Sunday October 8, 2023 – Thanksgiving
How sacred is this place! Its open door of grace behold, my soul and enter!
May all who worship here, believing God is near, find God is at the center.
Words Copyright © Hope Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
Acknowledging the Territory
We acknowledge that, here in Yarmouth, we live work and worship in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” first signed with in 1725. By acknowledging this, we commit ourselves to live in Peace, Friendship and Respect.
Lighting the Christ Candle
In the flame of the Christ Candle, we see reflected the light of Christ and we commit ourselves to live in that light, sharing it with all those we meet, wherever we go.
Call to Worship
This day is the day we call Thanksgiving.
This day we set aside to offer God our thanks for all we have.
But today, let us offer our thanks for those other things, the things we are not always grateful for.
For troubles that shape and sharpen our patience, for doubts that let faith grow and for unexpected changes that keep our lives from becoming too rigid.
For sufferings that help us share another’s grief, for fear that recognize the real terrors of our world, and for pain that opens our eyes to the possibility of joy.
For loneliness that enables us to reach out to others and for the deep longing that leads us back to you.
For all the gifts by which we become most truly human, we give thanks this day.
And so this day we come to worship God.
Divine One, we know that “Thank-you” can often be such an easy thing to say, but not always so easy thing to do. Our words of thanks are not always reflected in our actions. We offer our thanks for the bounty of your blessings, for health, for food, for friends and family. But when health fails, when times are hard or when friends and family are far away, we act as if we are being punished and we complain and ask why. We offer thanks for the beauty of our earth, for soil, water and air. But when the earth, water and air become polluted we blame others and lament our inability to do anything about it. We give thanks that we can be here gathered in worship, but we are not always willing to take our worship out from
this place and put it into action. Forgive us when our actions deny our words. Teach us to change our Thanksgiving into Thanks – Living. Amen.
Gift of Music Come, You Thankful People, Come #516
Our reading for this morning is not a typical Thanksgiving reading. This is in part because the Narrative Lectionary that we use is based out of the US and their Thanksgiving is not until November. Our Scripture today tells the story of Moses bringing the people of the ten commandments that God has given him and follows this with what is known as the great Shema.
Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:4-9 Good News Translation
Moses called together all the people of Israel and said to them, “People of Israel, listen to all the laws that I am giving you today. earn them and be sure that you obey them. At Mount Sinai the Lord our God made a covenant, not only with our fathers, but with all of us who are living today. There on the mountain the Lord spoke to you face-to-face from the fire. I stood between you and the Lord at that time to tell you what he said, because you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain.
“The Lord said, ‘I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from Egypt, where you were slaves.
“‘Worship no god but me.
“‘Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, for I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and, on their descendants, down to the third and fourth generation. But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my laws.
“‘Do not use my name for evil purposes, for I, the Lord your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name.
“‘Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, as I, the Lord your God, have commanded you. You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. Your slaves must rest just as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and that I, the Lord your God, rescued you by my great power and strength. That is why I command you to observe the Sabbath.
“‘Respect your father and your mother, as I, the Lord your God, command you, so that all may go well with you and so that you may live a long time in the land that I am giving you.
“‘Do not commit murder.
“‘Do not commit adultery.
“‘Do not steal.
“‘Do not accuse anyone falsely.
“‘Do not desire another man’s wife; do not desire his house, his land, his slaves, his cattle, his donkeys, or anything else that he owns.’
“Israel, remember this! The Lord—and the Lord alone—is our God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
Favorite Hymn Request A Strand in the Web of Life
Today, there was no one who made a special hymn request. So, Nancy and I decided that, on those Sundays when there is no request, we would use a hymn from the new United Church resource that will be coming out in 2024 which is titled Then Let Us Sing. Today we’re going to try to learn a new song titled
A Strand in the Web of Life. It is a beautiful short chorus. Nancy will play it through once and then we will sing it 3 times.
As I mentioned last week, the story of Moses spans four of the first five books of the Bible, beginning with Exodus and ending with Deuteronomy. Today we skip from the beginning of Moses’ story to the end. Between what we read last week and what we heard today, Moses returned to Egypt, freed the people, lead them across the Red Sea to Mount Sinia where he received the 10 Commandments and then out into the desert where the people wandered for 40 years.
