Remember and Give Thanks, November 24

Remember and Give Thanks

Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 65; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19

Rev. Catherine E. Schuyler

Catskill United Methodist Church and online; November 24, 2020

 

Life goes by us so quickly.  In the course of just one day, you are possibly deeply involved in five or six different encounters, some of which take all of our attention, and then are gone.  I was over at the Community Life Church this morning helping the crew of volunteers hand out the makings of Thanksgiving dinner to eighty families in Catskill.  I said hello to the volunteers and introduced myself, only to be reminded that a number of them I had met before and not remembered.  I hate when that happens.  But it does happen.  Remembering people – names, occasions of meeting them, previous time spent together – takes effort.  I then had a few phone calls with details to remember, and a Zoom call and this wonderful worship service with bells and a bulletin, and well, you get the idea.  Our lives are filled with details, important details, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them.  One way we deal with what seems like excessive information in our lives is to actively forget it.  I don’t need to know the names of the people whose bag of stuffing and green beans I shared with them this morning.  So I’ve forgotten it.  Nor do I need to remember who my nephew took to the prom last year.  She looked nice in her dress, but I’ll never see her again.  I’ve forgotten who she was.

 

The central task of Thanksgiving, that is, giving thanks, is to remember details.  To remember that the woman who sells newspapers downtown is a sweetheart; to remember that the fire department in Catskill is a bunch of volunteers who give of their time and effort to keep their neighbors safe.  So much of the act of Thanksgiving is rooted in remembering.  When we remember something, we pull out from a general memory a specific detail that we gave importance to.  Or we think about a situation that touched us and figure out what made it special.  Thank you, God, for the beauty of the sky last night; the moon seemed so close I could almost touch it.  Thank you, God, for the people whom I have often been able to be with on Thanksgiving.  Even if I can’t be with them, they are gifts in my life, and keeping them and me safe is worth the pain of not being able to be together.  The texts we heard this evening name the importance of memory as the heart of the act of Thanksgiving.  From Deuteronomy:

 

11 Take 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….

 

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 waste-land 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 gained 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.

 

The Psalms that name the beauty of the world and the power of God’s hand that we witness in the world are detailed lists of that which we give thanks to God for.  Psalm 65, which we read together, said:

 

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. …

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain,

they shout and sing together for joy.

 

Our yearly celebration of Thanksgiving has its roots in a celebration of the harvest, so we begin by remembering the wonderful food that we enjoy.  But I encourage you to take the opportunity this year, especially this year, to remember people and signs of love that you’ve witnessed over the past months, and give thanks for them.  Make the effort to remember moments of joy, moments of peace, signs of hope.  Imprint them in your memory by articulating your thanks for them.

 

The year 2020 will go down in our collective memory as a difficult year.  Because it has been a difficult year.  There has been sickness and death, fear of infection and long times of isolation and loneliness.  There have been huge changes in almost all of what we considered normal.  There have been upheavals in our life together, experiences of public racism and injustice which have opened our eyes and broken our hearts.  There have been happenings in the world that have made us mad, made us sad, made us afraid, brought us to the edge of despair.  2020 will not be remembered among us as a time of goodness and hope.

 

And yet there were days of beauty, there were phone calls in the midst of lonely days.  There were magnificent leaves this fall, and some excellent tomato sandwiches with homegrown tomatoes.  There were occasions to celebrate, times when we opened our hearts in love – both Palenville and Catskill put up Blessing Boxes and the return has been Blessings, to those who give and to those who receive.  There were the days when we came together in worship after months of being apart.  There are bells, which make music and don’t’ involve spreading spit at all.  And there is the realization, as we look back, that we made it through so far.  That resilience and persistence and determination and just plain stubbornness have their place.  We didn’t all make it.  There are those whose deaths we mourn.  I’m not trying to plaster over the sadness or the frustration.  I’m inviting you to give thanks in the midst of the difficulty, to remember that God has not given up on us, and that remembering that is part of how we keep on keeping on.

 

Pay attention to the details that touch you; give thanks for those good things you remember.  And hold fast to the promises of God, the God who has come through for God’s people time after time after time after time.  Remember that God is good.  Remember.  And give thanks.  Amen.

 

 

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.

11 Take 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 waste-land 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 gained 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.

 

                                     Psalm 65

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion;

and to you shall vows be performed,

     O you who answer prayer!

 To you all flesh shall come.

When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,

     you forgive our transgressions.

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.

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.

By your strength you established the mountains;

      you are girded with might.

You silence the roaring of the seas,

   the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.

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.

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.

You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges,

 softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty;

 your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,

the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,

     the valleys deck themselves with grain,

they shout and sing together for joy.

 

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!

 

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.”

 

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