(Our Thanksgiving service for Newberg Friends Church was at Bauman Auditorium on the George Fox University campus on November 23, 2014. We love sharing community with fresh pressed apple cider and pumpkin donuts, and then worshiping all together instead of in separate services. This year, two of our farmers–David Brown and Lisa McMinn–shared their experience and wisdom to help us think about the connections to giving thanks.)
This year, something about Thanksgiving struck me as a little bit strange.
Here we have this national holiday where someone decreed that on the fourth Thursday of November, one day out of every year, EVERYBODY BE THANKFUL TO GOD FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE. I’m not against thanking God at all-but it suddenly struck me as a little bit strange that after 364 days of selfishly believing that everything I have is because I’m such a hard worker, now all of a sudden everybody is supposed to take a day and be thankful to God.
It seems so arbitrary. And difficult, if you’re not in the practice of seeing life that way. When it seems like there isn’t much to be thankful for, when you aren’t in the practice of paying attention to God, it isn’t easy to just do it in the middle of dreary November.
Of course there’s a reason it’s in November. The whole idea of Thanksgiving began when we were all more in tune with the harvest cycle of life. This was the time of year where all the hard work of caring for fields and crops had paid off. Storerooms were full, the hay was in the barn, and people turned with gratitude to God…who had provided the soil and rain and sun needed to miraculously sprout food from the earth.
So this year for this service, we want to remind ourselves of the rhythms of farming.
Few of us live in that world day after day, the world of hard work and preparation and waiting and sweating…but having so much completely out of your control. At several points in the service today, we’ll get to see two of our very own farmers from NFC on screen: David Brown and Lisa McMinn.
I so appreciate the wisdom they’ve shared! Our hope is this look at farming will remind us of how to be thankful…how to prepare the soil of our lives, how to plant seeds of trust in God, how to wait and watch the ordinary miracles of how God brings new life to us. Enjoy!!
Once the apostle Paul was writing to people in Corinth, to a church that he had planted.
They weren’t doing so well; fighting, quarreling, split into factions between those who thought Paul was the greatest thing ever and those who thought the one who came after, Apollos…HE was the one who was great. Listen to what Paul writes.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are God’s co- workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9, TNIV)
I love the middle ground Paul takes here. He could have rightfully reminded them they wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for him, and take sides against Apollos. He could ignored both his own work and Apollos’ work and just focused on God. But instead he acknowledges the good work, the good service that BOTH he and Apollos have done. And he rightly points their attention to God, the one who makes all things grow.
Like all of God’s work, Thanksgiving is something that we cultivate, but that God truly makes grow. Like in farming, there are many things we can do to prepare the soil of our lives, to plant seeds in the hopes of what God will do with it. Right now, listen to Lisa and David tell us about soil and seeds. Then, after we sing, Kasey Fish will share. Kasey is a senior in high school this year, and part of his journey has been recognizing how long we have to work and wait to see God’s work sometimes.
In farming and in life, we see that the things we thank God for don’t magically appear.
They take cultivating and work on our part. But the truth is, even when we haven’t done a thing, even when we haven’t been paying attention, God surprises and exceeds!
God is gracious and abundant! Lisa McMinn reminds us of this.
So the holiday of Thanksgiving will happen this week, whether we do anything or not. But…may we find ways to look for God’s abundance! May we celebrate the power and beauty in the cycle of life, and find beauty and things to be thankful for even in loss, even in death.
Perhaps this farming picture today will help you this week…help you to prepare the soil of your own heart, help you to plant seeds of thanks, and to share those with others…Thursday, and every day!