Most of the generation that left Egypt are now dead, and as the Israelites camp near the Jordan River, waiting to enter the Promised Land, Moses gives them his final teachings before leadership is turned over to Joshua and the people cross the Jordan without Moses.
This is what the entire book of Deuteronomy is, it is Moses’ final words to the people of Israel. And Moses begins by reminding the people of where they came from. He reminds them of all that God has done for them to get them to where they are now. He reminds them of what it is that the Lord require of them in return, and this is the section of Deuteronomy we heard this morning.
It begins with a restatement of the 10 Commandments that Moses first received on Mount Siani. Although these commandments are written in the negative, “Thou Shalt Not” they are intended not to reprimand or frighten the people but to teach them how to live as free people.
Until this time, they had always lived as slaves and were simply told what to do and when to do it. They had no choice. Now, as free people, they needed to learn how to live together in cooperation and in community without overseers telling them what to do. These 10 Commandment did not limit the people but rather offered them the freedom to choose.
Unfortunately, history shows us that often the opposite of slavery or oppression is not freedom but anarchy. When people are suddenly freed from lives that have been completely controlled by others, they often seem to have no idea of how to behave. Without harsh restriction and the fear of severe punishment, they do whatever they want, which often ends in anarchy.
The 10 Commandment gave the people guidelines and direction which allowed them the freedom to choose how to live their lives. It also gave them a new purpose in life, teaching them to live in a way that was pleasing to God.
Now, 40 years had passed since Moses had returned from Mount Sinai with those laws. During their time in the wilderness, new laws had been written in order to expand on some of the basic laws and in order to resolve conflicts and issues that had arisen during their 40-year journey. And so, as the people prepared to enter into the new land and the new life that God had promised them, Moses reminds them of what God expects from them. We need to remember that the majority of those listening at this point had been born during those 40 years and had not been there at Mount Sinai. They would have been born as free people, never having experience the slavery of Egypt. For this reason, many of these commandments began to take on a new meaning.
When it was first given, the commandment to honour your father and mother, was a privilege that the people had not previously had. As slave, their owners could have taken them away from their family at any time, and if a family member was in need of help, there was often nothing they could do. They could not take time off to care for an ailing child or an aging parent. To be able to show honour to family by caring for them was a privilege.
But now, after 40 years, they were able to take these things more for granted. And so honouring parents became a way of not only caring for family, but also remembering and honouring past ancestors. It became a reclaiming of family history.
The basic laws around murder, adultery, theft, and false accusations remind the people that in order to live together in peace, they must treat others with respect, just as they would want to be treated. The laws around coveting do the same thing, but they also remind the people to be grateful for what they have, remembering what it felt like to have nothing and to have someone else take even the little you had from you, whatever they wanted.
The laws around the Sabbath originally gave the people permission to take a day off of work. It was a wonderful gift of freedom. But now they were the ones who were preparing to enter the promised land where they would be the owners of the land, the flocks and the slaves. Now, the laws around Sabbath rest became a reminder to them not to treat others the way they had been treated as slaves. They were to extend the gift of Sabbath rest not only to themselves and their own family but even to children, animals, foreigners and slaves.
These basic laws on which all the other laws were based, were being restated and reinterpreted for a new generation. But it is the next portion of scripture that every faithful Jew learns by heart and it is these words that are repeated twice daily by all those who consider themselves observant Jews. It is the passage known as the Shema.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Many years later, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by quoting the Shema. And the Shema itself is a positive reaffirmation of the first of the 10 Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This is the relational covenant between God and the people, stated over and over throughout history. “I am your God and you shall be my people.”
But reciting these words is not enough. Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
This is a covenant for all times and for all people. It is the same covenant that applies to us today. Love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, we have a great many material things to be thankful for; warm and safe homes, healthy food, access to health care and education and so much more. But we also have a great deal to be thankful for that is not material.
