A REFLECTION OF THANKFULNESS
Throughout recorded history, people of faith have ever been reminded by their leaders to reflect on how their lives have been blessed. Hardships and suffering are difficult times to live through but the message that ever comes through the Bible is to be thankful to God for his mercy, his care, and his provision for our needs.
The first passage of Scripture today was from Deuteronomy. This book is the last of what is known as the Pentateuch – the 5 books of Moses. It provides a summary of the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt and their ultimate journey to the new land promised to them by God. The very first book of the Pentateuch outlines for us the creation of the world and the very early history of humanity; but then the focus changes and we read the history of the first person to be called by the one we have come to know as God. The books from Genesis through Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers detail for us the evolution of the relationship between God and this one family who grow over time to become a numerous people. Abram and his wife Sarai receive new names that symbolize the change in their lives. However, it is with the grandson Jacob that the people really begin to transform into what will become the nation of Israel. The sons of Jacob become the fathers of tribes. The twelve tribes will become the foundation of the nation that will ultimately be called Israel – in honour of the one whose struggle with God brought great blessing to his people.
Oftentimes in our new modern era, we struggle to believe in the providence of God. We struggle to believe that God truly knows and understands our needs and that he will provide. Yet the people of Israel – those who left Egypt at the time of the plagues and wandered in the desert of Sinai for forty years – those people also struggled to believe that God truly knew and understood their needs. The account in Deuteronomy reminded the people of that day and is a reminder to all generations that have followed that God knew and understood the needs of the people and that he provided what they needed when they needed it.
It is often wondered why God would let the people go through the experience of the desert before bringing them to the Promised Land. An explanation for this is given in the verses which precede our passage. God wanted to know whether the people would truly be willing to follow the commandments and be willing to acknowledge and be faithful to the relationship God sought to have with them. The passage concludes with a reminder of the ways in which God responded to the needs of the people and the plea of Moses for the people to remember the goodness of God to them and be thankful and faithful.
The people of that day were not unlike what we might be – grateful to God for having brought us through a hard time and yet quick to forget to honour God’s commitment with a commitment of our own. In verse 17, Moses warns them: “Do not say to yourself ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’” They are to remember that the hand of the Lord was present and the power of God to bless them.
In our passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul is encouraging the people of that faith community to remember to be generous to others as God has been generous to them. It is often tempting to think of ourselves before others and to give more sparingly than we might. We do not know the real composition of the community in Corinth or what the community was truly capable of doing but Paul cautions them against pulling back from being generous. Remembering the parables of Jesus, they are encouraged to remember that if we sow a little, we will reap a little. If we expect a great return, we need to invest greatly. The people were not asked to deprive themselves of their own necessities but rather to consider prayerfully the blessing that they could be to other believers in other faith communities who were suffering in that time. And just as Moses did so long ago, Paul reminds the people of how much God sacrificed for them – giving the ultimate gift of his own Son. For Paul, if the people were truly thankful for the gift of grace, love and forgiveness they have received from God, they should be willing to make sacrifices themselves in order that the real and present needs of other believers might be met.
My father instilled in me at an early age the importance of giving. Of course, that giving came in many forms, but it always had a monetary component. My earliest memory was the offering envelopes I had for Sunday School. There were 2 pockets in the envelope – the one was for the maintenance of our church and the second was for missions. A dime went in one side and a nickel in the other. That was back in the 1960s. The amount grew as my income grew and even today I do my best to maintain the practice of tithing. It is a discipline that I was taught at a young age and one which will stay with me through the length of my days.
Being part of a faith community has been important to me throughout my life.
Either as a congregant or as a leader, I have been involved with 16 communities as well as a number of other faith gatherings. Supporting the life and work of these communities was vital whether or not I personally benefitted from all the services they might offer. As part of the community, I had a responsibility to contribute as I was able.
This time is probably one of the most challenging that any of us have ever lived through. We are dealing with physical and mental stresses for longer periods than we might ever have imagined. As a faith community, it is our mission to be as supportive as we can to one another in whatever way we can. Being able to gather together in our community spaces for worship is one way as we are able to see one another and find comfort and peace in one another’s presence. Connecting with one another through one of the many social media platforms is another.
Let us remember that we will come through this time and that God will be with us every step of the way. As you gather for Thanksgiving – however that may look – do not forget the blessings you have received.