Please and Thank You

Gospel: Luke 23:33-43

Amid scoffing and slander from those who sarcastically call him Messiah and king, Jesus reveals that to be Messiah and king is to give one’s life for others. Here he uses his power to welcome a despised sinner to paradise but puts his own death into God’s hands:

33When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 Please and thank you!

Do remember learning the importance of those words? Do you remember teaching those words to someone? Perhaps a child, perhaps and grandchild, a niece or a nephew. Please and thank you, that is what the words of Jesus are all about in today’s Gospel lesson.

Who taught you to say please and thank you? Was it your mother or father, or a grandparent, or perhaps a teacher in school? Do you remember what your reaction to learning those words? How about now? Do you still use please and thank you? Do you still observe the niceties of manners?

I was struck by an article in the Kansas City Star on November 10:  the headline read: Miss Manners in Kansas City: “It’s time to make America Nice Again. Do you remember learning about manners, in school, either the school you attended or the school of life? I remember the rule of referring to everyone older than you as Mr. or Mrs. and you were to respond with “Yes Sir and No Ma’am”, always granting and showing respect.

This is Christ the King Sunday or now called the Reign of Christ. Our lessons put Jesus on the cross. This is a brutal image. We all know the story. But listen to Jesus, what does he say? Does he cry out in anger or judgment? No! What Jesus says is: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus, in a moment that defies description says: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Whenever I deny Christ as my king, whenever I deny that Jesus is the one who is the reign of the kingdom of God, whenever I forgot what God has done in response to my please, what I am doing is forgetting to say “Thank You.”

We receive and we say please and sometimes we forget the second part of the please and thank you paradigm. We forget to say thank you. It’s not wrong, it doesn’t make us a bad person we just forget to “give thanks.”

I love watching people. It is one of my greatest joys. I was at breakfast with a friend last week and a large group of people sat down across from us and my friend said: “I bet there is a story there.”

We all have stories that reflect our lives and our experiences and we all have moments when we need to remember to “give thanks.”

David Lose, in a sermon blog a few years ago said that “please and thank you” in relation to God is more than receiving. It is the power of acknowledging the blessings of God.

Have you ever been to a dinner party with really good friends, have you ever in the midst of the evening had one of the members of the group of good friends, raise a glass and give thanks, not necessarily to God, but give thanks for the moment, the friends, the meal, the stories and the laughter. That is moment when we know we have been truly blessed. The moment when someone acknowledges the friendship, the love and the wonder of that moment!

It is when you are standing with a loved one, perhaps even holding hands and you look at the wonder of the sunset or the “super moon from this week” and you pause in wonder and say: “Oh my, look at that. That is truly special, you give the hand a squeeze and if your are lucky you might even steal a kiss.”

This is not thanking Jesus for what he has done, but engaging in thankful living because of life itself, that is the gift we receive from God.

Thanksgiving comes from recognizing our blessings. There are so many joys for which we should be saying Thank You, giving thanks for this very moment of life, that if we took the time we would be spending all of every day, simply giving thanks.

The second thief on the cross says to Jesus: 42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Think about that, Jesus says first, “Father forgive them,” and then he says; “truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

I invite you to a two-step process of stewardship.

Both steps are important. Take a minute to look around you and give thanks first for the people in your life. Then, the hard part of this step, tell them you are thankful for them being in your life. This part is called the stewardship of life, your life and the people in your life that you love and care about.

The second part of this two-step process is equally difficult. I would like you to sit, silently, prayerfully and reflect on what it means to have Christ as your Lord and savior. Then I would like you to think about all of the ways in which you have said to Jesus, at one time or another “please Lord.”

When I do that for myself I think about all of the answers I have received in response to my please. Sometimes they are things I wanted to hear, but more often than not they were things that I never thought about, that were the right answer to my please. Then I get up and move on and I forget the second part, the thank you.

Then reflect on the ‘thank you’. How do you want to say thank you to God for what God in Christ has done for you? Think about practicing “radical generosity.” Radical generosity is not just what you do with material goods, money and the like, it is what you do with your life.

When you do that then think about how you are going to give thanks. You can do it in lots of ways, from pledge card to attitude. The point is that giving thanks for the life God has given us is just as important as breathing. Giving thanks, gives life.