Cover Image: “Blessed” by Terry M. Givens, 2004
Sermon by Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
Meister Eckhart was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born in 1260 and was a monk in the Dominican Order. We begin today with the sharing of some of his wise words:
God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.
The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.
The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.
And finally, the quote that is the most famous, by Meister Eckhart:
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
What are you grateful for?
Today, at this time of Thanksgiving, it is important for us to realize that we DO have things our lives to be grateful for – people and opportunities, meaningful work and a good church community. But we often overlook these “blessings” because our lives are not perfect. Our lives are good, but they could be better. Our jobs are good, but not always. Our relationships are hard and we struggle. We are not at the beginning of our journey, but we are not at the end. And in this “in between” state, it is difficult to be grateful.
To say “thank you” now, is like saying “thank you” in the middle of the story…. but friends, being grateful in the in-between times… that’s the message of our scripture today.
So, let’s take a look at our scripture from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 34: Here we find Moses at the end of his life, again on a mountaintop. Now, if you recall, the pivotal moments in the life of Moses took place on mountains.
- When God called him to return to Egypt to be his deliverer, it was on a mountain named Horeb in the Midian desert.
- After leading the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and into the wilderness, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on a mountain named Sinai.
- Now, at the end of his life, there was a final mountain from which God allowed him to see the Promised Land – Mt. Nebo. And Moses died on that mountaintop overlooking the land promised to him by God. (1)
But BEFORE we get to the mountaintop, Moses and the Israelites were on the journey. And in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 11, we see things were not going very well…
One night, the people began to complain about their hardships, and when God heard them, he rained down fire on the outskirts of their camp. So the people cried to Moses, Moses prayed and the Lord stopped. (But they didn’t learn)
Numbers 11, verse 4-6
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
Now remember, Manna rained down on the starving Israelites during their exodus and the people rejoiced! But apparently eating manna every day was boring, so they started to daydream about the food they had when they were slaves in Egypt. “Remeber that great fish we had in Egypt? That was the best.”
After hearing all the people wailing and complaining, he asks the Lord (verse 11) “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?”
Clearly, the people did not remember their blessings and now, after journeying with them for 40 years, Moses’ journey has come to an end.
Deuteronomy 34: 1-12
Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’
Now, this lengthy, flowery description is meant to impress upon the reader the extent of the land promised by God. Those familiar with the area knew that it was a great distance, a land full of possibilities.
What Moses ‘sees’ in the story is more than just land; it is the fullness of God’s promise, and it is far more than he is able to see literally. Author Howard Wallace explains, “Without pushing the analogy too far,” he says, “this has been the case all along. Moses’ ‘vision’ has been inspired by the spirit of wisdom with which he has been gifted and which he will now pass to Joshua (in verse 9) rather than the limits of his own vision.” (2)
Moses sees the vision of God, (the promise of the land, it’s abundance and it blessings) but (he) is not allowed to enter that part of the dream. Moses’ role was to bring the people out of slavery, to bring the people the Law, to bring the people to God and now his part is done. So God shows him the Promised Land there on the mountaintop, and there he dies.
Moses – like all of us – is constrained by the limits of his human life. His part is finished and now the people will have Joshua who is given a different task. In this way, Moses’ job is done and he graciously passes the mantle of leadership on to the next one in line.
We are all tasked with a job to do for a distinct place and time and God is with us in our journey! God calls each of us to perform a certain task for the building of the Kingdom – the trick is in discovering what our “gifts and talents” are and how to use them for the glory of God and for use in the Promised Land.
God will lead us to the Promised Land, if we’re willing to follow. But God needs each of us to use our gifts and talents to get there. It is as if we each have a place in the rowboat and an oar to row with, but if we do not do our part, we – collectively – will fail to reach our goal. We need to discover our own OAR – in prayerful meditation and with as much honest objectivity as possible, we need to recognize our own OAR – the talents which God has given us and whatever talents they may be, we should realize God didn’t give them to us accidentally or indiscriminately. God has a vital interest in our native abilities, and the accomplishments and skills which we’ve achieved as a result. “He grieves when you misuse or abuse those talents and treasures. God would have you invest them to the glory of his work on earth and the joy of your own soul.” (3)
- Did God fill your heart with music? Do you dream in notes and songs and harmony? Let’s put that OAR in the water! How does God want you to use that talent to reach the Promised Land?
- Did God fill your brain with numbers, logic and practical sense? Let’s put that OAR in the water! How can you put this to good use to build up the Kingdom of God?
- Did God gift you with a love of children? Let’s put that OAR in the water!
- A knack for cooking? A talent for conflict resolution? A passion for art? Let’s put that OAR in the water!
Each of us has an oar, a gift, a tool to help us get to the Promised Land. And we each have a role to play in this particular time in this particular place. At this time of stewardship, we not only address the stewardship of our money, but the stewardship of our talents, abilities and gifts. Each of us has been blessed and we are tasked with the distribution of those gifts for the glory of God and the Building of the Kingdom.
May we recognize our place in the family of God, put our oars in the water and let us be grateful for the journey we are on.. For all we’ve been given, thanks be to God! Amen.
1. “You Have a Call–From God” by The Rev. Dr. William K. Quick found on http://day1.org/546-you_have_a_callfrom_god
2. Howard Wallace, found on http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/OrdinaryA/Pentecost24.html