Thanksgiving Around the World

 

Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy is forever. (PSA 107:1)

  1. Canada takes the 2nd Monday in October to give thanks to God for the good harvest and for the good health and fortune of the people.
    1. In the United States, Thanksgiving is closely associated with the story of the Pilgrims.
      1. Certainly those poor people who had fled from their homes and come to a dangerous and uncivilized new world had much to give thanks for – and we can learn a lot from their dedication to religious freedom and their courage.
    2. But that story is such a good one that it may distract us from thinking about the fact not only do people in other countries celebrate Thanksgiving, but that it may be that more people have Thanksgiving in common than any other holiday.
    3. No matter what country they live in, People of many Religions throughout the world set aside a day at the end of the harvest season, to think about the blessings they have received from their Creator.
  2. The Writings tell us that when the Lord was on earth as a Teacher, He presented his ideas in a way that was specially suited to the European or western way of thinking.
    1. In His Divine Wisdom, the Lord knows that with so many different kinds of people in the world, there would have to be many different ways of teaching them.
    2. In His Divine Providence He formed other great religions through prophets like Mohammed and Buddha so that people of every kind in every land could find a path to heaven even if they didn’t know about or understand the miracle of the Lord’s birth on earth.
    3. But if they don’t know about the Lord, they don’t have Christmas or Easter because those are holidays that celebrate great events in the Lord’s life.
      1. But the people in every nation throughout the world need to eat. People everywhere depend on the bounty that comes from the earth each year.
    4. People everywhere give thanks to God, no matter which of His names they use in their prayers, for they know that they could not live a moment if it were not for God’s gifts to us.
      1. For example, people of the Jewish faith all over the World celebrate Sukkoth, or the feast of the Ingathering in October (the date varies according to the lunar calendar). It marks the end of the harvest season, specifically the vintage and fruit harvest of the Holy Land.
      2. Islamic people have a month of fasting each year called Ramadan, and they celebrate the end of the fast with feasting and thanksgiving for the many blessings they enjoy.
      3. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to [all] the children of men! {9} For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. (PSA 107:8-9)
  3. Throughout the world, people are turning to God in Thanksgiving for his gifts of food and life. And, as important as these are, they are just the beginnings, the foundation of the good gifts that He gives to us, and for which we should be thankful – not just today but everyday.
    1. We bring forward our gifts of fruit because they particularly represent uses.
    2. These things grown from the good earth are representatives of all the various uses that we are called on to perform for ourselves and others.
    3. The Lord asks us to do these things for others in His name, because He asks us to, not just so that we will appear to be good people.
    4. When we are genuinely useful, when we take these gifts that the Lord provides, and use them to care for and protect others, it is a way of giving them back to the Lord, of giving thanks to Him, and recognizing that He is the source of all good things.
  4. On this day that we set aside to give thanks to the Lord we should look first at the wonderful bounty that the earth provides, the good food that we have in abundance – not just at how much food there is, but how many different kinds of food we have.
    1. All the different kinds of food can remind us that they represent all the different ways that people can find to be useful to other people, that from things we begin to think about and be thankful for the people who are in our lives.
    2. All the different people we know and the way they relate to each other as friends or family or through work or school can remind us about the way that heaven itself works:
    3. Millions and Millions of people, gathered there since the beginning of time, finding delightful ways of working and playing together, and giving thanks to God for His blessings.
    4. We have so much to be grateful for. But we do not give thanks today because the Lord demands it of us. He has no need of our thanks. He knows we cannot ever pay Him back for what He has given us, and does not expect us to try.
    5. But, because He made us, He knows that it is good for us to thank Him, to be reminded from time to time that all good is from the Lord, all blessings flow into our world from Him, and we can only truly receive Him into our hearts when we open our hearts to Him in Thanksgiving.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy is forever. (PSA 107:8)

AMEN.

 

First Lesson:

(PSA 107:1-14) Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. {8} Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! {9} For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. {10} Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons; {11} Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High, {12} Therefore He brought down their heart with labour; They fell down, and there was none to help. {13} Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. {14} He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces.

