Formations lesson for Nov. 9: The Table is Full
October 24 2003 by John Norman Jr. , Focal passage: Psalm 65

Formations lesson for Nov. 9: The Table is Full | Friday, Oct. 24, 2003

Friday, Oct. 24, 2003

Formations lesson for Nov. 9: The Table is Full

By John Norman Jr. Focal passage: Psalm 65

How do you teach people to be thankful? It's not always easy. Like teaching someone to love or to give, teaching a person to be thankful is an imprecise venture. Maybe one of the best things we can do is to model for others what it means to love, give, and be thankful.

In an essay entitled, "The Gift of Good Land" (included in The Gift of Good Land published in 1981), Wendell Berry challenges Christians to live a life of thankfulness regarding the earth on which we live. He bases his challenge on the experience Israel had with God as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Even though the people did not deserve the land, it was given to them by the hand of God. Berry concludes that in order for the Israelites to prove themselves worthy of maintaining this gift, they had to remember three things.

The people of God must treat the land in the ways that God prescribed. In addition, the Israelites must be neighborly. And, perhaps most importantly, the Israelites "must be faithful, grateful, and humble; they must remember that the land is a gift" (The Gift of Good Land, 272).

By remembering the land as a gift, the people would acknowledge another power in their lives other than their own. In remembering, they would recognize that even though they worked the land in accordance with God's desires, it was not their labor that fed them but God's care that produced the harvest. This act of remembering took place in Israel's worship, evidenced in the Book of Psalms.

God of Grace Psalm 65:1-4 As the Israelites approached God in worship and sang this song to the Lord, they began with words of praise and adoration. These verses set things in perspective, acknowledging the splendor of God. The words proclaim God's holiness and righteousness. In addition, they show humanity's relationship with God, acknowledging that to God "all flesh shall come." The fact that the people will fail God is recognized, and the Lord is praised for forgiveness. In the midst of a sinful people, Israel's God is a God of grace. Many say that our prayers also should begin with adoration. Psalm 65 begins in this manner.

God of Power Psalm 65:5-8 Worship is about enacting a story - a story that precedes us, invites us to become a part, and through our participation is assured of being told in the future. The story we enact in worship is the divine drama of God's salvation. The main chapter of this story centered on the Hebrews deliverance from Egypt as they were brought out of bondage by God. In this Psalm, God's "awesome deeds" are remembered and proclaimed in order that they might be a witness to God's power.

God of Plenty Psalm 65:9-13 The psalmist claims God's abundant gifts in the blessing of the earth, which leads to bountiful harvests. The words used by the writer recall the Genesis account where God planted and tended a garden. Like a gifted farmer, the Lord cares for the fields, nurturing them with rain. The riches of the earth spring forth because of this attention. The creation responds to the touch of the creator.

My nearly 3-year-old daughter is learning to say the blessing before meals. She picked up a song from the child of family friends, and now before eating will pray, "God our Father, once again, we thank you for our blessings. Amen." She is very thoughtful and almost always will pray without direction. But on occasion my wife or I will have to remind her, "Remember to say the blessing." Therefore, she is learning to express her thanks as we both model and talk about this.

For many congregations, Psalm 65 is included in their yearly Thanksgiving observance - allowing the words of this song to speak on their behalf. The psalm tells us that the food we eat does not come from the grocery store, but rather is provided for us by God.

We all on occasion need to be encouraged in our thankfulness. Remembering the graciousness of God points us in the right direction and reminds us to sing our thanksgivings to the Lord.

10/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Norman Jr. , Focal passage: Psalm 65 | with 0 comments
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