Sermon 11/22 Thanks Living

Thanksgiving 2020
Scripture Lesson: Deuteronomy 8:7-18
Sermon: Thanks Living
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

On a trip to Scotland a few years ago, before covid, we had the opportunity to visit
several historical museums in small towns in the highlands. These local museums
were fascinating.

In one museum, there was a display about how tea had come to Scotland through
this small town. Apparently, a local lad became a seafarer. On his voyages around
the globe, he was introduced to tea in Asia. He wanted to share this wonderful
drink with his mother. So, he sent her some tea, back in their hometown in the
highlands. In the display in the museum, we were informed that the mother
received the tea and proceeded to add it to a sandwich and eat it.

Apparently the young seafarer so impressed with tea sent his mother the dried
leaves but no instructions. She assumed the dried leaves were some kind of herb
and put them on a sandwich. Well, how was she to know? Evidently, the people of
Scotland eventually got the memo about how to brew tea and it has become a
staple of life in Scotland and the United Kingdom.

That story brings us to the scripture lesson that we heard this morning. In the
verses from Deuteronomy, we are told of the many things the Israelites have to be
thankful for:

a land with streams and pools of water
springs flowing into valleys
hills
crops – like wheat and barley
vineyards
fig trees
pomegranates olive trees
honey
a rich land where food will never be scarce

And there are other things the Israelites are to be thankful for that help to meet the
needs of life including rocks with minerals and metals like iron and copper.

The people are given a land that is conducive to supporting human life, with all
that is needed to build houses, have good food, and make the things that are needed
to live.

This is a far cry from the Israelites’ wilderness existence in the desolate desert with
the lack of water and food and the incursion of poisonous snakes and scorpions.

The Israelites are reminded that they are to be thankful for the bounteous land that
has been given to them to sustain them.

BUT, there is more in this story. The people are also reminded to remember the
commandments of God that show them how to walk in God’s way. God has truly
given them everything – not only the commodious land but also the instructions for
living together in peace with each other and with other peoples. God has given
them teachings about being generous and taking care of those who are vulnerable.
God has given them guidelines about justice and compassion. And when they
follow God’s instructions, they will live and prosper in the land and be a blessing
to all of the Earth.

When they do not follow God’s dictates they find themselves in trouble – with each
other or with the peoples around them. To neglect or defy God’s way inevitable
leads to problems.

Out of God’s great love, the Israelites were not just given the abundant, fertile,
fruitful, land. They were given instructions about how to organize the community
so that everyone is taken care of and everyone benefits from the bountiful land. They were not only given the tea, they were given the instructions about what do to
with it!

In this Thanksgiving season, we know that we have much to be thankful for. We
know the bounty of the land that we enjoy. We know the beauty of our homeland,
this continent and the world. We know the many resources and foods that the land
provides for us. And we express our gratitude freely for the material abundance in
our lives. And for our families and loved ones.

But as we commemorate this Thanksgiving, let us also remember that we have
been given spiritual teachings, moral values, and guidance, about how to take care
of this bountiful land, how to share our blessings and opportunities, how to live
together with peace and plenty for all. We have been given instruction about how
to be good neighbors to those next door and those on the other side of the globe.

The spiritual guidance we have been given also reminds us of all that we are purely
and simply given – that we do not create or make. That is given. Not earned or
transacted. As Deuteronomy says, it, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My own strength
and the power of my hands brought his wealth to me.’” Part of remembering the
spiritual teachings we have been given is to remember that we are recipients of the
generosity of God. In countless ways.

And in the Christian tradition, we want to also give thanks for the teachings of
Jesus, not only to love our selves and our neighbors but to love our enemies. We
celebrate the teachings of Jesus to care of the least of these in our society and our
world. We can be grateful for the calling to material simplicity and abundant
generosity. We have not been put on this Earth to extract its many gifts with
abandon. We have been put here to lovingly tend the planet and the life it sustains.
We are here to put into practice the teachings of the sages of the ages about how to
curb the selfishness and greed which poison the spirit, and instead to live in
gratitude and joy. Deuteronomy reminds us that we have much to be thankful for
and it is not limited to material things and loved ones. We have been given much
instruction, guidance, and wisdom to enrich our lives.

Sometimes I think the material abundance we enjoy is so overwhelming, we get
caught up in that and stop there. And then those resources may be misused,
squandered, abused, even weaponized. We must not forget that we we have
received instructions about how to live abundantly and in peace, sharing with all.
We must not forget to give thanks for the moral and spiritual instruction that has
come to us through the ages, through many different traditions and spiritual paths,
pointing us toward prosperity and peace and security and right relationship through
mutual care and respect for one another and for the planet. When we ignore,
forget, or defy the instructions we have been given, it is to our peril. We suffer for
it.

So, it’s like the tea. But we have been given the tea AND the instructions about
how to brew it. We have been given a wonderful, abundant land, and instructions
about how to live in this world in a way that leads to flourishing life for all not just
for some. This Thanksgiving season and every season may we give thanks for
ALL of these blessings. Amen.

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