Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Deuteronomy 6:1-15, Hebrews 1:1-14, John 1:1-18
Shortly before the Israelites ended their forty years of wandering in the desert, Moses spoke to them about how they were to live in the promised land. These sermons, which make up most of the book of Deuteronomy, were good news for the Israelites, but not for the Canaanites – who were already living in the promised land of Cana. Moses warned the people of Israel:
“When the LORD your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors […] — a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant — […] take care that you do not forget the LORD.”
How easy it is to believe we have received all the good things in our lives through our own merit, and to forget how much of it is due to the people who came before us. These people are not only direct ancestors, but those people who shaped our lives and societies through victories – and sometimes more poignantly through losses. Financial inheritance, good genes, a strong work ethic, economies stable enough to support business, roads, an education, natural resources beyond measure, civil rights: all these things which contribute to our success and survival were provided by others who either gave them or had them taken away. No matter how hard we’ve worked for what we have, we didn’t do it alone.
Our sense of gratitude is tied to our sense of history. Each person’s life is built on the bones of those who voluntarily and involuntarily contributed to it. Our sense of justice is also tied to our willingness to remember history. All societies, past and present, are a mix of what we’ve built, what we’ve been given, and what we’ve taken. When the Israelites remembered how God had delivered them to their homes, they also had to remember the people of Cana. When we give thanks for what we have, let’s also remember where it came from.
Comfort: We are all part of an ongoing story.
Challenge: Give thanks for the people who have helped you become what you are.
Prayer: God of history, help us to understand and honor the past so we may practice reverence in the present. Amen.
Discussion: Some people complain about being made to feel “guilty” about privilege. Guilt is inwardly focused and rarely constructive. What is a better attitude toward our own privilege?
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