Aliens are Welcome at Thanksgiving Dinner
By Donald McKenzie
October 9, 2022
Despite the aliens in the title, this post is not about creatures from outer space. Rather, this sermon, found in the video, deals with aliens(strangers) as referred to in Deuteronomy 26:1-11. There the Israelites are given instruction on how to deal with the first fruits of the harvest.
The readings we chose for this Sunday, are the Lectionary readings for Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated tomorrow. In the Deuteronomy reading the people are to remember how they were treated when they were aliens living in Egypt. This is in contrast to how they are to treat the aliens(strangers) who lives among them.
Text of Aliens at Thanksgiving Dinner.*
*Transcription may not be 100% accurate.
Please be seated. Let us pray. May the words in my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord, our God, our strength, and our Redeemer. So, this morning’s sermon contains many things, including a little bit of conversation about aliens.
We’re not talking about aliens in the Yeti project or anything like that. But it’s an important concept in the Old Testament. And it’s at the heart of thanksgiving, and the harvest Thanksgiving. So, let’s start off with our reading from Deuteronomy, where it talks about bringing first fruits, and how we should relate to aliens.
And one of the things we might not think about when we’re talking about first fruits is the realization is that right up until the first fruits come, people are often in a very hungry position.
You know, it’s only in the last 150 or so years that any kind of refrigeration, on a mass scale was available. What you did at the end of every harvest, and then the early winter months, is you packed as much food away as you could, and try to make it last as long as you possibly could.
There was no weekly trip to the supermarket to buy your groceries, you’re trying to get as much time as possible over the food. When first fruits come when the first bits of the harvest come, that’s the point when you have the least amount of food in your house.
And you’re just waiting for that harvest. So, when are we reading, we hear the people being told, bring the first fruits of your harvest. And they’re also often the best.
You know, when you get that first cup of tomatoes or something like that from your garden, they’re the best that the taste and bring that before the priest. And then it takes that as an offering to God. And while you’re doing that, you have to remember something
you have to remember that you were wandering and ended up down in Egypt. And while you were in Egypt, you were mistreated. And this is the first time that you hear this word as aliens. That doesn’t mean the creature from outer space. It means you are treated as a stranger. You are treated as somebody not quite like the Egyptians.
Somebody who couldn’t be trusted. And you were made to work for all those years. And you were held in a bitter bondage. But then you were brought up from that. And as you remember that you make this pledge before God. But then you go from that encounter with the priests, and the blessing of the food and the call to remembrance of that time as aliens in Egypt.
You’re told to take that food home and to share it. To share it with your family, those around us would not just be sort of like the four or five people that live in your house. Your family would be a much larger unit, extended family as we call it now. With the Levites because the Levites weren’t given any land.
The promise was made them, If you come and you serve God here and you work in the temple, you will be looked after. You will not have land you will not have that land inheritance but you will be looked after. And thirdly, to share it with the aliens who resides among you.
This is different from how they were treated at You’re when they were aliens. That model is not your model. How the Egyptians mistreated you, making you slaves to build their buildings is not the model that you’re supposed to use.
When you deal with aliens that are living in your country, they become part of the feast. They are welcomed at the table. They don’t get the scraps, they don’t get the leftovers. They’re part of the dinner.
But there’s something else that’s embedded in this process. We just notice that the Feast of the first fruits comes just for all the other food is running out. And the first thing they’re told to do, after coming from this blessing, of recovering and presenting the first fruits before God is to take it and share it.
Share it widely, share it generously. Share it, not just with those that are nearest and dearest to them. Instead, share it with everybody, even the complete stranger.
It’s an article of faith where we are going to trust God so much that rather than saying, Okay, we’ve got this great new harvest, let’s make sure we get stuff put away first. We’re going to share it with everybody around us. We are going to trust that God will provide for us in the harvest that is coming. Because the first fruits is only just the beginning of the harvest, the rest of the harvest is still to come.
This decision, this practice of making sure that there’s food for the family, that there’s food for the Levites that there’s food for the aliens among them is an act of faith that God is going to make sure that they are cared for.
And it’s, it’s hard for us to do. We like the concept. Because we see this actually in our gospel reading. Our gospel read today comes just after John’s telling of the feeding of the 5000. One of those few stories that’s included in all four Gospels.
Jesus says the people coming like you know, Jesus leaves in the middle of the of the night. And the people were searching for him. And Jesus in His quite typical fashion doesn’t say, Yeah, I just need a little rest. He says why are you looking for me?
Are you looking for me? Because you want to know what I have to say? Do you want to follow after me? Do you want to be my followers? No! I know why you’ve come because you had a really full meal yesterday. And you’re looking for a repeat and well, at least seem on the surface let’s follow this guy.
He can do this for us. It’s not really a trusting response in terms of looking at how God will provide you know, one of the interesting things about the entry into the Promised Land is as soon as the Israelites enter the Promised Land, the manna stops.
God is going to provide for you but God’s gonna provide for you a different way. It’s always good to provide but the ways in which God provides will be different in different times and in different places.
We’ve been reminded. Let’s go back to Deuteronomy. We are going to share with family, the Levites, and the aliens. It’s going to be different from when you were wandering through the desert.
And one of the things to remember back then like wandering through the desert was when you pick up the man every day, you only take enough Manna for that day. It will be there in a world of fresh supply. And of course, we see people who aren’t willing to accept that.
They started to hoard the Manna. And they opened it up the next day, and it’s gone rotten. But Friday, of course, is the day before the Sabbath, then you take two days. And you will not have to go around picking up on the Sabbath.
So, God’s methods and means of provision, change over time. But God will always provide and God calls us into that provision process. We are given the opportunity to demonstrate God’s loving provision by the ways in which we provide for each other.
And our model should be the generosity that God asked of his people back in the book of Deuteronomy back by the way before they enter the Promised Land, they haven’t even to there yet.
Thanksgiving is rooted in the idea that everything we have is a gift from God. And therefore, we give thanks. But it’s not just a matter of words. Thanksgiving is a demonstration that we believe everything we have is a gift from God.
It’s a demonstration that God not only provides, but God will provide once again. We’ll go back even before the story of Deuteronomy, we’ll go back to the story of Abraham, where Abraham is blessed to be a blessed Thanksgiving is our opportunity to remind ourselves that we are blessed to be a blessing.
We’re not blessed for our own sake. We are not meant to keep it all to ourselves. We’re blessed to be a blessing to others. then further in our Gospel, Jesus, after talking to people are saying, you know, you think Moses gave you the man but it was God gave the man Moses was just the person who told you told you about it.
Good say the crowd, hey give us this. You want that all the time we want this kind of right on the card Jesus says I am the bread of life. I have come to give you a food that does not corrupt a food that does not destroy it does not waste away.
We will come to the table in a few minutes to celebrate and to remember that Jesus is that food it’s a food that transforms us it’s a food that changes us
It too is a gift from God. It is a gift that is meant to bless us so that we can bless everyone else each other we call this prayer the Great Thanksgiving because we pray as we remember the greatest gift and the source all our Thanksgivings
All of the meals that we share together, where we gather and give thanks for what we have as a reflection of this. The best way to take this meal with us because this is a meal that doesn’t go bad in the back of the fridge. It’s not going to go mouldy, if you leave it out.
Christ is the living bread and the best way to celebrate and to commemorate that is to take it with us into the world to share it, not just in words and even an action. But to take it and share it. when we share food, clothing, housing, whatever it is that needs to be shared.
We realize when we act that this is the bread of life which has come down from heaven and so we have been blessed by it. So, we can bless the world around us.