Today we are grateful for all those who have come before us who have enabled us to have the lives we have today. We are grateful for our faith tradition and for those who have passed that tradition on to us. We are also grateful that through our scriptures, both our Hebrew Scriptures and our Christian Scriptures we have been offered a way to know what the One we worship expects from us.
When we can remember with deep gratitude, all that our faith has given us in times of celebration but also in time of sorrow, in times of plenty but also in times of need, in times of certainty but also in times of doubt … when we can remember the simple blessing of loving God and loving others through the direction our faith gives us, then we truly will have much to be thankful for. Amen.
Gift of Music Grateful MV# 182
We Offer Our Gifts
There is much work to be done and we all have our ways of contributing. One of those ways is through our financial support of this church. If you chose to support the work of this church you can place your offering in the offering plates at the back of the church or you can make arrangement to give through PAR or through online donations. And so as we sing our offertory response, we bring forward some of those gifts.
Offertory Response #538
For the gift of creation, the gift of your love and the gift of the Spirit
by which we live, we thank you and give you the fruit of our hands.
May your grace be proclaimed by the gifts that we give.
© Words and Music copyright 1991 Abingdon Press. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they too may become a blessing. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Call to Prayer #400
Lord, Listen to your children praying, Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
Lord, Listen to your children praying, send us love, send us power, send us grace.
© Words and Music copyright Hope Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
Prayers of the People
Our Prayers of the People today is a Litany of Thanksgiving.
When you hear the words For all this and so much more …
please respond we offer our Thanks this day!
As we celebrate this Day of Thanksgiving, we remember all that we have to be thankful for. We begin with the simple things of our days: Fresh air to breathe, cool water to drink, the taste of good food, the protection of shelter and clothes, the comforts of home. For all this and so much more …
we offer our Thanks this day!
We remember the warmth of human kindnesses that we have known: The strength and gentleness of our parents and caregivers, the playmates of our childhood, the wonderful memories and stories passes down to us through our families, the tears we have shared with others and the tears they have shared with us, the excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the eye that remind us that life is good.
For all this and so much more … we offer our Thanks this day!
We remember the many times in our lives when we have been supported and loved by the care of others: The hope shared with us in times of trial, the smile of approval from those who see the reality of who we are and still love us, the tightening of the grip of a reassuring hand when we fear to step out into the unknown, the crucial word said, or the simple sentence from an open page when our decision hung in the balance, the quiet whisper of our hearts when voices long gone or lessons long forgotten give us the strength to resist temptation and do what we know is right.
For all this and so much more … we offer our Thanks this day!
We pause to remember the debt we owe to our heritage: The fruits of the labors of countless generations who lived before us, without whom our own lives would have no meaning, the seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams, the prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp, and whose words could only find fulfillment in the years which they would never see, the workers whose sweat has watered the trees, the pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons, whose courage made paths into new worlds and far-off places, the Christ whose blood was shed with the recklessness that only a dream could inspire and only God could fulfill.
For all this and so much more … we offer our Thanks this day!
We linger over the meaning of our own lives and of the commitments to which we give the loyalty of our heart and mind: The tasks and purposes in which we have shared with our loves, our desires, our gifts, the restlessness which challenges all we do with its stark insistence that we have never done our best, we have never reached for the highest, we have never accomplish all we could, the persistent hope that never quite deserts us, that some day we can become more than we are, that we will end war and poverty, that love and tenderness and all the grace that God offers will cover the life of all God’s children as water covers the sea.
For all this and so much more … we offer our Thanks this day!
All these things and more than our mind can ever think or our heart can ever feel are the blessings we have received from you, O God, and they are the reasons we praise you and we offer you our thanks this day. Amen
Gift of Music We Plough the Fields #520
We go out from here this day with gratitude and thanksgiving, ready to share the joy of life, the joy of faith with all those we meet. We go our accompanied by each other, by the one who leads us, by the one who accompanies us. We go with God.
Choral Blessing MV#222
May the peace of God be your peace.
May the love of God be the love you show.
May the joy of God be the joy you know,
And may the world that God would see be found in you.
Words © November 2001 Neil MacLaren. firstname.lastname@example.org. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756