Deuteronomy 26: 1-11
Philippians 4: 4-9
John 6: 25-35
In the lectionary for Thanksgiving Day, Jesus Christ says “Do not work for the food that perishes, but the food that has eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” (John 6: 27, NRSV). According to Jesus Christ (John 6:32), God provides the “true bread” from heaven. This is a telling area. In the biblical telling of the exodus, manna provided the Israelites with basic survival. Jesus makes the case here that real subsistence is not just about survival, but about receiving the good things in life. Similar to food, we are supposed to seek out spiritually lasting food that does not expire.
The lectionary reading from Deuteronomy talks most fully about how the Israelites were to “come into the land.” These individuals were first to give thanks to God during the harvest, give thanks, and celebrate it in the company of all the community including the Levites and aliens who resided among them. The Israelites had endured a period of servitude in Egypt, had wandered around in the desert, and now were finally able to “come into the land.” To do so, they were charged first with sacrificing to God and celebrating their harvest. This was a type of celebration, but it was also important for recognizing the presence of God in the blessing.
This is all well and good, but what about when things do not work out so well? We are to “not worry about anything”, but rather to make our requests to God “in supplication and thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6, NRSV). It is easier to say this than actually do this. Most of us have many complications and worries in our lives. Even the ancient Israelites worried about God providing substance to him. The “manna from heaven” represented God’s response as a means of provision. God suggests in the Gospel lesson, however, that there are far better substance than manna which will be provided for us.
To suggest that we shouldn’t “worry about anything”, but give everything to God, even our supplications and thanksgivings invites us out of the experience of anxiety. That is to suggest that we invite God into our lives and invite ourselves out of the process to the extent that we realize that it is not all about us. It recognizes that God’s influence on our lives is better than material things. Indeed, as our Gospel suggests, God provides the substance needed in order to provide for our lives.
It can be very difficult to believe this at times. When we (or a loved one) are sick, unemployed, have come into some sort of personal trouble or natural disaster, or simply are feeling down and sorry for ourselves, it can be difficult to remember that we are not alone.
To let God act, therefore, we have to surrender the self to commune with God and have the sort of relationship in which this is possible. We also need to be aware not just of God, but in the relationships we have with one another and to be aware of how we might utilize those relationships, perhaps sometimes in quiet ways, to do the work of God and/or realize how God utilizes our relationships with other people.
In this time of thanksgiving, let us be aware of God’s blessings. Let us hope by focusing on our relationships with God and others that we may be able to have richer relationships and to be able to experience and recognize the thanksgivings in our lives.