“On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:11-13)
Social distancing is not a new thing, beloved reader. It has a long history, starting with illnesses that were feared and not easily understood. These lepers had to stay away from family, friends and home because it was understood that the disease spread from person to person, but protective measures, such as masks etc, were not know or widely used in Jesus’ time. Added to that only priests (who were most certainly not medically trained) could pronounce a person “clean” and “healed”. Many disease were thought to have a spiritual basis and not a physical one. So logically it was only a religious leader who could determine if the “spirit” was clean. I was thinking, just this day when I planned out what I should write, that even if I was up in Canada I most likely could not or would not be able to gather with family. In fact, I am not even sure my Canadian family would be gathering. To a Canadian (such as me) it makes no sense to rescue the health of another, and it is better to wait a year until next year in order to assure that we can gather in safety. But on the other hand, I long to see my Canadian family. It has been so long since I have seen any of them; and maybe, just maybe the risk would be worth it. However, I doubt that Canada would let me in. So I must regretfully confine myself to writing about Thanksgiving in Canada.
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:6 – 8)
Canadians celebrate on a Monday, so Thanksgiving is always a long weekend. In the United States where Thanksgiving is a Thursday the Friday afterward is not automatically a holiday. Some companies and business do give the day. Other business make the Friday afterwards a day of intense commerce. Even the day of is a time to empty the wallet as much as it is to stuff the face. And family times gets compacted and forgotten in the rush to acquire. I will not say the Canadians are above such things, but we are more likely to pause and consider. Of course this year the shopping rush will be (I am sure, and should be most definitely) toned down and restrained to honor safety, social distancing, and the health of others. We are not healed, beloved reader, by the things we buy. The Gospel passage commends us to return to giving thanks and praise for what we have received.
“As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (Verses 9 – 15)
Even in early adolescence I had the sense that church should come first before the feasting of the day. The Sunday before Thanksgiving in Canada is usually a time of giving thanks for all the blessings and abundance received throughout the year. In the Gospel passage it was a Samaritan who returned to give thanks. I like to think that authentic Christians would act as that Samaritan did; and even more so if Canadian by birth or background.
“Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.” (Psalms 65: 1 – 4)
I remember the years I was in college, I tried to find a way to get home from Canadian Thanksgiving. And after I was married, we always went up to Canada for Thanksgiving there as well as to my in-laws for US Thanksgiving. You can never have to much Thanksgiving times, or times of giving thanks.
“By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”
In Canadian by October (mind you this is before global temperature change) the heat of the summer days has cooled off and it is possible to be outside in ambient air. The days are crisp and temperate, and the nights are cool enough to energy the warmth of sweaters and woolly blankets, You can heat up a kitchen with a morning of cooking and not need to turn on fans to endure the heat while you enjoy the smell of a well prepared meal. The harvest has been brought in and counted against the cold of winter that may, or may not come.
But the times have changed; it is hard to know now what the weather will be like. And substantial masks will make it hard to know if you can see your breathe or not. It may be harder to think of things to give thanks for. The safety of family and friends will surely be one thing. Having suffered all the turmoil and tempest the year has brought throughout the world is another. But there may be grieving also; for people, times, and places that have been lost. And faded hopes and dreams for the future. But still, we will give thanks. We can do no other.
“For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 8:7 – 10)
Canadian Thanksgiving reminds me of my childhood and my growing up years. The blessings and abundance listed in this passage from Deuteronomy were an expected reality in those days. Yes, there were some hard times, but those only made the blessings that I knew more sweet and savored.
“Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.” (Verses 11 – 18)
Thanksgiving, whether Canadian or US or wherever you are when you celebrate, is a time to remember the mercies and blessings you have received. And time to gather, as you can, with family and friends to renew the ties of companionship and harmony. And it is a time to look toward the future, gathering up one’s strength and courage for the long days that may be ahead. May you, beloved reader, find a way to celebrate that you have gotten this far; and to remind yourself that you are not alone as you journey forward. Shalom & Selah!