Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 26, 2001

Let us give thanks for those first fruits

"When you 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, 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 place for his name."

­ Deuteronomy 26:1-2

By Pastor Sherri Sandoz
Bethel Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

Moms across the land have wrestled the bird and baked the pies in anticipation of another family gathering. Sage, allspice, and fresh baked bread savor the air from coast-to-coast, whetting the appetites of those gathered to feast. Abundance flows unchecked from kitchen to table and sideboard. The candles are lit, and thoughts turn to God's abundance.

It is an old tradition that began, not with the pilgrims, but with the Israelites, as they moved into the promised land.

As they entered the land flowing with milk and honey, God told them to take the first fruits of the ground, place them in a basket, and take it to the priest. God had delivered and blessed them, and sought thanksgiving for this loving action.

The pilgrims of North America experienced God in a similar way. This rag-tag group of survivors gave thanks for the deliverance which came to them during their first year on the North American shore.

They had been provided a good summer crop and were delivered from hunger. They had been provided peace-loving neighbors and were delivered from war. They had been provided resources to build strong sturdy homes and were delivered from the cold. Deliverance brought thanksgiving to their hearts.

Can we think of Thanksgiving as deliverance for us?

As we gather to feast and to pray, our tendency is to list our blessings by way of kindnesses bestowed or possessions accumulated. What about all those things from which we have been delivered?

Think about all of the food we will so freely consume Thanksgiving Day. We can be thankful to have been delivered from the pain of hunger and the sickness of malnutrition which plague the rest of the world, as we pledge our first fruits to combat world hunger.

Think of that laundry basket that rarely sees the light of day. The soiled articles within remind us of the functional, attractive, abundant clothing we have.

Much of the world has no need of laundry baskets, because the only clothing available is that which can be immediately worn.

We can be thankful to have been delivered from cold and nakedness, as we pledge our first fruits to clothe a hungry world.

Thankful hearts come as we recall the many acts of deliverance God has brought into our lives. Unfortunately, too many take their health, wealth, warm clothes and hearty food for granted or worse, see these things as their due. These things are not owed, but freely given by a gracious, benevolent God.

Everything in life comes from God ­ those things from which we have been delivered and those things we so easily possess. That realization is bad news for independent Americans, who reluctantly admit their dependence on God. Thanksgiving is acknowledgment of our dependence upon the God who bestows deliverance and blessing upon our lives.

As we gather around the holiday table, let us remember our status as delivered and blessed. As we see our position in the world, let us also see our responsibility.

Let us acknowledge our deliverance and blessings without jealousy or selfishness. Let us give of our first fruits as a grateful people dependent on God for all of life.


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