It was not until 1957 that the Canadian Parliament declared the second Sunday of October as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” The day’s roots reach back, however, to rituals for a plentiful harvest among the First Nations; to a meal of gratitude for surviving the transatlantic voyage by Sir Martin Frobisher and crew in 1578; and to the “Feasts of Good Cheer” established by Samuel de Champlain at Port Royal after enduring scurvy in 1604.
In a nation committed to the separation of church and state and acutely aware of the shadow side of settler colonialism in conquest and genocide (both physical and cultural), for what exactly should Canadians be giving thanks? And what might those of us in the United States learn from such reflections?
The ambiguities of Deuteronomy 26 suggest that we should cultivate gratitude for what sustains us—the firstfruits of bountiful creation where we are—but always with caution. The land has been made available for us but was neither uninhabited nor barren before we arrived. This may be land promised to our ancestors, but its bounty is both for us and for the ”aliens” who dwell among us. The Shema, the statement of identity of all Israel, challenges our comfort in occupation: Our ancestors were wanderers!
We are called to modes of thanksgiving that remember those who died by violence and disease; that support the displaced, refugees, and immigrants who dwell among us still; and that lead to reconciliation as we wander gratefully toward a just future.
God of wanderers, we give you thanks not for what we have taken but for what we receive. Amen.
At last Jeremiah is able to bring a message of restoration and hope. God promises a new covenant with the people, and they will internalize the law in their hearts so that they will keep it. The psalmist rejoices in such a reality. He meditates on God’s law all day and has been granted profound understanding. This allows him to walk faithfully in God’s paths. The reading from Second Timothy confirms the ongoing power of God’s law in scripture, which is given by God for our good. Timothy is charged always to be ready to preach it faithfully. Luke hits on a different theme: the importance of persistent prayer. In the parable a heartless judge finally yields to a persistent widow, so we should be similarly tenacious with our prayers to God.
Read Jeremiah 31:27-34. How have you broken your covenant with God? How has God responded?
Read Psalm 119:97-104. The Jewish laws of the Hebrew scriptures are part of our Christian heritage. How can you delight in the law?
Read 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5. How can you learn or teach from scriptures you do not normally read?
Read Luke 18:1-8. Through the familiar call to pray always, the author reminds us that we are called to pray for what God wants. What is at stake when you pray for justice and mercy?
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