Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Lord be with you.
Perhaps like some of you, I have a small box in which I preserve keepsakes. Admittedly, most of the items in my box belonged to my brother, Michael. He went to be with the Lord in July of 1995. One of the things I have in the box is a handwritten note. It’s the last of its kind between us. We weren’t ones to write letters to each other. We didn’t need to. Growing up, we were best friends. Wherever he was, likely, I was there, too. And so, a handwritten note from him—and the last of the relatively few he ever jotted to me—holds incredible value.
I remember he wrote the note one Thanksgiving weekend. I suppose it’s a complete miracle that I still have it. It’s the kind of note we would get from someone and then throw away without a second thought. It’s also miraculous because I received it sometime in or around 1990. Here’s what the note said:
I borrowed a pair of your jeans.
There isn’t much to the note. I recall the context. Michael was going on a date with a girl that Saturday and needed a clean pair of jeans. It’s likely his jeans were dirty—or stuffed in unlocatable places in his chaotic room. Either way, he needed something, and he knew right where to go for it. Even with the note’s grateful closing, I probably criticized him for taking my jeans without asking. He really could frustrate me in that way sometimes. Still, his words ring differently for me now.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” On my part, and as a kid might do, I took Michael for granted. I just assumed he’d always be around. Man, was I wrong! And now, I’d give anything to call him and say, “All I have is yours, brother, even without asking.” That’s an important lesson to be learned by all of us. I keep the note for that very reason. Its scribblings remind me that even as Michael sometimes annoyed me, I loved him, and I’m grateful to the Lord for the time we had. In another sense, the note assures me that Michael knew this. Yes, he took my jeans without asking. This means he knew he could. He knew that he could count on me in the pinch of need. Even if I were annoyed, the love between brothers would always win the day. Now, whenever I read the note, I view his concluding “Thanks” through that lens. He was thanking me for the love between us, not the jeans.
I suppose, as a Christian, such an exchange can only reflect the greatest love from the greatest brother, Jesus Christ. Assured by the constancy of His love expressed through His death on the cross—which Saint Paul calls the “inexpressible gift” worthy of thanks to God (2 Cor. 9:15)—we can rest easy knowing that even in our failings, His love for us will win the day. He’ll never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5), and He’ll be ready to help us in every pinch (Psalm 46:1). Do we take this for granted? God willing, no. This is why so many of us will set aside our busy happenings to attend worship on Thanksgiving Day. We’ll go to hear someone read and preach the Lord’s treasured note to us—His holy Word—and we’ll be enlivened by the joyful Gospel within for giving thanks. We’ll take this time to thank Him not only for the material gifts He has given in this mortal life—which includes the gift of one another—but for the highest gift of eternal life, which transcends this passing world. Because of that gift, abundantly doled out through Word and Sacrament, I know the note Michael left me won’t really be the final words between us. I’ll see him again. In fact, I’m so confident of this that I can’t wait to introduce him to my children, whom he’s never met. I think they’ll like him as much as I did.
To close, my prayer for you this Thanksgiving is that you would know the same expectant joy. Take time to bask in the Lord’s love with your Christian family here on earth, a love that the Lord promises will always win the day among us.
As a reminder, the Thanksgiving Day service (Thursday, November 24) begins at 10:00am here at Our Savior in Hartland. Come and be with us!
Ever grateful for Christ and for you,