The Scripture Readings this week are:
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
- Psalm 137
- From the Gospel: John 6:25-35
The Hymns are:
- 820 Make a Joyful Noise
- 227 For the Fruit of All Creation
- MV #162 Christ Within Us Hidden (insert)
- 481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The Sermon title is Singing & Feasting in a Strange Land
Early Thoughts: We are commanded to be thankful for and share from our abundance. But in a world that is changing so fast, in a world that doesn't always feel like a familiar home, how do we sing songs of thankfulness and praise?
Of course we are not the first people to face this question. The Psalm reading for this week comes from the time of the Babylonian exile. It asks the question "How can we sing the songs of God in a strange land?" -- if you remember the Boney M hit By the Rivers of Babylon or Don McLEan's Babylon (this is also found on page 858 in Voices United as a suggested accompaniment to the Psalm) then you have heard this Psalm of lament turned into pop music.
How indeed? How is it that after the world has been shaken on its foundations, after the unimaginable has happened, people could find the heart and voice to sing the old songs? The fall of Jerusalem was not just another defeat in battle, it was the ultimate defeat. And yet, even in exile, away from Zion, the supposed dwelling of God, the people eventually found their voice. Yes that voice was tempered by songs of lament, richened by the hoarseness of tears, but still they found that God was with them and that was reason for hope.
The Deuteronomy reading for Thanksgiving has the wonderful line "a wandering Aramean was my ancestor" followed by a brief recap of the move into and exodus from Egypt. Here we find the beginning of that hope. Even in slavery the people found cause for hope--which then led to freedom. As people in exile they re-found that hope.
Of course hope doesn't take away sorrow. The story of faith reminds us that lament is a part of life. We lament many things over the course of life's journey. But the lament never takes away the need to give thanks. There is a story about a group of Jewish men in Auschwitz putting God on trial. God was found guilty of mistreating God's people. Then, as the trial closed the rabbi looked up and said "now it is time to worship God".
In our world today we find many signs that life is (to be somewhat euphemistic) not what we wish it would be. This very week (leading up to Canadian Thanksgiving) may see the closure (final or short term yet to be determined) of one of our town's main employers. Across Northwestern Ontario mills are closing, people are unemployed, people are leaving for greener pastures. Surely this is a time for lament. What does it mean to celebrate Thanksgiving in the midst of this time of trouble?
It means we look deeper. It means we ask ourselves truly how are we blessed? It means we push ourselves to look beyond the scarcity and find abundance. Yes we lament. Yes life is not what we wish it was. But still we find the song to sing, we find that GOd is with us and that we are blessed.
A Blessed Thanksgiving to all!