Second Lesson:

[7] True confession of the heart, because it flows from celestial love, is confession in the genuine sense. The person with whom it exists acknowledges that everything good comes from the Lord and everything evil from self. When that acknowledgement exists with him it is a state of humiliation, for in this case he acknowledges the Lord to be everything in him and he himself in comparison to be nothing. And when confession is made in this state it flows from celestial love.

 

Teaching in Samaria

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, August 16, 2009

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (JOH 4:10)

I.       The fourth chapter of John is a snapshot of the spiritual cycles of our lives:  The struggle to learn the truth, the attempt to bring it to life by living according to it, and the necessity of our recognition that none of this can be done without the Lord’s help, but that with His help comes success and a time of rest and peace.

II.    First, a little history to set the scene.

A.   Samaria was a region within the kingdom of Israel.

B.   When the kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon, the kings of Israel ruled in Samaria.

1.     In 721 BC, the Assyrians swept in from the north and carried off all the people of Samaria, and the rest of the northern tribes, and they were never heard from again. So people from the kingdom of Judah in the south moved in and took over the region.

2.     In 586 BC, when the kingdom was carried away by the Babylonians, only the poorest, the least educated, the old, and the sick were left in Samaria.

C.   The Babylonians sent colonists from other countries to farm the land, and they brought their own religions with them.

1.     With no one else around, and as far as they were concerned the kingdom was gone forever, the people left in Samaria had no choice but to intermarry with these strangers.

D.   When the captives were set free from Babylon and allowed to return, they were shocked and horrified to discover what those left behind had been doing, and ever more treated the “Samaritans” with disgust and horror.

1.     As a result, during the Lord’s time on earth, a proper Jew would never associate with a Samaritan.

2.     That’s why His parable about the good Samaritan was particularly powerful – He did the unthinkable and cast the Samaritan as the “good guy”!

III. The Lord and His twelve apostles were travelling through Samaria, and this is what happened:

A.   (John 4:3-26) He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. {4} But He needed to go through Samaria. {5} So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. {7} A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” {8} For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. {9} Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. {10} Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” {11} The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? {12} “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” {13} Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” {15} The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” {16} Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” {17} The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ {18} “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” {19} The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.

IV.Water vs. Living Water.

A.   Water represents truth, but living water represents truths from the Word which are eternal and regard eternal ends.

B.   We talk about the Divine Providence, and how the Lord is always looking out for us, taking care of us, guiding everything in the world down to the smallest things.

C.   And we wonder why our life isn’t perfect. How come we get the ‘flu, and our cars break down, and other bad things happen.

D.   Because the Lord is working to give us living water.

V.   The Divine Providence regards eternal ends.

A.   The events and happenings of this world are merely the means of bringing His plans into being.

B.   DP 59. It has not been known hitherto that the Divine Providence in all its proceedings with man regards his eternal state. It can regard nothing else, because the Divine is Infinite and Eternal, and the Infinite and Eternal, that is, the Divine, is not in time, and hence all future things are present to Him; and because this is the nature of the Divine, it follows that the eternal is in all things that it does, in general and in particular. Those, however, who think from time and space have difficulty in perceiving this, not only because they love temporal things, but also because they think from what is present in the world and not from what is present in heaven, for this to them is as far away as the end of the earth.

VI.By His words, and His knowledge of her life, He proved to her that He had the authority to teach this.

A.   Having taught the Samaritan women about living water, He then takes the opportunity to teach His disciples about living food.

B.   (John 4:27-45) And at this point His disciples came, and they marvelled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” {28} The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, {29} “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” {30} Then they went out of the city and came to Him. {31} In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” {32} But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” {33} Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?” {34} Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. {35} “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! {36} “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. {37} “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ {38} “I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.” {39} And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” {40} So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. {41} And many more believed because of His own word. {42} Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”

VII.Everyone needs both food and water.

A.   Angels, too. But they eat spiritual food and drink spiritual water.

1.     The same things that feed the spirit that lives within us.

B.   The Lord taught that His food is to do His father’s will.

C.   He uses the image of the harvest to tell them that they can harvest spiritual food at any time:  the fields are white for harvest (a picture of how the green fields turn a lighter colour as the time for harvest approaches).

D.   Unlike natural fields which only produce their food at certain times, the spiritual benefits of obedience to His living truths can be harvested at any time.

