26:1 When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, 5 you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7 we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 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; 9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. 11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.” NRSV
We don’t talk about it much, but our capacity to remember may be one of God’s most ingenious inventions. God seems to think so, too. Here, in the reading from Deuteronomy, God requires the children of Israel to remember; to remember their plight in Egypt; and, remember God’s initiative to free them from their Egyptian masters. And, not only free them, but give them a land of great abundance, a land “flowing with milk and honey.”
All God asks in return is heartfelt gratitude for the love and power God displayed to them in setting them free and setting them up for life. This passage is their formula for remembering, for remembering God and for remembering the importance of giving God the thanksgiving due God for God’s blessings in their lives.
Every Sunday we remember, too. We have our “formula” for remembering all that God has done for us through Jesus. It, too, is a formula of thanksgiving. We are reminded that Jesus gave thanks for the bread and for the cup, in full acknowledgement that they are of God, given to us by God. Jesus felt compelled to give God thanks. Shouldn’t we?
Every table set is an opportunity for giving God thanks. Scripture makes clear that wherever two or more are gathered in Jesus name, Jesus promises to be sitting with them (us) at the table. It doesn’t matter if the meal is simply bread and wine, or bread and wine accompanied by turkey and dressing. When the people of Jesus gather, Jesus comes too.
So, this Thanksgiving, let us exercise God’s ingenious invention of memory and enjoy the beauty of families gathered. You know, that time of remembering when our past comes back to embarrass us and delight all those gathered.
And, in the midst of all the joy and laughter, let us remember that the bounty before us, both love and food, are gifts from God….and give God our heartfelt thanks.