November 26, 2020
By Pastor John Partridge
Deuteronomy 8:7-18 Luke 17:11-19 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
In the middle of a global pandemic, we are taking a day out of our schedule to give thanks. For many of us, our traditional celebrations have been dramatically changed, reduced, or even cancelled, and yet still we pause to give thanks. And that’s a good thing. Despite all the weirdness, difficulty, hardship, and yes, even death, when we pause long enough to reflect, we remember that we are, indeed, blessed. That busyness causes us to forget our blessings is not new. Almost as soon as the people of Israel had escaped their 400 years of slavery they already knew that once a better life came, that they would begin to forget just how blessed they were to have a better life. In Deuteronomy 8:7-18 we hear these words:
7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws, and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
God tells the people that once they had arrived in the Promised Land, and once their lives were better, they needed to occasionally pause from their busyness and remember that it was God who had given them that life. Despite their sweat and hard work, they would not have been where they were had it not been for God. Yes, they busted their guts, and yes they invested their sweat and their hard work, but if it had not been for God, they would have been doing all those things for the benefit of Egypt’s Pharaoh, and not for themselves.
They were indeed blessed.
And God simply asked them to occasionally pause and remember that it was God who gave them the ability to do the things that they did and to have the things that they had. But Jesus tells us that thanksgiving is more than something that we put on the calendar to do one day each year. In Luke 17:11-19, we hear a story that should resonate with us during a pandemic, as Jesus meets ten men who were afflicted with an incurable disease.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
God has given us gifts. God has granted us health, and healthcare workers who struggle to make us well when we fall ill. But how often do we say thank you to those to whom we are indebted? Do we return to God and give thanks? Do we appreciate, and give thanks to our healthcare team? Do we bother to simply say “thank you” to the people around us who work to make our lives better, and easier?
It isn’t a question of setting aside a day to give thanks.
But do we live lives of thankfulness?
And, as you consider that, let us also remember Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Corinth that we find in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Paul reminds us that if we are to truly live lives of thankfulness, then we must also live lives of generosity. Our generosity is not a fee that we pay for God’s continued blessing and it is not a tax on the blessings that we have already received. Instead, our generosity should come from a heart that overflows with gratitude.
Generosity is a visible sign of genuine… thanksgiving.
And so, as we take time out to give thanks for the gifts that we have been given, as we give thanks for our homes, our lives, our health, our families, and everything else, let us remember to let out thanksgiving overflow into the lives of the people around us. Say “Thank you” to the people who make your life easier, say thank you to God for his indescribable gifts, and let us not insulate, segregate, and isolate our thanksgiving in one single day. Let us instead live lives of thanksgiving and allow that thanksgiving to overflow as gratitude and generosity.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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* Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.