See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live…(Deuteronomy 30:15-16a NRSV)
1When you have 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, 2you 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 for his name. 3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” 4When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, 5you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, 7we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
This is a celebration of harvest text, and will be our Old Testament reading for Thanksgiving this year. One thing that is challenging to me as I read this is that I can sometimes be proud of my own accomplishments, especially when I have worked hard to achieve them, and I can forget that its source is God. God is the one who gives me strength to persevere. God is the one who opens my heart and mind to understand and care. God is the one who gives the growth. We live in a culture that glorifies personal accomplishment, and this text flies in the face of this. To whom do you owe your strength? Your accomplishments? Your wealth?
What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?
One thing that I love about this text is the reminder that I stand in the long line of history. I grew up hearing the story of my great-grandmother’s immigration to the U.S., alone, when she was only 16. Her courage and desire for a better life made a better life for my grandmother, and my mother, and for me and my children. Where do you stand in your family’s history? For what in the past are you thankful? What are you hoping for the future?
What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to my life?
When I was a child, Kirby Puckett was a famous player for the Minnesota Twins. I remember that, each time that he came up to bat, he crossed himself and pointed to heaven. He was an example to me of public praise and thankfulness to God, and helped me to be a little bit more brave about showing my own thankfulness in public. Who has helped to encourage you in your faith? For what do you have to give thanks?
What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?
November is beginning, and, with it, the cultural race through the holidays. Maybe we all need a t-shirt that says “Thankful! Thankful? Thankful.” Sometimes, it seems others are ordering us to be thankful, when we just don’t feel like it. Sometimes, we wonder if we really have anything of substance to be thankful for. And sometimes, just sometimes, our daily practice of thankfulness leads to an underlying attitude of gratitude, which lead to the joy which is not happiness, but which sustains us in the long haul. I am looking forward to diving into this text with you this month.