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Introduction To The Scripture For Thanksgiving - Year C
Deuteronomy 26:1 11; Psalm 100; Philippians 4:4-9; John 6:25-35


The following material was written by the Rev. John Shearman (jlss@sympatico.ca) of the United Church of Canada. John has structured his offerings so that the first portion can be used as a bulletin insert, while the second portion provides a more in depth 'introduction to the scripture'.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SCRIPTURE	
Thanksgiving - Year C

     [Note: The Second Monday in October, is Thanksgiving Day in
     Canada.  Many congregations celebrate on the Sunday preceding
     that date - which is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  These
     lessons are the RCL Year C listing for Thanksgiving.  See our 
     Thanksgiving Page for a listing of the texts used for
     Thanksgiving each year of the lectionary cycle and how they are
     or are not used at other times in the lectionary year]


DEUTERONOMY 26:1-11      This apparent reminiscence cites a sermon
delivered by Moses before the Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan. 
It gives details of the celebration of the harvest and the giving of its
first fruits as a thanksgiving offering to God for delivering them from
slavery in Egypt.


PSALM 100                Sung to the tune, Old One Hundredth, the Scottish
paraphrase of this psalm still sounds the joy of Thanksgiving across the
centuries.  


PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9        In prison a perhaps waiting for a death sentence,
Paul still is able to encourage his Philippian friends to rejoice and pray,
knowing that God alone can give them   and us   the peace that is beyond
comprehension.  Then he urges them to engage in the kind of personal
conduct that will bring his readers that peace.


JOHN 6:25-35             In words attributed to Jesus in response to a
demand that he reveal a sign as to who he was, he reminded his audience of
the manna which fed the Israelites during their wandering in the desert. 
Then to everyone's astonishment he claimed to be the bread of life come
from heaven.  No one who comes to him will ever hunger again.  Almost
certainly this refers to what we know as the thanksgiving sacrament of the
Lord's Supper.

************   

DEUTERONOMY 26:1-11   This apparently imaginative reminiscence cites a
sermon supposedly delivered by Moses before the Israelites crossed the
Jordan into Canaan.  It gives details of the celebration of the harvest and
the giving of its first fruits as a thanksgiving offering to God for
delivering them from slavery in Egypt.  However, while the Book of
Deuteronomy may have had some earlier sources, most of the text did not
reach its final stages of composition until the end of the 7th century BCE. 
This passage forms a small part of the detailed elaboration of the covenant
stated in the Decalogue in Deut. 5:6-21.

Being an agricultural festival, it is highly unlikely that the celebration
of the first fruits occurred before the Israelites entered Canaan.  Yet all
Semitic peoples, including the Canaanites, did have similar festivals.  The
sacrifice symbolized that though all creation and its products belong to
the deity, the grateful offering of the first produce of the harvest to the
deity freed the remainder to be used for human consumption.  It was thus a
redemptive sacrifice.  In ancient Israel, the festival was celebrated in
the spring on the fiftieth day following the cutting of the first sheaf of
grain.  From this came the tradition known in NT times as the Festival of
Weeks, or Pentecost.  Originally, it also marked the beginning of the new
year. 

Thanksgiving celebrations had a much wider connotation.  Thank offerings of
many kinds had been known in Israel and in other cultures from earliest
times.

Frequently a festive meal was associated with the sacrificial offering. 
One can easily see why the English practice of celebrating harvest home
services and the later North American custom of marking a special
Thanksgiving Day had ancient sacred roots.


PSALM 100   This is the thanksgiving hymn par excellence.  Every word and
phrase evokes praise to the providence of God rooted in divine love.  Sung
to the tune, Old One Hundredth, the Scottish paraphrase of the psalm still
sounds the joy of Thanksgiving across the centuries.  

Worship need not always be orderly or softly spoken.  A joyful noise
dedicated to God can be an effective expression of faith acknowledging that
we are indeed in the presence of God.  As the contemporary styles of gospel
rock reveals, the younger generation may well find a service mainly of such
popular music more worshipful that their parents and grandparents to whom
it sounds blatantly noisy.

The true foundation of worship lies in the free acknowledgment that God is
the creator of all, including humanity, and that all things belong
ultimately to God.  While being likened to sheep in a pasture may not appeal 
to modern minds, the metaphor would have been very meaningful in ancient 
Israel.

During the period of the Second Temple, entering the temple with
thanksgiving and praise held a primary place in public worship.  Daily and
especially on the great festivals, a choir of Levites has the special task
of leasing the procession into the temple courts singing the traditional
hymns of praise while the people responded antiphonally.  All elements of
worship were designed to express faith in God and to reiterate dependence
of God's steadfast love for God's people and God's enduring faithful to
every generation.  Our own worship services can do no more.


PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9   For many this is the highpoint not only this letter but
of Paul's correspondence with the congregations he had founded.  In prison
a perhaps waiting for a death sentence, he  still is able to encourage his
Philippian friends to rejoice and pray, knowing that God alone can give
them   and us   the peace that is beyond comprehension.  Then he urges them
to engage in the kind of personal conduct that will bring his readers that
peace.

It conveys both a meaningful sense of joyous worship and an urgent word of
encouragement to the Philippians to maintain their commitment to the
Christian life they had learned from Paul.

A few days after the end of World War II many congregations, especially in
Great Britain where the war had been so tragically endured, services of
thanksgiving solemnly expressed the people's gratitude that the conflict
had ended.  The mood of the nation found expression in gentle rejoicing
rather than in earlier raucous celebrations of victory in street
demonstrations.  Peace had been won at great price which no one could ever
forget.  A similar mood finds expression still in annual Remembrance Day
services.

Writing close to thirty years after the crucifixion and resurrection of
Christ, so also Paul sought to bring to the Philippian congregation an
awareness of the cost paid for their redemption (vs.7).  Such an awareness
can one evoke a prayer of supplication and thanksgiving in us too.  Prayer,
however, is meaningless unless followed by actions.  Paul makes that
emphasis abundantly clear in what can be regarded as the ethical mandate
for the Christian individual and community.  Whoever follows this path will
surely known the peace of God.

A young teenager had been spending an idle summer with her friends, riding
their bicycles hither and yon in search of ever more excitement, by no
means all of it worthy.  One day on her way to join her playmates, one of
those girls thought of Paul's words in Phil. 4:8.  As the words surfaced
clearly in her  consciousness, she felt a strong urge to turn back home. 
She found other pursuits for the rest of the summer.  Many years later she
recalled with peace and gratitude that she alone among the small group had
not only been able to pass their next year in school.  She was also the
only one who completed high school and went on tot further education.  
Coincidence?  Perhaps, but she never thought so. 


                         
copyright  - Comments by Rev. John Shearman and page by Richard J. Fairchild, 2006, 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these resources.



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