Reading: Deuteronomy 16:9-12
Reflection: Tomorrow is the Day of Pentecost, which in Greek means fiftieth day. But what does that mean? In the reading above, the Israelites are commanded to count fifty days from Passover and then hold a festival. I love the way it’s written: “Rejoice before the Lord your God—you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strangers, the orphans, and the widows who are among you.” (Dt 12.11) Tomorrow is meant to be a festival for all of God’s people, rich or poor, young and old, the joyous and the mourning. This was originally an agricultural festival celebrating the wheat harvest, you can imagine the rejoicing. The barley harvest (Passover) was mostly over and now the wheat harvest begins. The abundance of God was on full display by this time of the year. But how shall we rejoice before the Lord our God this year? Many feel cut off and are concerned that they will never be reunited with their families, friends, neighbors, and religious communities in the same way again. Many in this country are in deep pain caused by the murder of unarmed black Americans, and those not in pain are in deep denial that there is a problem, which is a different kind of pain. How shall we sing God’s songs in this foreign land as we languish in exile, to paraphrase Psalm 137?
I am reminded of Diana Butler Bass’ quote (though I can’t remember if I saw it on twitter or at Wild Goose) that the scripture tells us to give thanks in all things, not to give thanks for all things. Many of us are reaping harvests of more time with family and friends, even if it is socially distant or by Zoom. Many of us are reaping the harvests of continuing work despite 1 in 4 Americans having lost their job in the past few months. Many of us are reaping the harvest of just sitting on our couch in our sweats and watching Netflix. The harvest is not to give thanks for things, but to give thanks in the midst of our lives however they are because there is life. One of God’s many gifts is that all things are temporary: the good times and bad times are temporary; health and sickness are temporary; the festivals and the ordinary days are temporary. Life is temporary, and, yes, death too is temporary. The only eternal is God and the goodness of God, and so, as we prepare to celebrate this festival in a foreign land, let us rejoice before the Lord our God, singing our new song to God, and giving thanks in the midst of life.
Prayer: Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth: We humbly pray that your gracious providence may give and preserve to our use the harvests of the land and of the seas, and may prosper all who labor to gather them, that we, who are constantly receiving good things from your hand, may always give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.