Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Preacher: The Rev’d Patrick McManus
The circularity involved in our thanksgiving, our planting, our harvesting, our giving and receiving, receiving and giving is in fact, a vestige, a hint of the circularity of God’s own life of blessed giving. There is a line in the prayer book that suggests as much. It’s a beautiful prayer that comes from King David: “Blessed be thou Lord God of Israel for ever and ever. All that is in heaven and earth is thine. All things come of thee and of thine own have we given thee.”
There’s a circularity to how God gives and receives. The best and closest I can come to thinking about how God gives is this: imagine with me a child, a little girl of four or five, on Christmas morning excitedly waiting to give her father his Christmas gift. Now, she’s thought this one through. She’s bought him the brightest, reddest, tie one could imagine, you know the kind only a child would think was super appropriate for the office! Of course, he’ll wear it with pride and more than a little courage to endure the embarrassed glances of his colleagues!
Now this little girl had to ask her father for the money to buy this little treasure in the first place but that’s not the point. She relies on him for all that she has. All that she has comes from him and from his own, she’s given to him. But that’s not what’s he’s focused on, is it? He’s delighted in her gift. He’s received something, something genuine and true. It doesn’t matter that what he’s receiving is his in the first place because she’s not just given him a tie, she’s given him herself, who she is is given to him in the act of giving. Her act of giving is an act of thanksgiving because the act is an act of love rooted in her simple but profound love for her father and all that he has given her and in her trust that he is good to her. What the father wants is not the tie, but what the tie represents: the love that gave it in the first place. Love that he has given her is returned to him—what he has given he has received, what is received is given.
Our gifts to God are given in the same sort of love, rooted too in trust. Our act of thanksgiving is an act of love—love returned to whence it came—to the source of all love. God sows love and reaps love in the form of a people bent upon love in a world that is desperate to be loved. In fact, the apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, tells them that in their overflow of love they are God’s harvest of righteousness. What an incredible image. What God plants, God reaps and what he plants and reaps is us; you are God’s harvest.
God is not focused on what we offer or the nature of our gifts back to him; he is focused on us, on our love; he is focused on the love that motivates our giving in the first place, he is focused on our delight in him and his delight in us.
We meet again this morning the Bread of Life; God’s good gift to the world. Jesus is how God sows love into the world; contrite and transformed hearts and minds who bring what they have been given to him is what he harvests. This is the table of harvest thanksgiving; this is God’s great harvest: you, you are God’s great harvest. He delights in you and me and in our love for him and for one another.
“Blessed be thou Lord God of Israel for ever and ever. All that is in heaven and earth is thine. All things come of thee and of thine own have we given thee.”
What you give this morning in thanksgiving for God’s great love in Jesus is you. Yes, you put something in the plate, yes you give your time, your treasure and your talent but what you really give, what God really wants is you. You are his harvest of righteousness. Bring that to the table this morning.