Thanksgiving is about sharing – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Thanksgiving is about sharing”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving all!
We are all gathered here today to give thanks to God our creator, our provider and our help, for the many blessing we received: The blessing of life, of family, of community, of love and of joy that surround us all. God made all things good that we may have them abundantly. That is a legacy that we shall never forget. When our parents met in love, when we first breathed the air and begin to open our eyes and see the wonder of God’s love in the universe, we begin to spread our arms and utter the words of thankfulness. Then we begin to discover that we have a purpose living in this world, the purpose of belongingness, to rise and shine as God’s children and as coexistent with the rest of God’s creation. We are God’s stewards and let us be so.

If there is one sin that most prevalent today, it is the sin of ingratitude. God does so much for us. Our indebtedness to him is enormous and yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what he has done. In fact, most of those who believe God as our provider don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We are much like the little boy who was given an orange by a man. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.” “Balatan mo”

As a child, I was always taught by my mother to say “Thank you” whenever I received a gift or somebody did something good to me. For a child of God, thankfulness is not confined to a day or a season, it is an attitude that we should have every day and every hour.

Thanksgiving is about sharing, sharing the love and the blessing we received. There’s always plenty good room to share your love to those who need them. Share and be thankful.

So what are you thankful for today?

I am thankful for meeting new friends such as Mr. Mrs Mengue who came all the way from Florida to visit their family here, Jill, Ron and Paul.
I am thankful for this Church and community for such love of God is present in every dream and every accomplishment we make together. It is here that my family found the sense of belongingness when we were looking for one and I am sure you have that same revelation too?
What are you thankful for? Have you touched the life of someone today? Maybe your patient, your neighbor, someone whom you haven’t seen for years, you called them and said hello. You might not realize that you have transformed the life of that person just by calling and reconnecting.

Have you shared a smile today? Enthusiasm is contagious. If you go into your workplace with a smile on your face, full of life and joy, the whole place will come up to a higher level of joy and you will hear people thanking you for touching their lives with your positive attitude.

Many times at night, as I cuddle my wife around my arms, I would whisper to her, “Thank God for giving me a wife and a family who are so understanding and caring” We must learn to be happy and thankful always. Stop complaining if you are not living in your dream house, but rather thank God that you have a roof over your head and pray for those without. The Scripture this morning says, “Do not fear, be glad and rejoice for the Lord has done great things and has dealt wondrously with you.

We need to recognize that everyday is a gift from God. Certainly we have had obstacles in our paths and challenges to overcome, but our attitude should be, ‘Thank God I’m alive’ I live in a great country, I have family and great partner. I have opportunity. So I’m going to make the most of this day and give it my best.”

Miracles happen everywhere and every time to everyone. You suddenly met someone who touched your life and guided you to the right direction. You are at a point of losing your home or your job and you’re so afraid that you don’t have a place to stay or food to feed your family. God will come to the rescue. Believe and you will receive. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God’s Righteousness, and all these things shall be given unto you. Those who sowed with tears, will reap with songs of joy.

God has a purpose for all of us, even at the time when we think we’re losing it all. So be thankful when someone just stood by next to you and said, “You are doing a great job, thank you.” Let that smile come out and use that to inspire you to seek the blessing that is in wait for you. Always remember to give thanks. We easily forget that. Give love, share love, for love is fulfilled when you share them to all and not keep them. Love is meant to flow from our hearts like a river.

There are many real people in need in our society. Let us give and share what we are blessed with. Jesus said, “Whatever you’ve done to the least of my people, you’ve done it for me.”

If you want to get more out of life, try this:

As you get up each morning, rather than just trying to be blessed, do everything in your power to be a blessing to someone else. If you will do that for sometime, your life will be filled with so many blessings you won’t be able to contain them all.

