There is more to being grateful than simply observing a special day or saying grace before a meal. An important part of our worship and our spiritual discipline is expressing our gratitude to God for all that we have and all that we enjoy. That is what the Thanksgiving season is all about.
As the wandering Hebrews began to coalesce into a nation of God’s people, their worship was centered in gratitude. In Deuteronomy, the Hebrew people were given some special instructions as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. After a lengthy sojourn in the wilderness they were finally able to enter the land they recognized as a gift from God. But in order to remind future generations of the nature of this gift – generations that had not wandered and waited, specific guidelines for thankful remembrance were offered.
One was the offering of first-fruits: “you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground which you harvest from the land the Lord has given you and place it in a basket…” and it was to be taken to the Lord’s chosen place and offered there to the priest.
There is no better way to give thanks to God than to return the first and best portion of the blessings we receive. If we believe that the blessings we enjoy are from God, then we should return to the altar first, with grateful hearts, with the very best that we have.
We also give thanks by rehearsing our history – just as the Hebrew people did – by remembering who is responsible for our bounty.
When the people possessed the land and harvested their crops, after they had taken the first fruits to the priest in the appointed place, they were to remember their heritage – not to exalt their ancestors (as we sometimes do), but to place in perspective their dependence on God.
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt…”
Hear that again: They were saying that their ancestor was a wandering Aramean with no real place to call home and he ended up in Egypt, where the Egyptians treated them harshly. People should never forget who they are and where they are from.
Realizing our dependence on God and rehearsing our history as wandering “pilgrims” should prepare us to change the way we look at others around us.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to share the wealth that we enjoy. I really believe that God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others. Our abundance, our understanding of our own past, should allow us to find compassion for others who have not made the same journey, for whatever reason. And it may just be that sharing our blessings is the very best way that we can find to say “thanks.”
Grace and Peace,