SERMON TITLE: “Give Thanks for Blessings”
SERMON TEXT: Ezekiel 34:25-31
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: November 20, 2022, at First UMC
Every Thanksgiving I like to recall the story of the Pilgrims and their experience at Plymouth Rock. You may remember that the English people who held that famous first Thanksgiving were refugees who were seeking religious freedom in the New World. Not finding liberty in England to worship as they wished, they had first moved to the Netherlands. But the situation wasn’t ideal there either, so, in the year 1620, those English Separatists decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, they got a late start and didn’t arrive in Plymouth Harbor until November 11th. Up against harsh winter weather, the immigrants still had to construct shelters from the cold. The work was greatly hindered by sickness. Over the winter, nearly half of the 102 Pilgrims died.
The 53 Pilgrims who survived the winter made treaties with the Native Americans and learned from them some planting techniques that helped the Pilgrims grow sufficient food in the coming summer. So, by the time of the fall harvest in 1621, the Pilgrim survivors were able to hold a three-day celebration of Thanksgiving that included their Native American friends. Their feast consisted of various types of wild birds, deer, and fish—as well as the fruits and vegetables grown in their gardens and harvested in the forests. Historians tell us that some details we associate with that First Thanksgiving are more folklore than certain history. But what was absolutely for sure was that, after an extremely difficult year, the Pilgrims’ life was looking much more hopeful. Those early immigrants to the New World were eager to give thanks to God for their blessings.
Today’s scripture reading from Ezekiel 34 takes us back more than 2000 years before the American Pilgrims. Many of the Hebrew people had been forced out of Jerusalem and taken into exile in Babylon. The prophet Ezekiel was one of them. At first, Ezekiel told his Jewish brothers and sisters that they were getting what they deserved. He said that God was punishing them for their sins. But later, after Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and the Hebrew people had suffered enough, Ezekiel began to give them hope that they would someday return home. At some point in the future, God would again establish them in Israel and shower blessings upon them.
As a way to stimulate gratitude in our minds and hearts today, I invite you this morning to look with me at this hopeful vision in Ezekiel chapter 34. Let’s join the prophet in counting out the blessings for which we can give thanks.