Reflection October 9th, 2022 (Thanksgiving Sunday)
Deuteronomy 26:1-11/ Philippians 4:4-9/ Psalm 100/ John 6:25-35
Thanksgiving Requires Faith
Recognizing God’s Blessing
Both the Christian Church and the secular culture teach us that we should be grateful. That is why we have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and in Korea, we even have Teacher’s Day. All these people love and take care of us. We know as common knowledge that we should be grateful for them.
There are many other things for which we are grateful in our lives. Some things are obvious, such as visible and tangible success, abundance in resources, and whatever makes us happy. We can easily recognize them as blessing and be thankful for them. However, not all blessing looks obvious. It is because we tend to see things through our human and secular lens.
When I had to leave Montreal and all my friends because only one BC church offered me a job, I didn’t know that it was a gift from God. I didn’t want to leave. Yet, I met two precious people in BC: my husband and my piano teacher. This is only one of the many examples of what we might call “blessing in disguise.”
My favorite Christian writer Henry Nouwen was a theology professor. According to our secular standards, we should not choose to abandon the prestige and comfortable lifestyle that this profession offers. However, he chose to move into a community for disabled people. He spent his later years in this community and it turned out to be an incredibly spiritually rich experience for him, causing him to write books that are different from his precious ones.
Seeking Bread from Heaven
My point is that God’s blessing is not always obviously recognized. It is because God’s standards are different from ours.
Today, we read Jesus speak of himself as the bread of life from heaven. He told his disciples to seek eternal food that the Son of Man can give them instead of food that perishes.
On our Thanksgiving Sunday this year, we listen to Jesus tell us to seek things that belong to heaven, or God’s reign, instead of things of our material world. Pay attention to his reference of manna that the ancient Israelites received from heaven to survive in the wilderness. Manna is a true bread from heaven, not only because it fell from heaven, but also because it was a food of faith.
God gave enough for all of them everyday, but some of them didn’t trust God enough to provide enough food everyday. They disobeyed God and collected more than they needed for one day, and the leftover went bad in the morning. The Israelites in the desert were supposed to be grateful that God sustained them with daily food they needed instead of complaining about the luxury and comfort they didn’t have.
This scene from John 6 happened right after the miracle of feeding the multitude. They were fed by God’s power and sought Jesus. To these people who believed in Jesus for the earthly food they consumed, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” They and we are taught to seek the things that belong to God and recognize the blessing that belongs to God. Earthly bread satisfies us for only several hours but heavenly bread satisfies for eternity.
God’s Different Ideas on Blessing
Clearly, God and we have different ideas of what blessing looks like. A lot of blessing indeed comes in disguise, and a lot of the times, we will never get to recognize it as blessing.
We are used to having First World things such as cars, smart phones, computers, internet, abundant water sources, and more than enough food; but the Thanksgiving lesson we learn from John chapter 6 is that we should be grateful regardless of those things.
We don’t have high speed internet in Sicamous, and it can be a huge inconvenience when I take an online piano lesson or have an online meeting. However, I am reminded not to complain about those problems, which God doesn’t consider a big deal. My focus should be the fact that I am cared for, that I feel God’s love and guidance in my life, and that I have internet that allows me to meet with people from far away without leaving my house.
Thanksgiving as a Lifestyle Based on Faith
We should be grateful. We should even be grateful for things that we cannot see as blessing because we can’t always recognize blessing that belongs to God. That is why thanksgiving requires faith. We need faith and trust in God to pray, “We thank you for every blessing you give us, even though we cannot always see it. Because we trust you, we trust in your love for us. Help us to trust you more and recognize your blessing.”
We read about the Israelites after arriving at the promised land learning to give offerings from the new land. It is right to give thanks to God. We read Psalm 100 in which the psalmist shouts to God with joy. It is right to be joyful when we trust in God’s love and feel thankful.
And we learned from Paul to always rejoice and not worry about anything. When we are worried, we should unburden our anxiety by talking to God about it. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.
This teaching should be our guiding light. With faith and trust in God, let us be grateful for everything even if we cannot recognize the blessing right now. With a grateful heart, let us be joyful at our loving relationship with God. And let us unburden our worries by praying about it so that God can give us peace. All these come from faith. Therefore, this Thanksgiving, and every day of our lives, let us trust God and be thankful as a lifestyle.