Movie – "The Tree of Life"
Yuletide Revels with Bells & Motley, Trinity, Bethlehem, December 3rd

A kind-of Thanksgiving column

Savin’ up for the things money can’t buy
Bill Lewellis
The Morning Call, Nov. 19, 2011

In The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides writes of two 1982 Brown University graduates backpacking through Europe. They part when Mitchell, on a religion quest, goes to India to serve at a guest house for the dying.

Working for a week within his comfort zone, Mitchell is challenged by an older man to color outside his lines.

The older man removes a dying man’s bandages, revealing putrid sores. Pouring water on the man, he says, “This is the body of Christ.” Not finding God there, Mitchell leaves Calcutta with a different prayer on his lips: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”

I am thankful for God’s mercy on me, a sinner.

Doris died last week. A longtime editor with a difficult ministry in the onetime reactionary Diocese of San Joaquin, she wrote this to a colleague a week earlier.

“I have rather suddenly become filled with cancer of just about everything. This week is my last week of lucidity, then it's off to la-la land and eventually to heaven.

“You know how much Episcopal Communicators [a national organization] has meant to me all these years, and I am going to count on you to pass on the information and all of my thanks for everything everyone has done for me. Don [spouse] will let you know when I am gone. Doris.”

I am thankful for those who teach me to die with gratitude and trust in my heart.

Margaret, a onetime colleague, shared a nightly practice suggested in the book, Simple Abundance. “Every night, before going to bed,” she said, “I jot down five things about that day for which I am thankful.” Later, she told me how this practice changed her perspective on so many things, how it gave every day greater validity.

I’m thankful for all the blessings of this life.

"For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea, we thank you, Lord. For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends ... For minds to thik, and hearts to love, and hands to serve ... For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity ... For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty and justice ... we thank you, Lord." {From A Litany of Thanksgiving in The Book of Common Prayer)

I once sat at the coffee counter of a local Dunkin’ Donuts. A glass-shattering crash spun me around. I touched the hood of a car that had burst through the plate glass window. No one was hurt, not even the elderly driver who had accidentally hit the accelerator rather than the brake. Later that day, my eyes widened as I pulled a handful of glass pebbles from my jacket pocket.
I’m reminded to be thankful when I drive by a Dunkin’ Donuts, to be thankful for accidents where no one is hurt.

Onetime UPI religion editor Lou Cassels was syndicated in 400 newspapers. He died in 1974. A fellow journalist, perhaps at Lou’s funeral, said he wrote three columns and one sermon every month. I looked forward to reading all four.

I thank God for Lou Cassels.

Sermons may be found at times today in films and on TV; also in songs by Bono and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

Try on this refrain from a Springsteen song: You’d better start savin’ up for the things that money can’t buy.

I am thankful for sermons that catch me by surprise.

[Canon Bill Lewellis, blewellis@diobeth.org, a retired Episcopal priest, served on the Bishop’s staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem for 24 years and on the Bishop’s staff of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown for 13 years before that. He has written hundreds of columns for newspapers and collaborated with Jenifer Gamber on the 2009 book, Your Faith Your Life: An Invitation to the Episcopal Church.]

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