I’ve discovered that if I meet other people’s needs, God will meet mine. If I make somebody else happy, God will make sure that I’m happy. Every day, we should look in the eyes of God and look for opportunities to be good to people. Maybe you can buy somebody’s lunch, or give someone a ride, Share your contagious smile so others will smile as well. Get in a habit of doing some good for somebody every day. Don’t make the mistake of living selfishly. You were not created to be focused only on yourself, the Almighty God made you to be a giver. The best way for you to be fulfilled is to get your mind off yourself and reach out to others. Get up in the morning with this attitude: “Who can I be a blessing to today? Who can I encourage? Where is there a need that I can meet?”

Everyday, we hear a lot about success and about the good things that God wants to do for us, but let’s not forget we are blessed so we can be a blessing. We are blessed so we can share God’s goodness wherever we go. If you want to make an impact on somebody’s life, you don’t necessarily have to preach a sermon to that person, or go about telling everyone you spend that much for him or her; just be good to that person. Your actions will speak much louder than your words. You can say, “I love you and I care about you, just as God cared for me by giving His Son Jesus Christ who is a compassionate and merciful King of my life.” When you say those words, do them. We demonstrate true love by what we do. If I love you, I’ll go out of my way to help you. True love turns words and feelings into action. So Please turn to the person next and around you and say, “I thank God for you.”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Alleluia!!! May we sing that? (Music maestro)

May we be more loving and giving in the coming season and everyday for God loves a cheerful giver. Amen.

All the we have to offer – The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Pentecost 24
November 8, 2015
1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

