October 10, 2021
Acknowledging the Territory
As we gather to give thanks this weekend, let us not forget to include our thanks for the land upon which we gather. Let us take a moment to acknowledge that this land for which we offer our thanks, is the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people who have lived here and cared for this land long before our ancestors arrived. May we learn with respect upon this land, caring for and sharing it in gratitude.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. We also commit ourselves to allow that light shine through us that we might shine Christ’s light for others
Call to Worship
The Great Mystery that we call God stretches out the heavens and shapes the earth.
And we give thanks!
God raises up the mountains and pours water into the seas.
And we give thanks!
God produces plants from the soil and forms the infinite variety of animals.
And we give thanks!
God breathes upon us and fills us with life.
And we give thanks!
God gives our lives meaning through laughter and through tears.
And we give thanks!
God touches our hearts through family and friends and sometimes even through strangers.
And we give thanks!
God loves us and blesses us with every good thing, surrounding us with God’s Grace.
And so, as we gather here this Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks!
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Divine One, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, help us to find it in our hearts to be grateful no matter what. Help us to praise you for what we can do and praise you in spite of what we can’t. Help us to thank you for what is and what isn’t, for what is going well and for what is not. Help us to thank you for what brings us joy and even for that which brings us grief, for it is in our grief that we often experience most profoundly, the depths of your love. Touch our hearts and our lives this day, that our Thanksgiving may truly become Thanks-Living. Amen.
Gift of Music Come, You Thankful People Come VU#516
Scripture Readings Exodus 16:1-18
I have always loved the story of the Israelite people wandering in the wilderness. They escape from Egypt, but they have absolutely no idea where they are going. They step out in faith, following Moses and trusting that God is leading them. Now they have been travelling for almost 2 months, the food is beginning to run out and the frustration level begins to rise. They had figured that by now they would be wherever it was they were heading for and as things dragged on, they began to complain.
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim, and on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, they came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai. There in the desert they all complained to Moses and Aaron and said to them, “We wish that the Lord had killed us in Egypt. There we could at least sit down and eat meat and as much other food as we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death.”
The Lord said to Moses, “Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day.
In this way I can test them to find out if they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to bring in twice as much as usual and prepare it.”
So, Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. In the morning you will see the dazzling light of the Lord‘s presence. He has heard your complaints against him—yes, against him, because we are only carrying out his instructions.”
Then Moses said, “It is the Lord who will give you meat to eat in the evening and as much bread as you want in the morning, because he has heard how much you have complained against him. When you complain against us, you are really complaining against the Lord.”
Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole community to come and stand before the Lord, because he has heard their complaints.” As Aaron spoke to the whole community, they turned toward the desert, and suddenly the dazzling light of the Lord appeared in a cloud. The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them that at twilight they will have meat to eat, and in the morning, they will have all the bread they want. Then they will know that I, the Lord, am their God.”
In the evening a large flock of quails flew in, enough to cover the camp, and in the morning, there was dew all around the camp. When the dew evaporated, there was something thin and flaky on the surface of the desert. It was as delicate as frost. When the Israelites saw it, they didn’t know what it was and asked each other, “What is it?” Moses said to them, “This is the food that the Lord has given you to eat.
The Lord has commanded that each of you is to gather as much of it as he needs, two quarts for each member of his household.”
The Israelites did this, some gathering more, others less. When they measured it, those who gathered much did not have too much, and those who gathered less did not have too little. Each had gathered just what he needed.
Thankfulness in the Midst of Uncertainty
Today in our scripture story we jump from the call of Moses to the time of wandering in the wilderness. We have missed the 10 plagues and the first Passover. We have missed the crossing of the Red Sea and the escape into the desert. Now the people are wandering through the desert with no clear idea of how long they will be traveling, what might happen along the way or what they will find at the end of the journey. And so, in the midst of frustration and anxiety, the people begin to complain.
The food is running out and they worry that they will starve to death. They even begin to long for the past, for Egypt where at least they knew they would be fed, even if they were slaves. The unknown future was just too frightening, and so they longed for the past.
Now we may look at this story and wonder how the Israelites could lose faith so quickly. After all they had just witnessed the miracle of the 10 plagues and the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea. Surely this was enough to make them trust in God. How could they forget all of that and stop trusting God?
