Summary: Remembering helps us to see God’s long view rather than our short view. Thanksgiving for the long view.
Thanksgiving Sunday Deuteronomy 8:7-18 13 October 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
This is a difficult year to celebrate Thanksgiving. Most years, at this time, the harvest is in, the bins full, or even piles of grain on the ground. Thanksgiving, in most years, is a time we find it easy to be joyful, to sit back take a long breath and enjoy the fruits of our year’s work.
But this year is different. There were so many months without rain. The land remained brown through the spring and early summer. This was the year that pushed people back in their memories to remember a year as dry. Some spoke of 1961, others remembered the 1930’s but then remembered crops through those years. Some parts of the province were swarmed by grasshoppers eating anything green. Many fields were not even combined because there was so little there. The weather played it’s cruel games with us, no rain for so long and then rain that seemed to mock us by coming too late, creating second growth that seemed to promise something only to be cut short by early frost.
One of my colleagues in another city spoke of a member of his congregation who had lost his house in a fire this summer. The insurance company has been slow with a settlement and his family is living on a mattress in the home of a relative with a few clothes hanging in a closet. Knowing that Thanksgiving was close, the pastor asked how he could be sensitive to this man’s family in a year as difficult as this. The man said that this year has helped him to remember how little stuff he really needs, and more than that, it has helped him to remember how much people care for one another in times of crisis. This was not to be a typical Thanksgiving for him, not one he would have chosen for himself, but certainly a one during which he would remember to be thankful.
The key word for the text from Deuteronomy is remember. The people of Israel are about to be led into the Promised Land.
“A good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a lnad of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing…”
These are words spoken to a people who had wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. These are people who are reminded that it has been God who has been faithful, God who led them out of slavery into the promised land. God who had fed them and given them water all those years. God who had made sure that their shoes and clothes did not wear out.
The people of Israel are told to remember because they often forgot. They often had a short view that led them to complain, to accuse God of abandoning them. A short view that made them think that they were responsible for the good things that happened to them. A short view that the writer of Deuteronomy knew would lead them to think that the good of the Promised Land was their doing. So, the people of Israel are told to remember. “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.”
“Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that hew swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.”
The people of Israel are reminded of God’s long view. A long view that chose them as his own, a long view that saw this group of wandering peasants protected from famine in the days of Joseph, protected from the genocide of the pharaohs and led into the Promised Land. The long view of God followed the ups and downs of his people through generations of prophets and gave us Jesus as the saviour of the world. The long view of God that was faithful to God’s promises even though there were difficult times along the way.
The short view of the lepers in today’s gospel asked for a handout of food but the long view of God saw that they needed healing. One remembered, in the midst of his good fortune, that Jesus was responsible for his healing and returned to remember and give thanks.
The short view of history for Saskatchewan this year is not very pleasant. Some have lost their farms. Many have had to decide between expensive hay and low prices for their cattle at auction. Many have had sleepless nights. The text from Deuteronomy comes to us today to remind us to remember. To remember God’s long view, God’s promises that are faithful in the ups and downs of life. To remember that there have been many more good years than bad years and that all we have is a gift from God. Our inability to control the weather is a reminder that God is the one who is God and not I. Remember the God who remembers you. Remember the God who has every hair on your head numbered. Remember the God who clothes each one of us more beautifully than the lilies of the field. Remember that all we have and are comes from God who does not forget.