Deuteronomy 26

1 “When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, and have taken possession of it, and live in it, 2you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place which the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. 3And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘I declare this day to the Lord your God that I have come into the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God. 5“And you shall make response before the Lord your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6And the Egyptians treated us harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. 7Then we cried to the Lord the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice, and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression; 8and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders; 9and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which thou, O Lord, hast given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God; 11and you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you. 12“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all thy commandment which thou hast commanded me; I have not transgressed any of thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them; 14I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead; I have obeyed the voice of the Lord my God, I have done according to all that thou hast commanded me. 15Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel and the ground which thou hast given us, as thou didst swear to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 16“This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17You have declared this day concerning the Lord that he is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his ordinances, and will obey his voice; 18and the Lord has declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he has spoken.”

RSV, 1946, 1952, 1971, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America

We were like that once upon a time in the early 1600s, on the shores of a new land, new to us at least. I give thanks this day as we should that there are still so many like them, and like us.

We the People came to these shores in those days not to seek gold, but to seek God freely. We sought to worship and to serve the One who created us and freed us from religion under the iron fist of royal rule. That rule so frequently expressed itself via the paths of tyranny and persecution. The Peoples already populating our landing places at first welcomed us, teaching us how things worked here in this new country by sharing what they knew, and in what we together had brought forth from that land. Initially we learned to share along with them. Each of us learned sometime after the autumn harvest of 1621 (?) to return thanks and offerings to others. Lacking in priests to bless them, we brought our offerings before our Creator.

But the lust of so many for God and liberty morphed into a lust for land. So much land, so little time. After all, we reasoned that others would be in pursuit of the land. And those of other sects would be in pursuit of the souls of the indigenous peoples. “Manifest Destiny!”, “from sea to shining sea”, became the battle cries of the early nineteenth century. “Make disciples of all nations…” whether they want it or not. As we often say, ‘the rest is history’.


Now the land mass of the world may not be entirely inhabited, but it is ‘titled’. That is, we have again come full circle to where some government claims ownership and control of that land, or even of the seas that lie between them. Then our conflicting governments compel our young men and women to fight one another over their control. Quite unlike our situation in 1620, there is nowhere left for freedom loving people to run when once again the governments of this world presume to be God.

On this Thanksgiving, quite possibly the 400th anniversary of the first one, we need to take account of that inescapable fact, and prepare to make the decisions that may be required of us in order to preserve that liberty from any and all who threaten it.

We do this to share our own greatest blessing by handing down to coming generations the liberty not given to us my man, but by our Creator.

Father David+

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