Giving Thanks

A sermon preached at First Church, UCC Middletown, Connecticut, on November 20,  2022

Scripture                                       Deuteronomy 26:1-11  (The Message translation)

Once you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance and take it over and settle down, you are to take some of all the first fruits of what you grow in the land that God, your God, is giving you, put them in a basket and go to the place God, your God, sets apart for you to worship. . . At that time, go to the priest who is there and say, “I announce to God, your God, today that I have entered the land that God promised our ancestors that [God would] give to us.” The priest will take the basket from you and place it on the Altar of God, your God. And there in the Presence of God, your God, you will recite:

A wandering Aramean was my father, he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, he and just a handful of his brothers at first, but soon  they became a great nation, mighty and many. The Egyptians abused and battered us, in a cruel and savage slavery. We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers: [God] listened to our voice, [God] saw our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight. And God took us out of Egypt with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great, with signs and miracle-wonders. And [God] brought us to this place, gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. So here I am. I’ve brought the firstfruits  of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.

Then place it in the Presence of God, your God. Prostrate yourselves in the Presence of God, your God. And rejoice! Celebrate all the good things that God, your God, has given you and your family; you and the Levite and the foreigner who lives with you.  

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

We are coming on Thanksgiving, and right after that, Advent and Christmas and there is just so much on our hearts that, at some level, it’s hard to even begin to see the heart of this season.  

It’s not enough that we’ve just been through yet another heart-stopping election, or that we suddenly jumped from early fall to early winter.  It’s not enough that this fall we’ve lost two well-loved members of our congregation.  But coming up on Thanksgiving, we’re faced with the conflict between the elementary-school explanation of Thanksgiving and the realities of early European settler behaviors.  And since COVID insists on sticking around, there are too many times when it all seems just too much.

Here we are, facing Thanksgiving, and in the backs of our minds, there’s a worry that this is no time to stop and give thanks.  There’s just too much that’s still unsettled, too many fears about our future.  It feels, too often, as though we’re trapped in a living version of that old arcade game, Whack-A-Mole.  No sooner do we put on threat behind us, that another one pops up.

Some challenge our feeling of safety; others challenge our hopes for our country’s future.  Some make us re-think the assumptions we’ve carried with us since second grade.  

And for some of us, this fall has been especially difficult, what with family crises or work troubles, or our own individual health issues.

So what do we have to be thankful for this year?  

We’re still here.

We have each other.

Our lives have meaning and purpose.

God loves us.

We’re still here.   

COVID closures were supposed to be for two or three weeks, remember?  We were all still making plans for the big “re-opening” celebration at Easter, and then it was going to be Pentecost… and then there came the slow realization that this was not what we thought it was going to be.  Under the stress of the pandemic, some churches closed, not just for the short-term, but forever.  And they have not come back.  We are still here.   That’s our first thanksgiving.

We have each other.

We are still a strong fellowship of people who love and care for one another and for the world where we’ve been placed.  We see each other in any number of different ways – here in this room for worship, on Zoom meetings, and in casual meetings out and about – and wherever we are, we know we are in the presence of companions on the way.  We are not alone.  That is our second thanksgiving.

Our lives have meaning and purpose.

One of the great gifts of our faith is our call to be people of peace, to be builders of community in our world.  We are not without purpose in our lives.  There is always something we can do – not always the great deeds that are celebrated in history books, but always the small kindnesses which are available to us every day, like holding doors open, smiling at our server.  And there also opportunities to be active, informed participants in our community, attending meetings, helping people understand what’s happening, and the like.  In our work, being ethical, honest, trust-worthy people; in our private lives being faithful, loving, reliable.  Our lives have meaning and purpose.  That’s our third thanksgiving.

Finally, we know that God loves us.

This isn’t the arrogant “God love me”, but the compassionate “God loves us”.  God loves each of us == as we are, where we are.  When we do our best, God loves us.  When we do our worst, God still loves us, and hopes for us to grow into a better way of living.  

If you grew up in a home filled with hostility, know that God loves you.  

If you have lived in a world of addiction, know that God loves you.  

If folks have scorned you, hated you, just because…. you didn’t look like, sound like live like they thought you should, know that God loves you.  

God loves you, today, tomorrow, and forever.   And that’s the fourth and greatest thanksgiving this year.

We’re still here.

We have each other.

Our lives have meaning and purpose.

God loves us.


©2022, Virginia H. Child

Author: tobelieveistocare

I am an interim pastor in the United Church of Christ, having served as a settled pastor for over thirty years. I play classical mandolin and share my home with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: