The last reading this week comes from the scriptures for Thanksgiving Day and is a vivid reminder that everything I am and have is a gift from God. I give back a portion of all God gives, not because God needs them, but because it is a way of acknowledging His ownership. It is about giving back the material possessions and riches I have, but it is more about returning the fruit of God’s Spirit to Him. Listen to the passage from Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
Once you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance and take it over and settle down, you are to take some of all the firstfruits of what you grow in the land that God, your God, is giving you, put them in a basket and go to the place God, your God, sets apart for you to worship him. At that time, go to the priest who is there and say, “I announce to God, your God, today that I have entered the land that God promised our ancestors that he’d give to us.” The priest will take the basket from you and place it on the Altar of God, your God. And there in the Presence of God, your God, you will recite:
A wandering Aramean was my father,
he went down to Egypt and sojourned there,
he and just a handful of his brothers at first, but soon
they became a great nation, mighty and many.
The Egyptians abused and battered us,
in a cruel and savage slavery.
We cried out to God, the God-of-Our-Fathers:
He listened to our voice, he saw
our destitution, our trouble, our cruel plight.
And God took us out of Egypt
with his strong hand and long arm, terrible and great,
with signs and miracle-wonders.
And he brought us to this place,
gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
So here I am. I’ve brought the firstfruits
of what I’ve grown on this ground you gave me, O God.
Then place it in the Presence of God, your God. Prostrate yourselves in the Presence of God, your God. And rejoice! Celebrate all the good things that God, your God, has given you and your family; you and the Levite and the foreigner who lives with you.
I hear reverence and thanksgiving in these familiar verses, but I also feel God listening to my cries for help and hearing my heart. My heart, like the ground He gives, is, and always will be, His. That’s the beautiful assurance I find in Deuteronomy this morning. He knows my hurt and weeps with me. He knows my joy and celebrates with me. Through His Holy Spirit, I can bear the fruit of His Spirit. God’s love allows joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness to grow in my heart (Galatians 5:22 NASB). They choke all those weeds of worry, frustration, impatience, and doubt that flourish when I forget whose I am and Who God is.
God takes my heart out of slavery and abuse and brings it to a land flowing with milk and honey. How can I not offer back to Him a small portion of all He gives with the gratitude of a heart once held captive in a foreign land. Coming into God’s presence causes me to prostrate myself, but it also makes me want to jump for joy in celebration of all He has given me and my family. Sharing that with those He places in my path is what the journey is all about.