Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oct. 4 - 10, 2010 "Remember and be thankful"

Monday, Oct 4, 2010
            This week in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving. Of all the festivals of the year, this is one of my favourites. It comes at harvest time, the earth is winding down for another season and the colours are gorgeous on the mountains. You can feel the coolness of the coming winter, and the air has a freshness that you can taste. It all inclines the heart towards gratitude.
            This is also the festival that more than any other acknowledges our humanity, our limits, and our dependence on the creation and the creator. We have so much to be thankful for, and most of it had nothing to do with us.

Background on this week’s readings:
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
            So to get a good sense of this reading you need to imagine yourself with Moses on the east bank of the Jordon River. That is the setting for the entire book of Deuteronomy. It is written as his final speech to the people after they have wandered in the desert for 40 years and are about to cross over into the promised land. And Deuteronomy is cast as a final speech. Moses will not go with them, so these are his parting words. So as he opens, he says, when you get there, there are a few things you need to remember. And this particular section is about remembering to bring the first fruits of the gifts of the land to God, remembering your story of liberation, and kindling within a humble gratitude. The assumption is, it will be tempting to think that you did this on your own. Remember.

Psalm 100
            Here we have a pretty standard simple ancient song of praise to God, set in the place of worship. As in Deuteronomy, we are told to remember God, behold who God is, know that God made us, and that we belong to God. I get the sense that both here and in Deuteronomy, these writers kind of expect that human beings will forget God and start to think that they made themselves. Hmmm.

Philippians 4:4-9
            You need to know that this is one of my favourite passages in the Bible. I have many, but this is near the top. It is one of the most elegant, loving and gentle sections in the entire works of Paul that we have. Paul had a special relationship with the church in Philippi. He was there from their very beginning, they had cared for him, and in their struggles, he had returned the favour. He was their spiritual mentor and here we see why. He is appealing to the very best in them and he knows that they will respond. He sounds just so very confident as he proclaims that “The God of peace will be with you.” That’s a promise.

John 6:25-35
            The gospel reading for this Sunday is a real shift of gears from the other readings. This is vintage John, all multi-levelled and cryptic. Everything here has at least two meanings and you can never seem to get a straight answer out of Jesus. “When did you get here?” they ask, and he can’t even tell them that without talking about signs, and working for enduring food. They see that he is talking in riddles and they want some kind of verification that he knows what he is talking about. Give us a sign like Moses did with the manna? With this he launches into talk about bread. But bread means more than bread to him. Nothing is just what it seems but it packed with encoded meaning. Metaphors abound. Even he himself is not just himself, but is bread.

Some thoughts
            I had a load of top soil delivered this past weekend, and today was the day to shovel it into the various different garden beds. It was a cooler day today and as I got deeper into the pile of pungent rich soil, there was a smell that emerged from the pile that was nothing short of the smell of fertility. The soil steamed with every shovelful. This was not lifeless dirt I was dealing with but soil, alive with the process of breaking down and building up, of decomposing and re-composing. I am not much of a gardener, but I know that my shovel was messing with a process that was more powerful than me. Life is so much bigger than me.
            My parents gave be a rose bush last summer. I was not ready for it. I left it for a while because I didn’t know where to plant it. So finally, after neglecting it for too long, I took a guess, dug a hole, threw in some bone meal and some potting soil and planted it where I think it will go. It is a climbing rose, and I have nothing for it to climb on. I went out the other day, and it has exploded, heading off in all directions, literally covering ground. This thing has a plan to take over my little part of the world and it is surely not waiting for me to tell it what to do.
            Moses wants us never to forget where we have come from, the psalmist wants us to remember who made us and to whom we belong, Paul wants us to contemplate the goodness of things, and gives us a promise that if we do that, we will find peace, and in John’s gospel Jesus is pointing to the deeper meaning underneath everything.
            As you celebrate Thanksgiving, can you stop and behold what you have, and seek the deeper meaning God has placed in it?
Starter questions:
1.      In Deuteronomy, Moses is pointing us to the ancient story of liberation as the base upon which an offering of gratitude is made. What is the story of God in your life upon which your offering of gratitude rests?


  1. For as long as I can remember, I have been part of a church family. During the early years it would have been difficult for me to tell you what church meant to my life each day. I think I probably saw it only as a place my friends hung out, not that there is anything wrong with that notion when you're an adolescent. But as I grew older, I realized that being part of a church family meant something greater. It meant that we were indeed family, with the same Father.

    I would pray often -- perhaps not daily -- but several times throughout each week. I don't recall offering thankfulness -- or gratitude -- until I witnessed a sermon based on part of The Lord's Prayer. "Give us this day, our daily bread." It spoke volumes to me. I haven't offered prayer the same since.

    Many times throughout my day, each day, I rest in prayer. And the first words out of my mouth when I begin are words of thanks. No matter the struggle or praise, I remain grateful every moment for God's everlasting -- and daily -- love for me. He is my daily bread.

  2. I have many things to be thankful for – I simply break them into a few simple words with which I often end my prayers – ‘Thank you for giving me, life, health and strength to see this day’. I actually can’t remember when I started to use these same words to close my prayers. They simply are a reminder to me each day that without these key things for which I thank the Lord I would not be able to contribute in any way to my family, my friends and my community. My life isn’t problem free but I am grateful for all that I have. Sometimes it is difficult to keep that ‘attitude of gratitude’ and I work at constantly nurturing that ‘attitude of gratitude’ as God has indeed been good to me.

  3. Hey folks, Nice to see you online Heidi. Glad you found this connection. I find the stories are the thing. I can't really look at the discrete "things" God has given me and be thankful without putting them in the context of the story of how it all unfolded. I think about my kids for example and on the one hand, they are wonders to behold and I am thankful for them in very particular ways, but then I think, Wow! How did it happen this way? And I am then clearly in the hands of God's unfolding in the story of my life.
    I think maybe that is why the author of deuteronomy reaches back to the story of liberation. Riches come and riches go, they will have success and failure in the promised land, but if you reach back to the story, you remember God. Things come and go. Even people come and go, but we always have the story.