Thank you for checking in to worship with us this morning. Today’s service will be available later this afternoon.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Be well. Stay safe.
Reading from the Scriptures Deuteronomy 8:7-18
The Lord your God is bringing you to a wonderful land, a land with streams of water, springs, and wells that gush up in the valleys and on the hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, vines, fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat food without any shortage—you won’t lack a thing there—a land where stone is hard as iron and where you will mine copper from the hills. 10 You will eat, you will be satisfied, and you will bless the Lord your God in the wonderful land that is given you.
11 But watch yourself! Don’t forget the Lord your God by not keeping the commands or case laws or regulations that I am commanding you right now. 12 When you eat, get full, build nice houses, and settle down, 13 and when your herds and your flocks are growing large, your silver and gold are multiplying, and everything you have is thriving, 14 don’t become arrogant, forgetting the Lord your God: the one who rescued you from Egypt, from the house of slavery;
15 the one who led you through this vast and terrifying desert of poisonous snakes and scorpions, of cracked ground with no water; the one who made water flow for you out of a hard rock;
16 the one who fed you manna in the wilderness, which your ancestors had never experienced, in order to humble and test you, but in order to do good to you in the end.
17 Don’t think to yourself, My own strength and abilities have produced all this prosperity for me. 18 Remember the Lord your God! God who gives you the strength to be prosperous in order to establish the covenant made with your ancestors—and that’s how things stand right now.
A question came across my Facebook feed this week – that prompted deep thought for me: If you woke up tomorrow to only the things you’ve expressed gratitude for, what would be missing in your life?
For some to have all those annoying or forgettable or heartbreaking things blink out of existence would be a Godsend…but for everyday blessings that we overlook, the mundane things that make life worth living, the simplicity of fall leaves, or warm coats, or…
This time has been profoundly difficult for all of us, in uniquely different ways. For some it’s highlighted how dependent we are on others. For others still, they’ve learned they don’t mind the solitude, and companies and businesses alike have had to rediscover what it means to employ a work force and keep them safe. And in the panic of the pandemic, it’s become more difficult to show gratitude because many are “just getting by.”
Our service today will end with the hymn Now Thank we All Our God, and as Oktoberfest weekend is celebrated in new ways this year, this German hymn reminds us of the words of our scripture – for after generations of journeying in the wilderness, the Israelites are about to make their way into the promised land, and they are reminded that it’s not because of their strength, but the presence of God that has seen them through. In the same way, Now Thank We All Our God, might stand as a reminder of God’s promises:
1 Now thank we all our God, with heart,
and hands, and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
2 O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
and keep us strong in grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ill in this world and the next.
And I’ve always loved a hymn that manages to rhyme the word perplexed…but the true power of the story of the hymn comes from the world in which it was written. In the middle of the Thirty Years’ war, centred on Europe and primarily Germany in the 17th Century, Lutheran Pastor Martin Rinkart wrote this hymn reminding us of God’s presence to see us through. Yet the words were more prayer than promise. During the Thirty Years’ war, eight million lives were lost, the majority due to the plague and famine. Rinkhart, a pastor averaged 12 funerals a day, and performed 4000 funerals in a single year (including a service for his wife). And in the midst of the chaos of his life, he prayed…Now thank we all our God…
And it brought me back to that question – If I woke up tomorrow to only the things I’ve expressed gratitude for, what would be missing in my life? Because even on the best of days, I forget so much. And on the worst it’s even more difficult to be thankful.
Yet the story of the Hebrews is the perfect reminder of God’s presence while things are going wrong. The whole Exodus is God’s doing, and yet the Hebrews doubted. They traversed through a vast and terrifying desert of poisonous snakes and scorpions, of cracked ground with no water; the one who made water flow for you out of a hard rock; and many doubted because of the troubles they faced. Many were ungrateful for the gift of liberation because it just led them from one trouble to the next. Yet the author of Deuteronomy leads them in their own version of Now thank we all our God, praying to, and praising God, for God’s own faithfulness in those times of trouble. For in every awful experience in this life, we need not look far to discover how God works in us or others to bring about new life, and new hope, and new faith. It doesn’t eliminate the problems – but neither are we abandoned to them. For the Hebrews had one another, Martin Rinkart had a community of faith, as we do to – to struggle, bless and pray together.
For it takes great courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still to love it. The world is far from perfect, it’s full of pandemics, and problems, and poverty (of finances, faith, and resources)…but to still find the courage to be grateful, to recognize it’s tainted glory and still love it – reminds us that God’s provision outweighs the problems of this world. God’s promise to be with us is all we need to find the strength, the courage, and the faith to work in and through that tainted glory with God being our helper.
Thanks be to God, who created this world, in order that we might love it, and one another.
 My source says this is from Wilde’s An Ideal Husband but I wasn’t able to locate the quote there when I read the play…?