We all learned in our early years of school how to write different kinds of notes. One was a bread and butter note. I always found that one to have an interesting name. It is a special kind of thank you note. Perhaps you owe somebody a bread and butter note for their hospitality this past Thursday. Thank you notes were another form we were taught, and which most of us treated like an academic exercise and quickly forgot.
Do you write thank you notes? The Thanksgiving season is an interesting time to think of such a thing, because we don't write thank you notes to God but to people. Thank you notes come back into play in about a month ... at which time many of us will forget about them again.
I think Thank you notes are nice. Many of us probably think of them as overly formal. We stick them in the same category as an engraved invitation and assume that people in our tax bracket do not indulge in such frippery.
However, they are not froth. All we have to do to realize that is to consider how we feel when we receive one. In our adult years we grow jaded about mail. It is full of fliers and bills. But once in awhile a personal envelope makes it to our door, a card, or (it still happens even in these digital days) a letter. When it does, at our house, it gets placed in a special pile as we sort the mail: junk, bills, interesting or important, personal. It is the last thing we open, relishing the idea that somebody thought about us enough to spend time and some effort to send something we could hold in our hand.
Thank you notes are expressions of personal regard. They say "You were nice to me and I have not forgotten." Giving thanks to God is easy. We simply send up a prayer. Give thanks to Him by thanking him for somebody else. Then let them know ... in writing.
Remember Joseph? Rembrandt did. Life was not fair to Joseph ... or was it life?
At some point or another, every parent or leader of children hears it. "It's not fair!"
Most adults will automatically and even a bit bitterly retreat into the truism, "Life is not fair."
And it is true, but why is it true? Certainly bad things happen to people in ways that are completely undeserved. That is not fair. Random trouble comes everyone's way.
But are we certain that when we retreat into the truism, "Life is not fair" we are not simply hiding behind a general truth to cover a more pliable problem? Certainly when we deliver our edict from on high to children, this timeless wisdom they will have to learn sooner or later, the child knows, deep down as an inexpressible fact, "Life may not be fair, but people should be."
But it's not just a children's problem. People are prone to take advantage of a situtaion that will give them benefits not received by others. The unfairness of life is fueled by oportunism, our chance to get our own way, to do unto others before they do unto us, to do what the other guy would do if he were in our place. Is it not more the way of Christ to be more blessed by giving rather than hoarding blessings by receiving at the expense of another?
May it be ever truer that when we acknowledge the unfairness of life that we are not simply making excuses for our own unfairness. May it be ever truer that we are not evading a responsibility we might be able to shoulder to enter into an unfair situation and transform it. When we say "Life is not fair" may the subtext never be, "therefore I need not be fair."
It was for Joseph. When he finally emerged from prison, he did not stick it to his brothers because they stuck it to him ... perhaps that would have been fair to them, but not to their hungry families back home. Instead he showed generosity, forgiveness, and grace. That is the way of Jesus. Is it the much debated definition of Justice, to act fairly in unfair circumstances?
Today is my sister's birthday. It's important to remember that family is a gift from God. He created us to be born of a couple parents and to be dependent on them for everything until we can fend for ourselves. The fact that the system is designed so people can also grow up together is proof enough for me that we have a built-in system for socialization. It is among siblings that I first learned to share, to make peace, to make room for the needs and wants of others, to be empathetic and kind. The Bible says we can know God by looking at what He has created. Well, He created families and when they are working at their most functional, they do indeed reflect His goodness.
Birthdays are days our culture designates to celebrate those we love, and hopefully they feel our regard and enjoy it to the fullest. But it is also a time for the rest of us to remember how important the person we are celebrating is to our own balance. When we celebrate a birthday fully, it is often with and for a person who is an emotional resource to us, someone we talk to in particular circumstances and they share our joy and pain. Since conversations like that with those to whom we are closest are so reciprocal, we tend to forget how much we appreciate and need them. The gift of celebration is a "thank you" writ large.
So, Happy Birthday, Becky. I hope your day brings you joy. And may the year to come bring you all the peace that's out there. God bless you, you are certainly a blessing to me.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.