Season After Pentecost: Thanksgiving 2016 – Moving from one season to the next

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (John 6:25)

I am breaking with tradition and writing this on the eve of Thanksgiving. I have completed all the advance preparations – that is, the household is as clean as it going to get for tomorrow and the pies are baked. It is late; in fact, if I post this when I am done writing it, it will appear at the usual time for this blog posts.

I chose to write on the eve of because I wanted it to be as up-to-date and relevant as possible. Thanksgiving is a time of advance thinking and last minute preparation – feast advice notwithstanding!

“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.” (Verses 26 – 27)

I did not, however, do any pre-thinking or planning as to what I was going to say/write, other than determining the order I am going to list/address the scripture passages that the Revised Common Lectionary has for this Thanksgiving season. It seemed to me to be good to think first about what Jesus said about food and spiritual food – seeing as tomorrow will be a day of fooding!

Whether your Thanksgiving planning was done weeks or months ago, or like me this year who did all the planning and shopping very last minute, the food of tomorrow will not last much longer than the day – leftovers exempted! My point is that what we celebrate with tomorrow will “perish”; but the care and compassion we have for those around the table will endure for our lifetime and beyond. And the spiritual food that the Lord God provides will last from this world into the next.

“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.'” (Verses 28 – 31)

The food we eat tomorrow will be set in front of us – at least that is true for most of us. While I might have prepared the food for those who gather around my table tomorrow, the acquiring it and preparing it was relatively simple – as if it came down from heaven. I did not have to sacrifice myself for it, nor did it cause me pain and toil (at least not comparatively speaking along side my next comment). But the spiritual food which we partake of comes to us at the cost of Christ’s life. And our partaking of it obligates us to be followers of Christ, which could involve great sacrifice.

“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.” (Verses 32 – 35)

While we satisfy our hunger Thanksgiving, let us remember that we should not settle for the food that the world gives, but should crave and seek the spiritual food that is promised us by and through our Lord God Jesus Christ!

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. 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.
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.
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.” (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)

Giving thanks for the bounty and abundance that the Lord has given. So we turn from considering spiritual food to the blessings of this life that the Lord has given us. And we remember, or should remember, those who still struggle for sustenance and the simple basics of life. Charity was an important aspect of Jewish life; this verse from Deuteronomy specifically mentions the “aliens” who resided among the chosen people of God. Reminding them that God’s favor does not just rest on them, and that they at one time struggled in their daily lives. Let us be thankful that our struggles are small. And if, beloved reader, your struggles are large, I hope and pray that there are those who reach out the hand of compassion and assistance to you!

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.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

With spiritual food given to us, and blessings and abundance bestowed on us, we have much to be thankful for. What response will we make to the Lord God, and how will we show our praise and appreciation?

“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.” (Verses 8 – 9)

As you have been reading, this year Thanksgiving comes within the first week of Advent. The end of the lectionary year is thus intermingled with the beginning of the next lectionary year. Beginnings and endings do sometimes get entangled. Let us not try to untangle them, but reside in the blessings of both. We celebrate what the Lord has done for us this year, and look forward to the blessings of the coming year. Let us rejoice that the Lord is with us and keeps us. And let us draw closed to the Lord so that we might feel that Divine blessing, and share that blessing with others. Selah!

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.” (Psalm 100)