The truth is that it is hard to live in the midst of uncertainty. It is hard to let go of the past when there doesn’t appear to be any solid plan for the future to hold on to. It’s hard to trust in the unknown and in the vague promise that everything will be fine. And this doesn’t just apply to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. We all want to know where we are headed and how it will take to get there.
We are told that God heard the complaints of the people and provided Manna in the wilderness. Unfortunately, this is often as far as we take the story, but there is so much more to it. God did not just provide Manna, bread that would sustain them, God also provided quail, a feast that the people could enjoy. This was not about simply provided the bare essentials of what the people needed to survive it was a gift of food that was meant to satisfy.
But it was not intended to take away all the uncertainty. Each morning the Manna would be provided and everyone was to gather only what they needed for that day. On the day before the Sabbath, they were to collect twice as much as the rest of the week so that they would have enough for the Sabbath without having to break the Sabbath laws by working on that day. Those who gathered more, didn’t have extra left over and those who gathered less, had enough.
But it was always enough only for that day. At the end of the day, they would once again have to trust and believe that want was needed for tomorrow would be provided. In a part of the story that we didn’t read this morning, we are told that some people, out of fear, hide some of what they had gathered and saved it for the next day … just in case!
When morning came, what had been saved from the night before had gone rancid and was filled with maggots. There was nothing they could do except thrown it out. God had promised the Israelites that they would have enough for the day, but only for that one day. Each new day they must once again trust that God would provide what they needed.
Can you imagine being advised to live like that today? Pretty much every bank, business, or financial advisor will tell you that you should have enough savings put aside to be able to pay all your bills for at least 3 months. The idea of having a zero balance in your bank account at the end of each day and of emptying your refrigerator and cupboards every night, seem ridiculous. But perhaps we are being to literal here. Trusting in God to provide what we need each and each day is not always about our physical needs.
For me, this Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any other, I find myself reflecting on the story of Manna in the wilderness a bit differently. Last Thanksgiving, we all understood that we would have to forego large family gatherings. We were in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that was keeping us shut away in our own homes. It was almost like we were living as slaves to this virus. It was far from an ideal situation, but it was one we had generally come to accept and were willing to live with because it meant that we would be safe.
But now, like the people of Israel who were promised freedom from their slavery in Egypt, it feels like we have been promised an end to the pandemic through the development of vaccines. Yet we do not find ourselves in this new post-pandemic promised land any more than the Israelites found themselves in a land flowing with milk and honey.
The Israelites had not been prepared for the length of time it would take for them to get to were they were going. They were not even sure exactly were that promised land was or exactly what things would look like once they got there.
Sound familiar? The truth is, that I don’t think any of us were prepared to face two full years of restrictions, lock-downs, masks and social isolation, no matter what experts may have told us. And we are coming to realize that where we are headed may not be exactly what we had pictured in our minds. It will be different than it was, but we still don’t know exactly what that will look like.
It turns out we are not so different from those early Israelites. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, uncertain of where we are going or what we will have to face next, we tend to complain. We get frustrated and we want answers. We want a clearly laid out path going forward. We want organized time tables and we want to be very sure that those time tables are adhered to.
If wandering through the wilderness taught the Israelites anything and if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is perhaps that we are really not in charge and that all our own plans can end up meaning nothing. Plans often end up needing to be changed and priorities needing to be reassessed. That is what is happened right now. Despite all the plans we have made for resuming activities this fall, it’s just not possible to proceed with many of those plans. And so, we are having to adjust our hopes and expectations.
But perhaps the most important thing that the Israelites learned from their time in the wilderness and the thing that we most need to remember right now, is that the promise of God to provide what we truly need for this one day, is a promise that will always be there.
Later on in the Exodus story, we read how the Israelites complained because they were tired of Manna. They wanted some variety instead of being stuck with the same thing to eat every single day.
But God never promised the Israelites that they would have what they wanted, only that they would have what they needed. The same is promised to us. Yes, we had all hoped that the restrictions would all be gone by now. We hoped we would be able to gather with whoever we wanted whenever we wanted. We wanted to be free from having to wear masks. But right now, what we want may not be what we need.
The truth is that it is never easy to living one day at a time, especially in the midst of uncertainty. It is hard when we are afraid to plan because we know that our plans may be overturned in an instant. It’s hard to trust when we have absolutely no idea where we are going or how long it is going to take to get there.
