Thanksgiving & Remembrance
I love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is this wonderful holiday surrounding the harvest. It’s a celebration of how God brought the Pilgrims through their first hard winter in the new world. The Pilgrims were grateful. The Pilgrims were grateful for their new friendship with the Native Americans. They were grateful for a bountiful harvest. They were grateful for the prospect of living in a land free of religious persecution. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday.
In many ways the Passover is similar. Where the Pilgrims faced religious persecution in Europe, the Israelites faced forced labor from the Egyptian government. The Egyptians were trying to work them to death. The Pilgrims believed it was God’s providence which brought them safely across the Atlantic Ocean through many storms, and rough seas. The Children of Israel know God saved them through ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. When the Pilgrims collected their first harvest they chose to celebrate with food and to share the meal with their new Native American Friends. God commanded the children of Israel:
“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a fast to the Lord; throughout your generations; as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast” (Exodus 12:14).
The Pilgrim’s celebration focused on surviving a hard, cold winter and the creation of new friendships. The Jewish Passover celebrates the Exodus and God saving Israel from bondage and death in Egypt. Through nine plagues God had brought misery on Egypt because of Pharaoh’s hard heartedness. With the tenth plague God promised to take the first-born man, woman, child, and animal of Egypt. The only salvation came through the blood of a lamb. That lamb would be slaughtered on the Passover evening. Its blood was to be sprinkled on the door frame of their houses. When the angel of death visited Egypt it was the blood of a lamb which protected the children of Israel and their livestock. On that night the angel of death Passed Over the children of Israel. They had to eat the lamb quickly. It would be their last meal in Egypt. They ate lamb with bitter herbs and did not even give the bread time to rise. They ate with their belt’s tight around their wastes and they ate quickly. Once the angel of death passed over Egypt, all of the people including Pharaoh wanted the Children of Israel gone and out of their country. The Egyptians wanted the children of Israel out of their country so badly, the Egyptians paid Israel with their gold jewelry so Israel would leave and leave quickly.
Every year when the Jews celebrate the Passover they are both remembering and giving thanks to God. God rescued the children of Israel from slavery and death in Egypt. God made the children of Israel a people. God made them God’s people. All of the Law and the Writings and the Prophets are there to give Israel her identity as the people of God. They are to be set apart. The Passover is their annual reminder, we aren’t supposed to be like everybody else. God saved us. God rescued us. And so every year the youngest adult in the house, the youngest person to have passed their bar-mitzvah or bat-mitzvah is to stand up and give a recitation of the Exodus, and how God saved them from death in Egypt. They did not know God, but God remembered God’s promise to Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. The Jews retell the story to remember who they are, and whose they are. This is the thanksgiving of Passover.
This coming week we will celebrate Thanksgiving with our families. Many of you will choose to socially distance and try to have Thanksgiving by Zoom. Many of you will try to have Thanksgiving with family. However, while you are there never forget that we have a Passover thanksgiving story as well. For while we were yet sinners and did not know who we were or to whom we belonged a God we didn’t know sent God’s only Son that who so ever should believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. Let us never forget the cost that was paid for our salvation from sin and death. The cost was the sacrifice of the Lamb; Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus was arrested, beaten and spat upon. Jesus was given over to the bitter enemy of the Jews, the Romans. The Romans then beat Jesus; scourged Jesus and crucified Jesus until dead. Jesus was laid in a stone tomb. Three days later, death could no longer hold Him. Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty power over all of our foes. Death could not hold Him. Just as God saved the Children of Israel through the Exodus, Jesus Christ saved all of us through power of His life, death and resurrection. Give thanks and be thankful O’Church! Be not afraid of this plague and unfortunate events! The armies of Pharaoh and the Red Sea could not stop God from saving the Children of Israel. Death could not prevent Jesus Christ from being raised from the grave. Covid-19 will not prevent the church from being the hands and feet of Christ. God is using this congregation. A church is not about a building or a specific site for worship. The church is a body of believers united in one purpose. The purpose of Central United Methodist Church is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Central works to grow in our love for God and our neighbor through discipleship, spiritual growth and outreach. We show that love through service to the poor and working poor, evangelism to the unchurched, and outreach to the local elementary school. When the Bishop recommended we shut our doors for worship we complied, but the work of God through this place did not stop. Central provided food for hungry children over Spring Break. Central has provided 50 bags of food once a month since April. Central has bolstered our food pantry to hand out a bag of food once a week instead of only once a month. We have completed Disciple II Bible study and offered the Epic of Eden twice to two different groups. We have celebrated nine baptisms this year, five of those through confessions of faith. We have celebrated two confirmations. More than fifty percent of our average worship attendance is involved in some form of mission and discipleship. Give thanks to God this week for all God has been doing through this body of believers. From where I stand, we have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Let us give our thanks and praise to the Lord.
In the name of Jesus Christ,