E.    And you get back far more than you invest. The Lord has planted these fields, and tended them. He does almost all the work. We are simply invited to harvest them!

VIII.First, He talked to the woman of Samaria about “living water” and showed her that He was a prophet. Then He taught the disciples about “living bread” and how if they would make the effort of themselves, He would do all the work, and they would get the harvest – at any time of the year. Now He brings it all together by showing them His power to heal with just a word.

A.   (John 4:46-54) So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. {47} When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. {48} Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” {49} The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” {50} Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. {51} And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” {52} Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” {53} So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. {54} This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

IX.The Lord did not come into the world for the purpose of healing the sick. If He had, He would have healed everyone and there would be no more sickness in the world.

A.   Physical illness is used in the Word to represent different kind of spiritual ills – evils – that will keep us out of heaven unless we do something about them.

B.   By healing at a distance with just a word, the Lord is showing that He does not have to be visibly present to heal our spiritual lives.

C.   We can bring His near presence, and healing power, simply by asking for it, and we come into a new state of happiness and peace – at least until the next cycle begins.

1.     By having “living water” – the continual and life giving qualities of truths that are eternal, that are for the sake of eternal life, that rise above the petty and limited concerns of the natural world, that come from the Lord alone through His Word.

2.     By “reaping the harvest” – when we see that the truths from the Word are living, that they are the means to finding eternal life, and when we begin to live according to them we begin to understand what it is to be a part of God’s plan, to fit in.

a.     But it also means that we have a clearer and sharper awareness of our own failings, the areas where our spiritual life is lacking, where there is spiritual illness.

3.     The Lord is not only a teacher, He is also a healer. He stands ready to perform miracles of healing to any who ask it of Him. He can only heal those who believe that He has the power to heal, only those who approach him from humbleness of heart and who are ready to accept His authority and power in spiritual things.

4.     But for those who do believe, for those who seek Him in the Word, who live a life of charity towards the neighbour, and who pray for the healing of their spirits, He has promised that He will come to us, that our spirits will be healed of the sins and limitations of earthly life, and that we will live with Him forevermore.

D.   So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. {51} And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” {52} Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” {53} So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. (JOH 4:50-53) Amen.


First Lesson:  ZEC 13

“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. {2} “It shall be in that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. {3} “It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies. {4} “And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. {5} “But he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.’ {6} “And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’ {7} “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones. {8} And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one- third shall be left in it: {9} I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” Amen.

Second Lesson:  AC 680: 1-3

That goods and truths are the genuine foods of man must be evident to every one, for he who is destitute of them has no life, but is dead. When a man is spiritually dead the foods with which his soul is fed are delights from evils and pleasantnesses from falsities – which are foods of death – and are also those which come from bodily, worldly, and natural things, which also have nothing of life in them. Moreover, such a man does not know what spiritual and celestial food is, insomuch that whenever “food” or “bread” is mentioned in the Word he supposes the food of the body to be meant; as in the Lord’s prayer, the words “Give us our daily bread,” he supposes to mean only sustenance for the body; and those who extend their ideas further say it includes also other necessaries of the body, such as clothing, property, and the like. They even sharply deny that any other food is meant; when yet they see plainly that the words preceding and following involve only celestial and spiritual things, and that the Lord’s kingdom is spoken of; and besides, they might know that the Word of the Lord is celestial and spiritual.

[2] From this and other similar examples it must be sufficiently evident how corporeal is man at the present day; and that … he is disposed to take everything that is said in the Word in the most gross and material sense. The Lord Himself clearly teaches what is meant in His Word by “food” and “bread.” Concerning “food” He thus speaks in John:— Jesus said, Labor not for the meat (or food) which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you (vi. 27).

And concerning “bread” He says, in the same chapter:— Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this Bread he shall live eternally (vi. 49-51, 58).

But at the present day there are men like those who heard these words and said: “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” and who “went back and walked no more with Him” (ib. verses 60, 66), to whom the Lord said: “The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life” (verse 63).

[3] And so with respect to “water,” which signifies the spiritual things of faith, and concerning which the Lord thus speaks in John:— Jesus said, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life (iv. 13, 14).

But at the present day there are those who are like the woman with whom the Lord spoke at the well, and who answered, “Lord, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (verse 15).