Joel 2:21-27 Psalm 126 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Matthew 6:25-33
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 Psalm 66 1-11 2 Timothy 2:8-15 Luke 17:11-19 �X� �G�
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In the British tradition the celebration of Thanksgiving was held on Michaelmas, three weeks ago, we are a bit further south so crops come to maturity a little later, but it is still a cause for our celebration. The American Thanksgiving celebrates the anniversary of the first harvest of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England at Michaelmas in 1621, it’s been adjusted to November now for political reasons. Those pilgrims had escaped religious persecution in England and found hard economic times in Holland. They had separated from the Church of England at a time when it was illegal to not attend church and fines were levied for noncompliance. They went back to England to board the Mayflower and finally set sail from Plymouth Hoe and came to New England with the goal of setting up a new church, along congregational lines; as a footnote, they were not the Puritans. There is always a bit of myth about these things, it wasn’t the first Thanksgiving here. The indigenous people had harvest thanksgivings in the Spring for the first crop of strawberries long before Europeans arrived; Europeans joined them in Thanksgiving as early as 1564 in Florida, almost sixty years before the Pilgrims landed.
Indigenous and colonial people both recognised the importance of the harvest and celebrated it with gusto, they had turkey and venison and plenty of beer, and as I said, these were not the Puritans. / Thanksgiving is a lot like getting your pay cheque. After working hard for the last year it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction and wellbeing for a job well done and you don’t need anyone to tell you that, you can see for yourself. You have fed your family, provided a roof over your heads, paid all your bills and can spend a little of what’s left over for fun, it’s time to laugh. And you don’t have to thank anybody for it, you did it yourself.
It’s a bit like God felt I am sure on the seventh day of Creation. After labouring all week creating everything with which he was satisfied because He saw that it was ‘Good’, God rested. He sat back and didn’t have to thank anybody for He had done it all Himself. Just like you, except did you make the seeds you planted ? Did you make the soil ? Did you make the trees from which others made the tools and paper you use? Did you make the meat you barbequed ? The cotton of your clothes ? The rain ? No, you applied lots of your own sweat and energy making the stuff you made, but all you really did was do what you were told. “in toil you shall eat of [the ground] all the days of your life. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken” (Genesis 3:17-19).
That’s pretty humbling stuff but God wants us to prosper. Although we can be justly satisfied with the fruits of our labour, with the skill that we used to provide a good result, thanks are really due to the higher power. God gave us everything that we work with. We wouldn’t get up in the morning if it hadn’t have been for God. There would be no ‘up’ nor ‘morning’ without God, there would have been no you either without God. I know there were your mum and dad but they were just instruments in God’s enormous ability to create; you could think of it this way, your dad was Petri and your mum was a Dish. But God had the marvellous mixer that made you.
The indigenous people probably came closest to the truth at Thanksgiving. They were hunter-gatherers and didn’t take credit for the crop’s cultivation. They thanked a higher power but they did not identify who He was until we came along, and until we started to act a bit more like Christians and a lot less like the colonising oppressors that we were. They would go into the plains and the forests and they would find food waiting for them, like the Israelites in the desert finding manna, there would be berries and roots, and buffalo and deer, and turkeys, who needs a supermarket when God provides like that. It is no wonder that they had a sense of real thanksgiving to God for the free gift of the sustenance they received. “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26). But even though they experienced first-hand God’s bounty, they still had to work turning natural things into useful products. The difference between us is that we did it industrially, they did it domestically, and that still seems to be the big cultural difference that causes friction between us.
Because we have supermarkets, because we have all the trappings of what we call civilised society we forget the wonder that those trappings hide. We now do see through a glass darkly the way Paul said (1 Corinthians 13:12) because we can’t see through all the exigencies of life, factories, office buildings, roads, planes, ships, computers to find God. We can order up a meal from a computer screen, we don’t even have to wash the veggies. We are becoming synthetic and losing our connexion with God in every facet of our lives. Like the unwise bridesmaids we will one day look for God and He will reply “Truly I tell you, I do not know you” (Matthew 25:12) and that will be a frightening day.
This Thanksgiving look behind the immediate, behind the table deeply spread, the family and friends gathered and look for God your Creator, He is there providing real good stuff, for you. I hope you will see what He is doing and open your heart with true Thanksgiving. Amen. Xѹ8B