All That We Have and All that We Offer

​Use your imagination to enter the scene we have just heard read in the Gospel. Jesus is walking in the Temple and observing the people coming through its gates. He sees many coming and depositing money in the temple treasury. Wealthy people, some of them perhaps temple leaders, glide up in their long robes and fine dress, and deposit large bags of coins that make a heavy “clunk.” They talk busily among themselves, and many and don’t even see the poor widow walking quietly up from the side. Or some of them see her, but don’t acknowledge her, for she is one of the multitudes of the anonymous poor, so they think, and then they go about their “important” business. The widow gathers her simple cloak about her, weary from her day’s work, and takes out all the money she has left in the world, 2 copper coins, and with a prayer on her lips and in her heart, she deposits them carefully in the treasury. She doesn’t know where her next money will come from; yet somehow it seems important that she offer what she has to God, and trust in his provision. Her life has been hard, for in that culture, widows without family to provide for them were bereft and alone in the world. There has been suffering, there have been times of despair, but God has always been with her.
​Why do you suppose Jesus draws attention to this scene? Here he is, arriving in Jerusalem for the last time, where he will be betrayed and will suffer death. He is trying to prepare his followers for his suffering,, and to remind them of the coming of the kingdom of God and the ultimate triumph of the will of God. Yet, he still has time to notice the details, to teach in story, parable, and observation. Here he is teaching his disciples, and us, the importance of humility. He is also teaching us that we must live out our faith in works of hospitality and mercy, and that we are called, like the poor widow, to give all of ourselves, what we have and, who we are, to God.
​First, humility. There is a common misconception that humility involves thinking less of oneself, or putting oneself down. Actually, the root of the word humility is from the Latin word humus, which means ground, earth. A humble person is grounded, secure in the knowledge of his or her great value in the sight of God. Humble people can appreciate their gifts and virtues, knowing they come from God and accept their faults and shortcomings honestly and without shame. There is no phoniness and needing to be someone they are not. Secure in the knowledge of God’s great love, a humble person does not have the need to be the center of attention, or to lord it over others. This arrogant behavior is what Jesus is calling attention to in this story. The religious leaders who crave the recognition and deference of all, who long to be lifted up as important, lose sight of their dependence on God and their responsibility to others. They become blinded to the needs of those around them, showing outward signs of piety, but “devouring “widow’s houses and their living.”
​I think we can agree that our culture does not promote humility! I recently saw a bumper sticker that said: “ He who dies with the most toys wins” I thought to myself, what a commentary on the competitive, self-aggrandizing part of our culture. In advertising, social media, and in our institutions, we encourage people to be number one, to succeed at all costs, to promote themselves. This goes well beyond a healthy self-regard and pits people against each other, and blinds us to the call to be sensitive and compassionate to the needs of others. Humility, as taught by Jesus, is a much needed antidote to arrogance. Humility teaches us that there are limits to our human ability and power. Humility reminds us that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return. Humility teaches us to let go of our own limited human perspective, and to see the world from God’s perspective. There is a wonderful quote, and I’m not sure of the source, but it sums it all up. It goes: Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
​This Gospel lesson also teaches us the importance of harmony between our faith, our words, and our actions. We can pray and attend church regularly, we can come up in this pulpit and preach beautiful words, but if we don’t live out what we preach and believe in acts of justice and mercy, our words are hollow, false, and accomplish little. Jesus tells us that our faith and our words must be reflected in our actions. It is not acceptable to offer long prayers and proclaim piety while letting poor widows suffer. It is not enough to conduct beautiful liturgies that bring comfort and solace; we must inspire people to extend the circle of God’s love to everyone, particularly the lost, the lonely, the poor, the forgotten. We cannot practice our faith for ourselves and our church community alone, or it will grow stagnant and die. We are the living body of Christ, and we need to be his hands, feet, mind, and heart in the world. We are indeed called, as written in the book of the prophet Micah, to “do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8). If we live out our faith this way, it will turn this world upside down, just as it did in ancient times, and grace will run wild and free.
​Finally, we are called to give all of ourselves, body, mind, and spirit to God in Christ. The widow in the story did not hold anything back. Though she did not know where her next income would come from, she offered all freely, trusting in God’s abundance. We are not to say, this part of my life, my church life, is what I will give to God, but ALL of it, my work life, my relationships, my decisions about vocation and money, the nitty gritty, I will offer all of it to God. We offer all of ourselves, our hopes, our fears, our joys, our gifts, our strengths, and our wounds and sins, to God, asking him to strengthen, heal, and transform us, and then send us out as bearers of his light in the world. We may feel at times like we don’t have much to offer, but we don’t have to depend on our sense of abundance but on the endless abundance of God. He will take our two copper coins and multiply them in his bounty!
​It is also appropriate today that we remember and honor our veterans, who gave all of themselves, who held nothing back, in tireless and whole-hearted service to their country. Like the widow in the story, these soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women offered the utmost of what they had to God and to their country– themselves. They went off into the dangerous unknown, not sure if they would come back alive, and released everything they had, their hopes and dreams for the future,, their families, their very lives, into the care of God. Some of them were famous generals and commanders, many of them are the unknown multitudes who served with dignity, humility, courage, and unselfishness, and they are forever remembered by us and by God. As Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “it is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining for us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the “last full measure of devotion,” We also offer great thanks for all the living veterans, some of them right here in our congregation today, who by their sacrifice and courage have also given their” last full measure of devotion” to God and their country. We thank you, we bless you, we honor you, and we carry you in our hearts and prayers!.
​Humility, acts of justice and mercy, wholehearted devotion to Christ- these things make the kingdom a present reality among us. There is a wonderful offertory hymn, “All That We Have, and All that We Offer, that goes like this:
All that we have, and all that we offer
Comes from a heart, both frightened and free.
Take what we bring now, and give what we need
All done in his name
We ask you to take our hearts, Lord, broken, frightened, free and loving, and fill them with your grace and compassionate love for our world. We open our hands and share our treasure, however humble, take it in your abundance, and multiply it. Speak through our lips, and love with our hands and hearts, and help us make your Kingdom come here on earth In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Leadership is Service – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant”

