Thanksgiving Message

Thanksgiving Service                                                                                                               

November 20, 2016


So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.

Dear friends, grace, mercy, and peace be with you all.  Amen



I do not take for granted where I stand tonight.

A Lutheran pastor,  in the pulpit of our neighboring Jewish congregation.

I’ve been invited,  welcomed, and honored to preach among this diverse gathering.

Picture those places around the world where such an event would be prohibited, perhaps even threatening.

I give God thanks for this community  that respects diversity and welcomes me and all of us to this house of prayer.


I do not take for granted the luncheon  that I, and some of you, attended earlier today.

A luncheon hosted by our neighbors at the Institute of Islamic Studies.

I stand in awe that the faith communities in our home, can gather in a Roman Catholic parish, break bread, seek common ground,  and honor what we all bring to the table.

Picture those places not far from here, where people of religious faith seek no understanding of those who are different, and at times even feel emboldened to spout hate and fear against those of a different creed.

I give God thanks for the Institute of Islamic Studies, for their invitation,  and for all who gathered this afternoon, to seek our common heritage as the children of Abraham.


Finally I do not take for granted our country  that grants us the privilege to vote, though I needed to be reminded of this on election day.

I woke that morning concerned about the contentious election cycle.  But I had little concern about casting my ballot.

I only wondered if there would be a line at the polls.

Later that day I was reminded of the privilege we hold as Americans.

Prince of Peace is a polling station.

People flowed in and out of our church all day.

But I was struck by one family.

After their vote, they gathered outside the door,  by the “Vote Here” sign,  and together in front of the American flag, they took a selfie.

I saw the exact same scene outside the municipal building  as I drove to the post office later that afternoon.

By the look of these families,  I’d say they were first generation citizens.

And by the smiles on their faces,  I’d say this election was less about the candidates,  and more about their privilege to vote.

I hold on to these two scenes post election.

While I’ve heard a few voices say that they are ashamed to be an American,  we need to remember that whatever the rancor of the campaign, or the result of the election  we still must be thankful for our privilege to vote.



As we turn to the Deuteronomy text this evening,  it is clear that thankfulness  involves more than just a verbal acknowledgement,  some action is called for.

For Moses it is first fruit giving.

He reminds the people that as they inherit the land,  and enjoy the abundance of the harvest;  the people are to take the first fruit of that harvest,  and offer it back to God.

Moses instructs the people to say:

So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.

Thankfulness involves an offering.


Our Lutheran stewardship emphasizes that we do not give God only our leftovers.

No, we give God the first harvest.   And believe that God will provide enough to live on with the second.

Thanksgiving is an act of faith.   The faith of first fruits giving.



In Deuteronomy these first fruits  are just that,  fruit and vegetables.

In our faith communities,  these first fruits are dollars.

Our offerings come from our financial resources.

But I wonder tonight if I can expand our understanding of first fruits giving.


Our Christian tradition speaks of the fruit of the spirit.

From Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

Whatever our faith tradition,  I wonder if the fruit of the spirit can be our offering tonight.

Blessed by our diversity,  blessed by our ecumenical spirit,  and blessed by our democracy;  we can take this abundance,  and offer to God the first fruits.

Where there is hate, we offer love.  Where there is despair, we offer joy.   Where there is violence, peace.    Where there is anxiety, patience.   When people are mean, we are kind.   When people are harsh,  we are gentle.   When resources are scarce,  w are generous.   here there is a lack of faith,  we offer faithfulness.   And when there is a lack of basic civility, we offer self control.

We come tonight as thankful people.

But as we thank,  we act,  offering not just the leftovers of our blessings.

We offer our first fruits, for the sake of the world.







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