the poor and homeless, not for the walls of the church that keep people out. We give thanks for the Interfaith Housing Network that makes the walls of the church a little more permeable, a little less imposing.  Yes, we give thanks for the windows in this church.  But even more we give thanks for the Mary Jane Enrichment Center and for our connection with God’s people and our ability to help each other out. Sometimes folks we help don’t say thank you, but we are so thankful to be able to give that we hardly notice. We give thanks for what we can do for each other and what has been done for us.  We give thanks for 135 years of encouragement to live out God’s calling.

This week when we emphasize giving thanks more than any other time of the year, I enjoy imagining God responding over and over and over again.

Thank you, God for this food. And God says, “No problem.”

Thank you God for this church” And God says, “Thank you.

Thank you for the gracious love of the Living God in Christ. Thank you for this day of this good life.

And God says,  “You’re welcome… You’re welcome.  You are welcome.”


2008 Let All Things Now Living