“When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)
I have many memories of Thanksgiving in Canada. As a child, adolescent, and adult. It was a time to be close to family, to listen to the adults reminisce, and to think back myself over past years. There is a richness of memories and a wealth of warm feelings that are different from U.S. Thanksgiving. A large part of that I am sure is that the burden was never on me to plan or prepare the meal. In that I am indebted to my Canadian family, primarily to my parents, aunts, and uncles that provided for me and for my family when we returned to Ontario for Thanksgiving.
“You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.” (Verses 2 – 5)
Now, as the place of my origin it is not exactly the land “that I have come into” – more the land that I went out from! But the intent is the same – I found blessing and nurture in that land. And each year on Canadian Thanksgiving my heart longs and misses just a bit that past and those memories.
“When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Verses 6 – 9)
The United States has also brought blessing and nurture, and it is now home. May not “a land flowing with milk and honey” but my home with my family. And wherever family is, that is home. And at Thanksgiving time here with my family, there is also a wealth of memories and warm feelings. These at first were gifted to me by my in-laws, but in the fullness of time I took on the burden and responsibility of planning and preparing. First in Indiana, and more completely here in Oregon, it is a celebration of family and providence.
“So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house. ( Verses 10 – 11)
Our first Thanksgiving here was done with little resources. In fact I remember quite distinctly that I almost ran short of money in its preparation. But each year the abundance has been increased, and I am ever thankful for that!
“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalms 100)
But it is not just at Thanksgiving that we should praise God, and give thanks for what has been given to us. And not just material, and edible, possession but all things that have come to us. We are recipients of wondrous things, if we will but stop and think about it.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)
All the material things that come to us in this life, both edible and inedible, are transitory and fleeting. The memories I have of Thanksgivings past are not of the food but the people and the interactions. The memories were made of the love and care that was carried out on each occasion. And it is those things that warm my heart and fill me with nostalgia. And have carried me through tough times and tough occasions.
“When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.“ (John 6:25-35)
Those who depend solely on the food of the body and the stomach are destined to hunger/thirst always with a hunger/thirst that cannot be filled or satisfied. Now, we are taking this discussion from the physical to the spiritual. The aromas and tastes of Thanksgiving ground us the world around us, but the Spirit of Thanksgiving is not what our body perceives but what our spirit and soul perceives and experiences. I hope and pray, beloved reader, that in this Thanksgiving season you can make this movement, and experience the satisfaction that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ can bring. Selah!