Vol 9 No. 43 Never Having to Say Thank you

Dear Folks,

What have we not given thanks for lately?  And by what stretch of the imagination do we believe that round whatever Thanksgiving celebration we will experience this year, do we think that a brief prayer before the turkey passes for a full thanksgiving to God?

Let me share with you 3 brief vignettes/stories that start with something that makes you crave insulin and ends up in the Gospel of Luke.

There’s an incredibly daft final scene in an ancient film called “Love Story” in 1970 with Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neill.  Where one actor is heard to say to the other, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”.  It took several years, and if memory serves me correctly, of all people, Barbara Streisand to say in response to that drippy, stupid line: ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”…don’t know about the filmography, so will leave it to some of you dear folk to find out.  Saying thank you is important.  Sometimes when we haven’t said thank you, it’s appropriate that we say sorry for not having done so.  We’ve transferred this notion of love with no apology to neglecting to thank God for so many things in our lives.  Loving God necessitates also thanking God.  For some of you who find the overlapping themes in this paragraph too much work, just remember that last phrase.  Loving God necessitates thanking him…what is true of human relationships is true of our relationship with God.

Our second story is taken out of the “Wind in the Willows” and my favourite scene.  The animals in the willows do an intervention with Toad because he has been speeding in his motorcar, repeatedly and in a dangerous fashion.  The particular take away from this segment, for me (and there are many takeaways) is that often what we swear to in private has no validity in public.  In Toad’s case, he makes a commitment not to speed.  In our case…often…we think we are being thankful to God but fail to be.  The scene begins with Badger taking Toad in hand:

The Badger strode up the steps. `Take him inside,’ he said sternly to his companions. Then, as Toad was hustled through the door, struggling and protesting, he turned to the chauffeur in charge of the new motor-car.

`I’m afraid you won’t be wanted to-day,’ he said. `Mr. Toad has changed his mind. He will not require the car. Please understand that this is final. You needn’t wait.’ Then he followed the others inside and shut the door.

`Now then!’ he said to the Toad, when the four of them stood together in the Hall, `first of all, take those ridiculous things off!’

`Shan’t!’ replied Toad, with great spirit. `What is the meaning of this gross outrage? I demand an instant explanation.’

`Take them off him, then, you two,’ ordered the Badger briefly.

They had to lay Toad out on the floor, kicking and calling all sorts of names, before they could get to work properly. Then the Rat sat on him, and the Mole got his motor-clothes off him bit by bit, and they stood him up on his legs again. A good deal of his blustering spirit seemed to have evaporated with the removal of his fine panoply. Now that he was merely Toad, and no longer the Terror of the Highway, he giggled feebly and looked from one to the other appealingly, seeming quite to understand the situation.

`You knew it must come to this, sooner or later, Toad,’ the Badger explained severely.

You’ve disregarded all the warnings we’ve given you, you’ve gone on squandering the money your father left you, and you’re getting us animals a bad name in the district by your furious driving and your smashes and your rows with the police. Independence is all very well, but we animals never allow our friends to make fools of themselves beyond a certain limit; and that limit you’ve reached. Now, you’re a good fellow in many respects, and I don’t want to be too hard on you. I’ll make one more effort to bring you to reason. You will come with me into the smoking-room, and there you will hear some facts about yourself; and we’ll see whether you come out of that room the same Toad that you went in.’

He took Toad firmly by the arm, led him into the smoking-room, and closed the door behind them.

`THAT’S no good!’ said the Rat contemptuously. `TALKING to Toad’ll never cure him. He’ll SAY anything.’

They made themselves comfortable in armchairs and waited patiently. Through the closed door they could just hear the long continuous drone of the Badger’s voice, rising and falling in waves of oratory; and presently they noticed that the sermon began to be punctuated at intervals by long-drawn sobs, evidently proceeding from the bosom of Toad, who was a soft-hearted and affectionate fellow, very easily converted–for the time being– to any point of view.

After some three-quarters of an hour the door opened, and the Badger reappeared, solemnly leading by the paw a very limp and dejected Toad. His skin hung baggily about him, his legs wobbled, and his cheeks were furrowed by the tears so plentifully called forth by the Badger’s moving discourse.

`Sit down there, Toad,’ said the Badger kindly, pointing to a chair. `My friends,’ he went on, `I am pleased to inform you that Toad has at last seen the error of his ways. He is truly sorry for his misguided conduct in the past, and he has undertaken to give up motor-cars entirely and for ever. I have his solemn promise to that effect.’

`That is very good news,’ said the Mole gravely.

`Very good news indeed,’ observed the Rat dubiously, `if only– IF only—-‘

He was looking very hard at Toad as he said this, and could not help thinking he perceived something vaguely resembling a twinkle in that animal’s still sorrowful eye.

`There’s only one thing more to be done,’ continued the gratified Badger. `Toad, I want you solemnly to repeat, before your friends here, what you fully admitted to me in the smoking-room just now. First, you are sorry for what you’ve done, and you see the folly of it all?’

There was a long, long pause. Toad looked desperately this way and that, while the other animals waited in grave silence. At last he spoke.

`No!’ he said, a little sullenly, but stoutly; `I’m NOT sorry. And it wasn’t folly at all! It was simply glorious!’

`What?’ cried the Badger, greatly scandalised. `You backsliding animal, didn’t you tell me just now, in there—-‘

`Oh, yes, yes, in THERE,’ said Toad impatiently. `I’d have said anything in THERE. You’re so eloquent, dear Badger, and so moving, and so convincing, and put all your points so frightfully well–you can do what you like with me in THERE, and you know it. But I’ve been searching my mind since, and going over things in it, and I find that I’m not a bit sorry or repentant really, so it’s no earthly good saying I am; now, is it?’

`Then you don’t promise,’ said the Badger, `never to touch a motor-car again?’

`Certainly not!’ replied Toad emphatically. `On the contrary, I faithfully promise that the very first motor-car I see, poop- poop! off I go in it!’

`Told you so, didn’t I?’ observed the Rat to the Mole.

Our third story is one that you are very familiar with.  It requires no explanation.  It is commonly read throughout the year but not at Thanksgiving.  But here it is, a lesson to be taken just as it is presented.


Luke 17:11-19 from NIV

 11 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.

12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.

15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

So, we began this newsletter by saying that sometimes we have to apologize to God for not giving thanks. We continued by realizing that, a bit like Toad in a Wind in the Willows, we make commitments to God in our Christian life that upon reflection we either seem incapable or unwilling of fulfilling and finally, the Luke story does not have to be a major condemnation of the lepers that did not come back but maybe, simply an encouragement that I could be the leper that returns.

Why am I talking about Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving?  Did I miss the deadline?  Is this make-up?  Not at all.  I think it is simply that in my own experience, I have sometimes learned more in the retrospective, in the reflective and in the looking back than I have in the experience of the moment.  I’d rather learn about Thanksgiving by giving thanks to God, realizing what I have not done, rather than empty promises to God that often fill my life.


In Christ,