But that doesn’t mean that we simply stop living and allow things to just happen around us and to us.
As the Israelites wandered through the wilderness, sustained by the Manna that was provided for them, they began to define who they were as a people and what they hoped for the future. They developed laws, practices, celebrations and traditions that would define them as a culture, not just during their time of wandering but for generations and millennia to come. Some of those laws, practices, celebrations and traditions that were established during the time in the wilderness are the very things that our own celebrations and traditions are based on.
Today we celebrate Thanksgiving. We celebrate the season of harvest and we offer God our thanks for the abundance of this time of year. We remind ourselves that the bounty we enjoy, the food we harvest and the blessing we often take for granted, all come form God.
During their time in the wilderness, the Israelites established 3 great festivals, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, to remember their escape form slavery, the Harvest Festival, to offer thanks for the crops they had grown and the Festival of Shelters, to offer thanks for the fruit they gathered from the trees and the vines.
Even in the midst of the wilderness, even in the midst of uncertainty, of disappointment, and of difficult times, the Israelites took time to remember all they had to be grateful for, and to offer God their thanks.
Once again, this year, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are in the midst of uncertainty. We don’t know when restrictions will be fully lifted and we don’t know what the new reality will look like once they are. We don’t know what things will continue to change, and we don’t know what struggles or challenges we might face in the future.
But the one thing we do know is that today, this day, we have been provided with all that we truly need, and we know that God promises to continue to provide for us. So, no matter what this Thanksgiving Day holds for any of us, when we remember God’s promise to provide for each one of us what we need for this one day, we will find that, no matter what, we do have a great deal to be thankful for and a great deal to celebrate. Amen
Gift of Music All Who Hunger VU # 460
We Offer Our Gifts
This is a day we set aside as a special day to give thanks for all the blessings we enjoy in life. But with the acknowledgement of those blessings comes the responsibility to share them. And so we take a moment now to think about all the ways in which we can share what we have with others. We think about the offerings we make each week here in our church, through our offering plates on the table in the entryway, through PAR or through other donations. We also think about the opportunities we find to share with others beyond these walls.
All of us here have been richly blessed in our lives, so let us take a moment now to ask God’s blessing upon our sharing.
Let us pray;
Loving God, may our Thanksgiving truly become an expression of giving thanks. May the gifts we share today be given in joy and in love as a way of demonstrating the deep gratitude we feel for all the blessing we have received. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, as us take a moment in silent prayer, let us remember all those named in our prayer jar, in our hearts and our thoughts this day. Let us especially remember those who will find this day difficult because of loneliness and isolation … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Love, who provides us with what we need even in the wilderness times of our lives, we realize how seldom we truly say Thank-you. Sometimes we jealously complain that everyone else seems better off than we are. Sometimes we proudly assume we have earned all that we have. Sometime we are just too busy trying to accomplish everything on our to-do lists. Sometime, even when we say thank-you, our thanks is given grudgingly silently wishing for more. And sometimes, even when we do express true gratitude and thanks, it is not always reflected in the way we live. And so today, we pray that our gratitude for the rich beauty around us, the ripening harvest, the changing leaves, the crisp autumn air, the abundance of plants, animals and birds, may be express in a commitment to protect this beautiful planet that you have given us as our home. We pray that our gratitude for the abundance we enjoy, plentiful food, warm and safe shelter, health and heath care, education and opportunities, may be expressed in a commitment to justice and equality, a willingness work for the good of all. We pray that our gratitude for the friends and family that mean so much to us and that enrich our lives in so many ways, may be expressed in a commitment to see all people as beloved brothers and sisters, siblings of our Divine Parent. And so, as we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we pray that, no matter what circumstance we may find ourselves in, we will learn to be truly thankful. We pray that our thanks may be expressed in action and that our actions may truly express our deep gratitude for all that you have provided. We pray in the name of the one that you sent to provide us with a living example of your love for all people, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Closing Hymn We Plough the Fields VU#520
As we began this worship giving thanks, let us now move out into the world with thanksgiving.
Let thanksgiving enhance the joys we experience.
Let thanksgiving transcend the pain and challenges we must face.
Let thanksgiving sweeten the tasks and responsibilities we must undertake.
Let thanksgiving ease even the deepest griefs we must endure.
And let us go out from here living the Thanksgiving we express this day.