Reflection October 13, 2019 by Rev Sunny
Deuteronomy 26:1-11/ John 6:25-35
As you will already know, I am an immigrant in Canada. It is my goal to become a citizen because I want voting rights. While I was living in Canada, I witnessed two of my close friends go through the process of becoming citizens. One has to take a citizen test, and they told me that the questions have become even more difficult than before. Some of those questions, I don’t think average Canadians can answer. Now, I went to pursue my graduate studies in Montreal because I thought it would be easier to emigrate in Quebec thanks to my French skills. So, upon hearing about how difficult the citizen test is, I started fantasizing telling the immigration officer, “I don’t know all the names of past prime ministers, but I can sing O Canada in both languages!” Now that I’m not in Quebec anymore, I started another fantasy. Whenever I ask Canadians about the Canadian culture, the best they can come up with is hockey and Tim Hortons. Because Tim Hortons is so central to the Canadian life, I got to learn words like “double-double.” So, I imagine immigration officers asking, “How many double-doubles have you had?” “Um, I don’t know. Many. Maybe thousand.” “(Stamp) Welcome to Canada!” But of course, if that’s the case, I’m done for, because I don’t drink coffee.” Maybe I should start eating more Timbits just in case.
I have dreamed of living in Canada for a long while and now that I’m living here with a career and a Canadian husband, I am reminded of how blessed I am. I appreciate this country and my new church because I have lived where same sex marriage was not allowed, and the members of the LGBT communities could not be ordained. Some churches even in the Methodist Church refuse to serve you communion for being gay or refuse membership. My point is, you can’t fully understand the life journeys of immigrants. We are eternally grateful for this country for different reasons. This is the promised land for many of us.
The journey of the Israelites was not so different from that of a lot of today’s immigrants. It started from slavery in Egypt. Even after the Exodus, they wandered in the desert for 40 years, which is a long time. A lot of people died. A lot of people were born. They kept losing faith. But God is leading them to their promised land. When that “O Happy” day comes, they are to express their gratitude by offering tithes and some of their first harvest. Because they are grateful that God led them out of slavery and into the promised land, they should offer the first and the best to God, acknowledging that what they own is a gift from God. I express my gratitude by serving God’s people in Canada however I can.
Not a lot of us Christians in Canada give tithes, at least in the United Church. But I hope you brought special Thanksgiving offering today to express your gratitude for God’s providence. Also, because it’s Thanksgiving Sunday, we are making joyful noise in praising God. There are different ways of thanking God; we can say a prayer of thanksgiving. We can also sing the words of thanksgiving, which we are doing with our hymn selection. There is, however, another thing we should do as an expression of thanksgiving. Let us now pay attention to what Jesus says in today’s gospel text.
There are two major points that Jesus makes here; “Seek bread from heaven” and “I am the bread of life.” That’s a lot of analogy that makes our mouths water. I love this saying because I love bread. Usually, I picture regular bread, but since it’s thanksgiving, I am picturing warm and moist corn bread with butter melting on it. Bread is of course a metaphor for sustenance. Remember when Jesus says to the Tempter after fasting in the wilderness for 40 days? “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Bread from heaven is a symbol for spiritual sustenance we can get from our relationship with God, although Israelites in the desert were fed with actual bread coming down from heaven; manna. What we are learning about thanksgiving today, especially from the gospel text, is that what matters the most is the spiritual gift we received from God; bread from heaven, Jesus Christ through whom we experience God. If we are to give thanks to God for the greatest gift of all, Jesus, who inspired a lot of people and worked to bring God’s reign of love and justice to earth, we should do more than thanking God with our praise and material gifts. Then how should be give thanksgiving to God? Because we learn about God from Jesus, and were invited to follow him, we cannot give thanks to God without following the life and teachings of Jesus. We should live by the teachings of Jesus.
Today and tomorrow, there will be a lot of food on our table as well as people who share food and love at that table. We are also likely to overeat. But while enjoying the material gifts of God and the people in your life with whom you share your life and love, I urge you to remember that we who are giving thanksgiving to God are the follower of he who taught God’s reign of compassion and social justice. As we break bread with our loved ones, as we thank God for all we have on earth, let us also promise God that we will live a lifestyle of sharing and serving; of imitating God’s heavenly kingdom, by working towards bringing God’s kingdom in our communities.