Mark 10:35-45

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Hey It’s good to be back home again!! Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend, Yes it’s good to be back home again.” I love John Denver songs. There are many great things a faith leader can benefit when he/she sets sail away from his/her local community for a while, even when it’s only one week. While I was away in Seoul Korea to attend the Episcopal Asiamerica ministry Consultation as a member of the EAM Council, and to attend the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Anglican Church of Korea, I met great world leaders as well as local people who continue to spread the love of God to all through partnership and collaborations. I had the chance to meet the rector and Vestry members of Trinity Wall Street New York, one of the richest parishes in the whole of the Episcopal Church, who were so humble to visit our Filipino migrant workers in a poor neighborhood outside the city. We danced and we ate together a tasteful Igorot delicacy, Chicken soup / Pinikpikan style. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” Not only did I make a connection with faith leaders and local people, but I also learned and witnessed the history and geography of the North and South Korea. I sat down on top of the Observatory building looking below the river that divides the two nation. I began to sing quietly Bob Dylan’s song “Blowing in the wind”……. Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind. I thought what happened after South Korea experience was the highlight of my being away for two weeks. I had the most wonderful experience being with my family on our first cruise vacation to Ensenada Mexico. I will never trade such experience with the world. It strengthened my spiritual journey and my being a husband and a father. I encourage you all to do the same. Have sometime for your self and family or friends. Experience that which you have been deprived. I believe God is calling us all to enjoy life, experience the mountain top feeling, the smooth sailing at sea, then come back renewed and ready to face what life has to give. Those who have been there will surely agree that we need a time to be with God in many mysterious and wonderful ways. I could certainly relate now with what Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to be great among you, will be your servant.” The name “Great Britain” says a lot on greatness. Among other things it points out the basic desire in every person to become great. It is so basic that if one cannot become great, one tries to attach oneself to something that is great. If that too is not possible, some strive at least to look great. Moved by this universal desire to become great, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus whether they could be a sort of Bishop, Rector, Vicar and a Deacon when he becomes King. Jesus does not blame them for asking this, but points out to them, perhaps to their embarrassment, that true greatness is achieved through service: “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness, must serve the rest”. Jesus first outlined in today’s gospel, the accepted standard of civil authority: domination, authoritarian with rulers lording it over their subjects. But this is not how it must be in his community. He saw authority as an opportunity to serve.

In this coming year, it is good that we reflect on who can be a good leader in the light of today’s gospel. People seek authority for different reasons. Some people like the power that goes with it; it makes them feel important and in control. Others like the prestige it brings. Others like the higher salary. All these reasons have one thing in common – authority is seen as an opportunity to promote oneself. Authority can be distinguished into two kinds: an authority which imposes, dominates and controls; and an authority which accompanies, listens, liberates, empowers, gives people confidence in themselves and calls them to be aware of their responsibilities. Jesus sees authority as an opportunity to serve. As always, he set the example himself. He did not lord it over people. He appealed, he invited, called them by their names but left the response to them. This is how he wanted authority to be exercised in his community. Authority should not be given to those who seek it, but only to those who have proved that they are willing to serve. Service is not to be understood as meaning only servant jobs. Service is also any noble and unselfish act. It includes one’s daily duty taken as God’s will for us. We do serve God and human society at large whenever we do our daily task with a sense of dedication and justice, also offering a helping hand to those with whom we live and work. Of course duty, however praiseworthy, is not the ideal Christian service. Christ challenges us to go beyond one’ duty and serve our fellow human beings without hope of gain or reward, without gratitude or praise. True Christian service is, therefore, that which is done solely out of love without any personal advantage, in order to continue Christ’s work of bringing light and hope, help and healing into the lives of others. Suffering and service go hand in hand. Service always involves suffering because one can’t help another without some personal sacrifice. Let us ask ourselves: Am I willing to render selfless service to all my fellow human beings? Am I growing a good seed within me? There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

May we all do service to all, for by doing service comes greatness. Let us not be afraid to become vulnerable for that which God calls us to be. I would like to share this wonderful prayer of Sir Francis Drake which I learned at yesterday’s Diocesan Convention. I would like to invite you all to say it with me:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake

Amen.