I was so excited to be able preach for the evening service at Ebenezer UMC with Bethany, North Fayette and Friendship churches all invited as well.
I used passages from Deuteronomy 8:7-18, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Luke 17:11-19 and Psalm 65 (if you are wondering, yes, that is all of the liturgical texts for Thanksgiving!). I focused on Luke’s passage about Jesus healing 10 Lepers and only one returning, then I connected the text from Deuteronomy that talks about God’s provision for Israel but not forgetting God.
All of the passages have some element of provision involved. We hear in Luke and Deuteronomy especially how God will be faithful and that we should be thankful, a great reminder this season of the year when we intentionally pause to give “thanksgiving.”
I think there is also a deeper meaning to the texts, beyond a simple reminder of being thankful (which is also important!). I used a couple of examples from my Great Grandmother, Nanny as we called her.
My great grandmother, Nanny, taught me about remembering who is giving, not just what. During the holiday seasons when I would spend time at Nanny’s house, she guided me into a fascination with coins, specifically early American coins. She had a nice little collection herself, much of it had been passed down through her family. As a part of this collection, the most valuable coin was a penny from 1806. The penny is a rare coin from that time, called a “draped bust cent.” This penny is in remarkable condition considering its age and worth lots of money. Nanny had the coin appraised in the mid 1990’s and the man was so impressed, he offered to take it to an auction back then, he thought it would have sold in no time! But, Nanny didn’t want to part with the coin, so she held on to it, although she certainly could have used the extra money.
One thanksgiving, towards the end of her life, Nanny and I were talking after everyone had left and she asked me to get out her coin collection. I quickly pulled it out with excitement; I loved to look through these beautiful coins and here the stories that went with them. As we began looking through the coins, she searched through the container to find the prized jewel, the penny from 1806. She had given this a lot of thought and decided that she wanted me to have the penny. As much as I tried to refuse, she insisted she wouldn’t have it any other way.
What a gift. A valuable coin, do doubt. But the real value in the coin for me, is not so much in the money I could sell it for, although that would help pay for seminary! No, the value is not in the what I have been given, it is in the who gave it to me.
I believe that is what the passages from today are trying to tell us. In Deuteronomy, we hear all the promises God is going to give Israel. He tells them about the land they will have, the food they will have, the nations they will rule, the traditions that will be preserved. Still, God does not say that they are to be thankful for what he is giving, he says, “Don’t forget the Lord your God.” The one requirement for all he will provide that people is that they don’t forget about him.
The same goes with the passage from Luke where Jesus still heals all 10 men, but he is most pleased with the man who comes back and praises God. Luke’s gospel tells us the man came back not just to thank Jesus for the what, but to praise the who had healed him!
This thanksgiving, my challenge to us all is that as we sit around our thanksgiving tables, we won’t simply reflect on what we have been given; instead, let us praise the God who has given all of this to us. It is not about the what, it’s about the who.