Memory and Thankgiving - A Meditation
|John Cox - Gray and Gold - Cleveland Museum of Art|
It is Thanksgiving Eve. Many are traveling or preparing for a day with family and friends. Some, of course, will be alone. Some will be grieving, while others celebrate. Last evening I was tasked with reading from the Book of Deuteronomy at our Troy Community Thanksgiving Service. This was the second service I participated in. The first was an interfaith event and the second a Christian gathering. Thought there were obviously differences between the two, both services gave an opportunity to remember and give thanks.
Below is the reading from Deuteronomy 26.
26 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, 2 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. 3 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.”4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5 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. 6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7 we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 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;9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 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. 11 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 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)]
In this passage the people of God are invited to remember how God answered their call in a time of distress, guiding them to a new land, a land filled with "milk and honey." So, now it is time to bring in the first fruits to the Temple. The word that I heard as I read the passage last night was the call to share the bounty. Note that they are to gather together and share their bounty with the "Levites and the aliens who reside among you." The Levites were priests and were dependent on the people for their sustenance as they had no land to farm. Then there are the aliens who reside amongst the people. At a time when we are wrestling with immigration reform and refugees, this is an important word from Scripture. Remember the stranger, the alien, include them in your celebration. In other words, they too are family.
So, let us pause to give thanks for the "fruit of all creation ... for the good gives to every nation." Yes, "in the just reward of lab or, God's will is done; in the help we give our neighbor, God's will is done; in our worldwide task of caring for the hungry and despairing, in the harvests we are sharing, God's will be done." [Fred Pratt Green, "For the Fruit of All Creation."].
May this be a blessed Thanksgiving for all. And as we celebrate let us remember the stranger amongst us, the one who seeks refuge and a new opportunity.