Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Towards Thanksgiving Sunday (October 9, 2016)

Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (When Israel finally enters and takes possession of the Promised Land, they face the task of how to handle its bounty in a faith-ful way.  In a sermon purported to be by Moses, they are told to take the first part of each year's harvest to the priest, to be offered in thanks to God for what the land has yielded.  The prayer that is to be said with the offering calls to mind three facts of Israel's life -- the wandering of Abraham , their father; their slavery in Egypt, liberation, and desert journey with God; and the undeserved gift of the rich land they are now in.  Then the instruction ends with a command to be grateful and to let others share in the celebration.)

The Thanksgiving slogan at Fifty this year is "Thanks-giving is thanks-sharing."

It speaks to me because giving I can do, and sharing is harder.  

Not that I always give as generously or spontaneously as some, nor as creatively.  Fear, possessiveness, and lack of imagination get in the way.  And I regret when that happens.

But giving -- of time, of things, of money, of thoughts and ideas, of gifts, of sermons and liturgies, of wisdom, of energy, of attention, of support, of advice -- is in the end not that hard because it allows (and even reinforces) a sense of control, self-determination, and moral self-satisfaction.  It reinforces the sense of some things really being "mine" and under my control.  It might also reinforce a sense of being superior to -- or at least of being the benefactor, of others -- a nice status to have in the world.

Sharing is harder because it breaks down that barrier or distance between me and others.  Sharing simple things like meal planning and the kitchen when I cook, or household chores that I like to do, can be a challenge -- cuz' as my dad used to say, if you want something done right, do it yourself.  Or sharing stuff like books or CD's (will I get them back?).  Or sharing -- really sharing, my home with others.  Or sharing leadership, letting others work with me, letting others have as much say -- or more say than me in planning worship, sermons and other programs that I'm involved in.  Now that's really hard!!

If all this makes me sound obsessive-compulsive, well ... guess what?  But even aside from that personality disorder I wonder if all of us, maybe just because of where we are in the world and what we have, find really sharing with others (especially people who are really "other" than us), harder than simply giving to them.

And I wonder if the three little reminders in this reading about what it means to be God's people in the world, are of any help in growing towards thanks-sharing.  Does it make a difference, to remember...
  • that the land we are in, that whatever we have and wherever we are in life and in the world, is never really or simply "ours"?
  • that we become God's people when we let God free us from enslavement (to what?), and we learn to trust in the overarching goodness of God through all things?
  • that we are part of a long, holy line of sojourners and wanderers, not clinging to any place or making an idol of any "home" we achieve, but willing to leave safe places behind in order to follow God's call to something as-yet unknown that will be good not only for us, but for all?

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