Thanksgiving Sunday - Year A
October 9, 2011
Let us pray: O God, may these words be ones which are faithful to your will for us, your people. May they glorify you. Amen.
Sometimes it's pretty difficult to get inside the minds of the committee that put together the lectionary. While there is supposed to be a theme that links the four passages assigned to each Sunday, it is often not clear at all what theme links a reading from the Hebrew bible, the psalms, a letter from the Christian scriptures and a reading from one of the four gospels. I guess it is one of the things that both blesses and mystifies the process of interpreting scripture for us as preachers.
Today, however, that is not the case. The four passages selected for this Sunday could not be more clear. In fact, they are so clear that I'm not sure much more is needed to be said.
As we heard, the gospel passage highlights ingratitude as much as thanksgiving. A ten percent yield on thanks for healing is enough to make us think.
Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian Christians also invites them and us to think about abundance. Respond abundantly to an abundant God would be a one-line summary of his advice. It is also a reminder to us that we respond out of gratitude – not because we are offering ourselves, but because we are only returning the gift that God has given us as creations of the Creator. The reading from the Hebrew bible is in the form of a promise. See the good land that God has promised you. It then continues with a plea to the Hebrew people that should not be lost on us – when you are enjoying the beauty and bounty of this promised land, don't forget from whom it comes.
It is this reading, particularly the version I was using, which provided the title for my reflection today. The writer, in reminding the people of their responsibility to honour, glorify and thank God for the abundance they enjoy, says this: If you start thinking to yourselves, "I did all this. And all by myself. I'm rich. It's all mine!" - well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that God promised to your ancestors - as it is today.
Think again in my mind is just another way to say: go deeper. That's what I was being called to consider in preparation for this thanksgiving worship.
Thanksgiving is quite rightly observed as a kind of harvest festival. This makes sense given the time of year in which it is observed.
Combined with the beauty of the land that we people of the northern hemisphere experience at this time of year, leads us to think about Thanksgiving in terms of the land – the land that produces a harvest of food for us to eat and the land that is rich with colour even as it gets ready for a time of rest in the cold and dark of winter.
As I said, this is both right and important, but as I also said, the reading from Deuteronomy also invites us to think again, to go deeper in our attitude of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is more than just a time to celebrate harvest and the beauty of the land. It is a time to celebrate the whole abundance of God's creation – that which is already here, and that which is continually being created within us and all the world.
I had a long drive back to Yellowknife from meetings in Alberta this week, and I was hoping that this opportunity would be one in which I could spend the hours of driving in this deep reflection. It didn't quite happen the way I expected – that's a good thing because the drive went by much more quickly than I anticipated. It probably also has something to do with the beautiful weather I experienced on the way home, helping to accentuate the fall colours, which as you've heard I wanted to move past in my reverie and contemplation.
I had made sure I had other activities to help me while away the time and they coincided with other events this week, again to move me away from a dedication to the meditation I had planned. So, I had lots of Cds to play and I loaded up my iPod with music and CBC podcasts. Well all this combined with the radio when I could get it and whoosh the drive was done.
It wasn't a complete bust however, because even though I did not have the endless hours of quiet that I anticipated I was able to delight in both the ideas presented in some of my favourite radio programs, as podcasts and in some of my favourite music and musicians.
There is nothing like having creative people singing, playing and talking to help one reflect on the gift of creator and so as you will likely have already discerned from this service of worship and which you will hopefully continue to observe, while I did not come to any deep conclusions or amazing insights, I was led to thinking about the fact that all we have – absolutely everything – life itself, the planet on which we live: industry, art, education, science, beauty, praise, are all gifts f
rom God. Perhaps that is as deep as needs to go.
I want to close with a gift: a gift of opportunity, a gift of quiet time for yourselves, a gift to put to work the invitation suggested by the title of this reflection, so for just a couple of minutes I would like you to think again, go deeper into your relationship with creator God. Say a prayer of thanks for the gifts that God has given you. Say of prayer of commitment to God to use the gifts God has given you, to make better this world, as a gift from the God who made you and who created you with who you are. (two minutes silence) Amen.