Reflection: October 7 – Thanksgiving

Published on Oct 9th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         There is a revolution going on in the world today.  Powers-that-be need to beware!  Leaders need to be afraid.  Citizens need to be alert!

         It is a revolution of gratitude and kindness.  And it’s us!

         We heard from one of the leaders of this revolution of gratitude and kindness earlier in the person of David Steindl-Rast and his video, “A New Day.”  There are many leaders of this new revolution, which really is an old revolution with new energy and a new heart.  With every generation, it seems, we need to do CPR on the heart of gratitude and kindness, love and compassion and be reminded of what is important in life.

         I came across the phrase “Islands of Compassion” (as I remembered it) earlier last week and it sparked my imagination.  The idea presented was that in this day and age of getting ahead and mean-spirited competitiveness, we—churches, faith-based and people first organizations—are called to create “Islands of Compassion” in our communities and societies.

         When I Googled “Islands of Compassion” all I came across were references to a Jewish hospital of that name, well and good.  But this obviously wasn’t what I heard.  I knew it was “Islands of something” so I stuck a few words in Google Search and had some interesting results.  And then I saw a reference to “Islands of Sanity.”  The light-bulb went on and I knew that was it.

         The phrase comes from a recent book written by Margaret J. Wheatley called Who Do we Choose to be?  Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity.  I have it ordered and look forward to reading it.  It came out last year.  I’ve read some of Margaret Wheatley’s work in the area of organizational behaviour and she has been a management consultant over the years. She has supported the work of agencies and people who create social change through that wonderful tool we all have at our disposal, conversation.  She has tried to work with people to create organic and holistic organizational systems not automatons in a mechanical system.

         On her website at margaretwheatley.com, the opening slides say this with a set of images of birds: “Warriors for the Human Spirit are awake human beings who have chosen not to flee. They abide.  They serve as beacons of an ancient story that tells of the goodness and generosity and creativity of humanity.  You will know them by their compassionate presence.  You can identify them by their cheerfulness.   When asked how they do it, they will tell you about discipline, dedication, and the necessity of community.”

         The conversation where this phrase popped up invited faith communities to recognize in themselves the leaders that help to create “Islands of Sanity.”  We have an ancient story of love and gratitude that we share.  We try to be a compassionate presence in times of chaos and tragedy.  We may not always be cheerful—well, I’ll speak for myself!  And we may not always have discipline—but we know about dedication and community.  It’s what we’re about.

The advertisement for Wheatley’s book on the website says this, “I know it is possible for leaders to use their power and influence, their insight and compassion, to lead people back to an understanding of who we are as human beings, to create the conditions for our basic human qualities of generosity, contribution, community, and love to be evoked no matter what. I know it is possible to experience grace and joy in the midst of tragedy and loss. I know it is possible to create Islands of Sanity in the midst of wildly disruptive seas. I know it is possible because I have worked with leaders over many years in places that knew chaos and breakdown long before this moment. And I have studied enough history to know that such leaders always arise when they are most needed. Now it’s our turn.”

Why do we worry about tomorrow or the next day? We worry because the world is fraught with worries and teaches us to worry.  Jesus’ words aren’t just a feel-good, easy solution of saying, “Just stop worrying! Just be kind!”  That’s far too simplistic.  Jesus’ words, coming in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, are part of his powerful manifesto that says what we do is based on compassion and love, how we live is based in kindness and generosity, and how we view the world is based in a profound sense of deep community that resists the ideology of oppression and scarcity; we are to love… God, the world, our neighbours, and ourselves.

And so, as an Island of Sanity, an island of compassion and love, we gather here today to say thank you to the Creator-of-All. We can start each day knowing that we are part of a community of people who want to reclaim the human spirit and appeal to the human spirit in the world in which we live.  In this way, every day is a new day, a day of gratitude, a day of love, a day of hope, a day of compassion.  And while we may be an island, we are not a fortress.  All are welcome!

Amen!

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