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I realized that the Thanksgiving passage assigned for today was one we already preached on at the beginning of Lent! I was wracking my brain trying to figure out when I’d preached on this last because I knew it was recent, but it wasn’t Thanksgiving last year, so I was like, “Where did I do this?” And then I found it – Lent 1! Bizarre!

Now when I preached that sermon, I quoted Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, who said, “With the freedom and privilege offered in the Promised Land come obligations.” Relationship with God means relationship with those less fortunate. The Israelites were an agrarian people, a farming people, in the stories of the Promised Land, so first fruits are not won by ingenuity and hard work. Farmers know that they can work as hard as possible and still have a bad year. Ancient farming peoples relied on weather gods – rain, sun, harvest, and hearth deities who had their own wills and whims.

The biggest difference is that as Israelite theology shifted over time, their One God became larger and more inscrutable.

In the words of Amos:

“The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,
   and turns deep darkness into the morning,
   and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea,
   and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is Their name,
9 who makes destruction flash out against the strong,
   so that destruction comes upon the fortress.”

In the words of Deuteronomy:

“When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

While many other gods may have acted more capriciously in the old tales, this God was a God who could not be manipulated by empty ritual. This God demanded that the people remember who they were: those who were called to a path of caring for those who dwelt among them as aliens and strangers, those called to remember their days of eating manna in the wilderness, bread of angels scattered down on the earth from heaven, those called to remember that they had been liberated because they were beloved, but sternly told that they should not believe this set them above other people. Indeed, their status meant that they should extend this empire-shattering love to all people.

And is this not also our story?

On this Thanksgiving Day we are called to remember who we are: those invited into a resurrection dance not just for Christianity or even humanity but all of creation, those given the great gift of a beautiful blue and green body held like a hazelnut in the palm of God’s loving hand, those who are taught that liberation and compassion are God’s true Law, rather than civility politics or fear or empire.

Shall we gather here tonight in thanksgiving? Yes, here and everywhere and at all times.

Shall we imagine that it is enough to say “Thank you, God, for all our gifts”? By no means. Gratitude and thanksgiving are meant to be invasive species. They are meant to overflow our cups – to overflow our tables, to come up to our knees.

What does this look like?

Every month, I attend a free online support group for caregivers for people with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s only one offering the Alzheimer’s Society of BC has given to me that has been the most incredible lifeline. I pray that when my mum’s struggle with the disease is over, I have the strength and endurance to give back to this incredible organization that brings hope to so many people. My gratitude already overflows for them and their work.

It’s your turn. Tell us a story of how thanksgiving has been invasive in your life. Tell us a story of how you might want it to be invasive. Tell us a story of witnessing it second-hand.

We need to hear it.