Sermon for a Thanksgiving Evening Service, November 21st, Bethany Lutheran Church - Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Philippians 4:4-9; John 6:25-35
The first of the fruit of the promised land. Fruit that leads to rejoicing. Fruit so precious that you cross a lake for it, find the rabbi, and ask – What must we do to do the works of God? Seeing in this Jesus a fruit more fruitful than a few loaves. Seeing in this Lord something worth rejoicing over. Seeing in this promised land of graciousness and lovingkindness a God who hears, who sees our toil, who remembers the oppression we endure and brings us out by an outstretched arm.
Thanksgiving Day is a day to rejoice in all that we have been given, all that we received before, and looking ahead to all that might be for us down the road. Yes, it comes with some interesting accessories. Family squabbles over dry turkey. An abundance of political conversations, bad football, an unfortunate lack of gravy and not enough cool whip. Through all of that, it is a day, one moment designated to bring our little basket of fruit before the Lord and rejoice in whatever it is the Giving-God has bestowed.
We all have that drawer. That box. That place where we keep things. Things we don’t necessarily want to look at all the time because of the memories. But things we keep none the less.
Could be a dog tag your grandpa wore in a war.
An anklet your daughter made for you back when you were cool.
Could be that class ring from high school, which would be great, if you had any good memories of high school.
How about a pocket knife your great uncle gave to you, even engraved with your name on it with his pocket knife, but its dirty. It hasn’t been cleaned. You never use it anymore.
There’s a cross from a necklace you were given by a cousin who died to early. You used to wear it all the time but now you don’t, and you don’t know why.
Images. Memories trapped in objects, both good and bad. Bad because there will always be something sad attached to so many things. People, places, experiences. Yet, this knife was a gift from my uncle who was a fighter pilot. Brave. Smart. Strong. An uncle given to me by God just as I was given to him.
A grandfather who enjoys the fruits of the resurrection now, remembered in pictures and prayers, but also in the sacrifices he made to gift freedom to many.
A ring as a memento of the education God gives to allow for the usage of that freedom to care for, to serve, others.
An anklet that will always remind me of that little girl who used to sit in the front seat of my truck skinning almonds before devouring them at the age of 3.
These are things I can hold. Things tangible. But they don’t feed my body. I can’t eat them. They don’t provide for me nourishment or pay my bills. They are, however, food. Without these examples of part of me, I would be malnourished in life. I would not be who I am, even though these represent things I have lost, or are gone.
It is the same for you too. The things and people you have and have not. The memories that you should give thanks for always. A God who gives is a God who offers up to you all things. Things in life that may not last, but they are there to be grateful for, because without them where would you be?
Don’t allow your life to be consumed by only what you might get angry at when it goes away. The people make that mistake coming to Christ after the feast that fed so many with a few loaves and a couple of fish. They want their food. They want to receive something in their bellies, never thinking that life is more than hunger pains, or thirst, or nakedness. That food they ate, that satisfied them but now is gone, leads them to someplace. They find Christ, they ask the questions – How’d you get here? Why weren’t you where we wanted you to stay so we could find you again? Getting our fill again?
Christ offers up to them not some physically tangible thing apart from who stands before them. He turns their eyes, our eyes to something more that sometimes seems so less; food that is – to trust in the one whom God has sent. The One whom God has given. The Bread of life which comes down from heaven, that feeds us. A Bread that is life, not merely an accessory to it. Because if these things here are forms of life giving nourishment, stories and reminders; if that drawer you have at home is the same, how much more than the Christ who came for you 2000 years ago, and still comes to you each time in his Word, in his people, in his table to feed you of his goodness.
The hymn says it perfectly - O bread of life from heaven, O food to pilgrims given. O manna from above; feed with the blessed sweetness of your divine completeness the souls that want and need your love.
As you take your seat at a table this week, imagine the blessing you have of that place, with those faces, as gifts of God. Imagine each time you come to Christ’s table, that great cloud of witnesses that surrounds you, memories of those gone before who have been fed and sustained by something more than food or drink. The bread of life from heaven, given for you, giving thanks always that somethings come and some go, but God always gives himself to you in every way. Thanks be to God. Amen.