Sermon for Service of Thanksgiving, November 20, 2018 - John 6:25-35
Depending on the day, depending on what type of workout I have done, or what I have had to eat earlier, I basically eat everything. I revert back to my days as a 16-year-old eating everything in sight. Eventually it comes back to haunt me. Laying in bed wishing I hadn’t had that last cookie. Imitating the old Alka-Seltzer commercial, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
The strange thing is though, after I fall asleep, I wake up in the morning and I’m hungry again. I spend the day eating and then the next day comes, and I need to eat. My body exhausted the use of the calories I had ingested the day before, and now my body, my limbs and organs need nourishment. Need food. Need the calories for energy. Have you noticed that? No one meal can satisfy us. We may be for a moment or two, but then we need something else. Something more. One more piece of pie. Another spoonful of potatoes. Eating breakfast, we need lunch. Eating lunch, we need afternoon tea. Dinner. Midnight snack. Go to bed, get up, repeat. Every day. Never being without that necessity.
Christ here comes face-to-face with people who discovered where they could find bread. They had just been fed with the loaves and the fish. Those 5000 men, plus women and children. They track down Jesus and they come seeking the same thing. Maybe they began to be hungry again. Maybe they were amazed by the sign and wanted to keep this Galilean preacher around for a few more days in case they need another snack. Maybe they actually thought, “Who else could make a meal come from almost nothing but the Lord? Could this be the Messiah?”
Christ knows us. Christ knew hunger. He knew want. He knew the human frailty of it all. Yet, his response to them is not one to fulfill their every wish, but to turn them to the truth of our world. The truth of our lives so that we might know exactly in Whom and from Whom we have our life, our being. God Himself. Nothing else. No one else. Coming to grips with the fact that no matter how first world we are, we are among the wilderness. In the desert. Awaiting entry into the New Jerusalem. Waiting for the Promised Land to come.
When the Israelites were wandering around in the desert after the Exodus, they were hungry. They needed food and water. They needed shelter and care. What we are told in Exodus 16 is that God said he would rain down bread from heaven and give unto his people. This Manna, this “What is it” stuff for his people to eat. He even set parameters to say that there would be enough for all. No one who gathered more than the prescribed amount would have too much, and no one who gathered less would go wanting. Giving even a double portion to them on the day before the Sabbath so that no gathering, no work would need to be done on the Sabbath. That rest would actually come for them so that no worries would be there for those in need of food. They would have it.
As thanksgiving approaches, we each have our traditions. Going around the table to say what you are thankful for. Singing a hymn. Sharing recipes. Driving to grandmas. Whatever it may be. I ask you if you might add one other tradition. It is not something too hard. It actually has Sabbath attached to it. Rest. Here it is – Enjoy. That is it. Enjoy what God has given you. What is attached to this word is the fact that you come to realize that what it is you are enjoying has been given you by God. It is coming to grips with the fact that your enjoyment in this life is tied to the life you live in God, in Christ. But enjoy it all the same. Enjoying what God has given, what he hands you each day as daily mercies, is the culmination of God’s precious work. It takes away the incessant need to fake gratitude. It takes away the lists of being thankful. It actually removes the need for the thank you note. Have you thought of that?
I can remember as a kid having to write thank you notes. I try to do it still, but I am really bad at coming up with the words. Because sometimes it has causes me either to have to pretend I liked something that someone gave me even though maybe I didn’t, and so I lie to them. Or that my expression of gratitude could be tied to being so happy with that thing, whatever it may be that to this day I love looking people in the face and saying, “Thank you.” Then wearing the clothes right away. Using the gift immediately. Enjoying it. That being my expression of thanks.
In these coming days of thanksgiving, we will gather with family and friends to enjoy one another’s company. To see those we don’t normally see. To eat and drink together. Watch football, go shopping, go to the movies. Whatever. Enjoying the gifts of God is our expression of gratitude. Because if we hate them. Hate the people. Hate the food. Hate the merriment, no expression of thanks will cover over that displeasure.
There, then, in That enjoyment of those gifts we see and touch, of family and life, we begin to know how we may enjoy and receive in Christ his gifts. The gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. What he gives to you. The gifting of himself to you. The hunger we have drives us to the Giver, because we know he gives what we need. We know he offers to us the joy of his salvation. The bread of his Body. The preciousness of himself. So that every morsel of earthly food pale in comparison to the nurturing he gives in his life for you. His love for you. So this week, enjoy. Because feasting in joy at the tables we prepare can help us to truly feast in joy at the table he prepares for us.
Ecclesiastes is a great place to go for this. We tend to read the book and think it is the place of “Woe is me.” However, Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 – “There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him?” Or 3:9-14 – “What does the worker gain from his struggles? I have seen the task that God has given the children of Adam to keep them occupied. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 – “Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.” Finally, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 – “Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun.” Most importantly, enjoy Christ. Go forth in his mercies, renewed each day as your dependence grows in order to know of those mercies. That love. God being for you always. Thanks be to God. Amen