Campus Ministry Matters

Enough for Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.  Today I’m simply posting a sermon I preached a year ago this past Sunday and actually preached again after a colleague fell ill this past week.  I leave it here for your consideration.  I hope you have a great thanksgiving week.

Enough for Thanksgiving


Exodus 16: 13-27

Psalm 23

Matthew 6: 9-13



While in Israel and Palestine in January of this year, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the local Rabbi’s and experienced a chance in the way the 23rd Psalm should be interpreted that opened my eyes up as we pass through the less inhabitable areas of the country.  They told me that when one reads the 23rd Psalm, one routinely thought to have been written by David, a shepard boy before his anointing to be the King of Israel, Westerners had it all wrong.

Within the writing, I always focused in upon the green pastures, places I had imagined much like the field of poppies from the wizard of Oz.  But , as we would drive by rocky and grassland spaces, I started to notice that the shepards did not take their flock to a open grove but rather had them graze along these rocky areas with little tufts of grass that sustained the sheep.  These were not field of green, but desolate and harsh areas, limited in their grassy sustenance, but the shepards were happy because they would NOT WANT,  they would instead be thankful just for the sustenance that would provide the just enough to get by.   It’s lesson of thanksgiving changed me forever.

Back here in the U.S., thanksgiving is a holiday full of joy…It is a time when we get to step away from the school work for just a little while and be with family.  It is a time to give thanks for what we have.  But unfortunately, our society has us cornered into thinking that Thanksgiving is the gateway toward the season of getting more, perhaps even the season of buying.

This upcoming season, that same one we entertain our culture with each year, It is filled with want, greed, desire of material wealth, and an overwhelming replacement of the true holiday season we are about to move ourselves into.  Not that you all would notice, the only thing you have on your mind is finals. But when you get a chance, I notice that our focus as a society often is only upon what we don’t have…. we often forget to give thanks for the very things we do have.

What do we have to give thanks for? Much. What do we already have.  Some of us might say, not too much.  But let me ask you:  Where is it that you got your clothes?  Where is it that your food was grown and even for many of you prepared?  Stepping back and giving thanks to God begins by giving thanks for things we don’t have any ability to claim as our own doing.

Most everything you own was not made by you.  Most every piece of food you eat was not prepared by you, or at least grown by you.  You just go and eat it.

Furthermore, our culture wants more and more things, more technology, more food, more clothes, more toys, more things, faster and faster.  We want the biggest houses, the fastest and most expensive cars.  We want it all, and we want it now.

And we here as students should not forget that which we have already been given much in terms of being able to be in school. It’s just a given for us.  But there are thousands, if not millions out here who have not been granted that opportunity.  There are members of our community right now who have not been able to attend this semester.  We certainly have something to already be thankful for.  So let us realize that we have enough.  Let us give thanks.

And you know, we also came to be in this place and in this world not of our own doing. When can we given thanks for that.  Sure it’s not easy, and it’s stressful, but truly, isn’t it amazing to step back and realize that without too much of our own doing, we’re alive, we’are breathing right now.  Our heart is pumping throughout our body.  The food you ate is being disgested.  It’s an amazing thing to think about.  And we have been given much.  More than enough to give thanks.

And in the midst of challenges of mental health, of stress and challenge, we have to give thanks for just being able to make it through the day. And for the day itself.  It’s amazing to me   And yet we don’t even look up and see the stars and observe the sky anymore.

Instead, we are moving to the next day, grasping at whatever we can to make sure that tomorrow will be good.  We think that our merited work will lead us to the next thing.  We call that planning for the future and we do it by working hard and ignoring the world around us.

As the first passage from Exodus explains to us, as the Israelites are going into the dessert, they have come through the red sea, they have been taken out of Egypt not of their own accord, they had no guarantee, but God made it so, and now they begin complaining about the lack of food.  So God gives them bread from heaven, And they gather it up, and God tests them telling them only to take what is needed because the leftovers will be spoiled and will become wormy.  But they don’t listen, and they take more than needed, and the bread melted away.  But when they finally listened, they not only took only the bread that was needed, but they followed the Sabbath.  They began to realize that thanks came each day in the sustainable portion, not the overabundant.

Thanksgiving through Grace:

This passage offers us a glimpse into the grace that we have been given.  Grace that we don’t even think about.  Grace that we rarely give thanks for.  The Israelites had no merit for their escape from Egypt.  Their grace and care was written within the covenant God made with Abraham previously.  But God kept the covenant, providing for them.  Did they listen.  Did they give thanks.  No, they wanted more.  More food.

And we ourselves have no merit for the grace that has been provided in our lives.  We all have fallen short, have missed the mark of bringing the kingdom of God into this world, and yet, God’s grace is there. God continues to live in covenant with us.  We should give thanks. But we don’t.  We look for other things to fill our cup.  And when our cup is full, we buy another cup.


And what about today.  The very reason we are here now in Church is to give thanks.  That’s the reason we come together.  What can we give thanks for what God has already done for us and will continue to do for us in the future.

What are we to give thanks to. Well, it is always important to give thanks to Rev. Tom Omholt and his family for again providing us this wonderful feast we’re going to get to in a little while.  And of course we are blessed and give thanks for the overwhelming meal we are about to eat.

We can give them thanks for this community, for a place where we know we can be ourselves.  And for this opportunity to be in this place at this time, we give thanks for that.  We give thanks for the joys in our hearts.  We give thanks that God would be with us in our concerns, in our challenges.   Some of us can give thanks for technology that will allow us to travel home this week.  For friends, for family, for a bed to sleep upon tonight for the clothes we now wear, for the food we have or will eat.


And yet today is something we often look to as only the gateway to tomorrow, the thanksgiving day on Thursdays that leads to black Friday.  The thanks that we are to give, the thanksgiving that we finally conclude with is a reminder and a challenge from the sacred prayer we so often prayer.  Matthew’s gospel teaching us how to pray to God, saying

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread….. give us today our daily bread… you might have missed that.  Daily bread… See we are deceived.  If we had translated it right in the greek context, it would have more likely said, give us today our bread for today….

         If we are willing to give thanks for what we have today, for the things we have awoken this morning and will today go forth with, life itself, the air we breath, the Love of God and the Grace of the Spirit, and the redemption through Jesus, for our needs and not our wants, for sustainability not comfortability, we open ourselves to the very things that have been around us all along that we can give thanks to.  And we can go forth into a new world full of thanksgiving for those around us and not for that which is waiting for us on Christmas morning and in the following years to come.

We have been offered much in the world, we have much to give thanks for.  Let us now go this week, this day, giving thanks and sharing the blessings we have been given with the world around us.  May we all be so blessed, because we have enough for thanksgiving.




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