Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Thoughts for our Thanksgiving Eve Service (November 22)

This week will bring two posts on this blog as we add our annual Thanksgiving Eve service to our regular schedule.  Today's post will focus on this Thanksgiving Eve service; a later post will focus on the readings for Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

For Thanksgiving Eve, we gather to, well, give thanks to the Lord for all that the Lord has done for us.  Which, come to think of it, is no different from what we do in any other worship service.  But, before we gather for our holiday meals, we stop to give thanks and worship the Lord.  Here are the readings for Wednesday night as well as my first thoughts (in italics) on these readings.

Deuteronomy 8:7 - 18

7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
  11Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses is proclaiming to the people of Israel that the Lord is leading them to a land of abundance.  The Promised Land is a place where they will have more food, fresh water, and resources than they will ever need.  Moses encourages them to remember what the Lord has done for them, that the Lord is the ultimate source of this abundance.  Sometimes, when we worry about scarcity, we need to be reminded that most of the world considers us rich beyond measure.  This puts our concerns about “enough” into perspective.

There is a concern about prosperity gospel here.  This passage, specifically the statement that “it is the Lord who gives you the power to get wealth,” is used to justify that brand of theology.  How do we walk the line between a theology of abundance and a theology of prosperity?

Psalm 65

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
 2 O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
 3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
 4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.
 5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
 6 By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
 7 You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
 8 Those who live at earth's farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
 9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
 10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
 11 You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
 12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,
 13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Psalm 65 includes many praises of the Lord for what he has done to provide a land of abundance for the Lord’s people.  Many aspects of creation are recognized as the work of the Lord’s hands.

2 Corinthians 9:6 - 15

6The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written, 
 “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
  his righteousness endures forever.”
10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9 is essentially a proclamation of the theology behind receiving an offering in worship: “…for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.”  (9:12)  Our offering is a financial expression of thanksgiving to God for all that God has done, is doing, and will do.

Luke 17:11 - 19

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Hmm.  In most cases, Samaritans and Galileans would never speak to each other.  But here, in this leper colony, Samaritans and Galileans live together.  Why?  Because their leprosy isolates them from both Samaria and Galilee, and they must live on the border, the empty ground between the two territories.  Their common affliction brought them together.  Their common appeal was granted by Jesus.  Only one Samaritan returned to give thanks, and we are to follow his example, but there is something to the existence of this colony also.  It feels significant, though I cannot fully state why yet.

Any ideas on what this means?  Or do you have comments/questions regarding one of the other readings?  I invite you to leave a note in the comments below and tell me what you notice and what you wonder about after reading these passages.

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