A THANKFUL FEAST TO THE LORD
A Sermon by Rev Frederick M Chapin
December 28c, 1995
Farmers love their fields and their vineyards, because of their produce; and love the fruits of them because they are blessings, and render thanks to the Lord, and so look to the Lord continually. (Doct. of Charity 169)
Thanksgiving is a special day of giving thanks to the Lord for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. It is a day where we try to lay aside all our problems and anxieties, and focus our attention on the benefits the Lord has given to each one of us. True, some of us may be going through times of hardship which may make it difficult to approach the Lord with a fully thankful heart. The Lord understands. But even in these difficult times, if we try to concentrate on the good things the Lord has provided for us, it may help in easing our despair and lightening the burden. Therefore, this is a day in which everyone can celebrate in giving thanks to the Lord. (Deut. 16:16-17)
There are certainly many ways we celebrate our thankfulness. One of the ways we celebrate is what we are doing right now. By coming to this place of worship and taking part in this service, we are acknowledging the Lord’s love toward us, and we are thanking Him for His constant desire to make us happy from Himself to eternity. Others of us will attend or watch parades which can put us in a festive spirit. But the one tradition which nearly all of us take part in is getting together with our families and enjoying each one’s company over a large meal. As we see the tremendous quantity of food which the women spend many hours in preparing, it can give us a visual reminder that the Lord has indeed blessed us in so many ways.
However, not only does a large meal serve as a reminder of the Lord’s benefits, it also serves as a culmination of the efforts of many people in making the food possible. A Thanksgiving dinner can serve as a symbol of the rewards which come if a man is faithful and dedicated in his efforts. Before a harvest comes, a farmer must work the ground, plant the seeds, and till the soil, before the seed will bear fruit. If the farmer performs his tasks faithfully, the harvest will come in, and he can gather the fruits or rewards of his labor. This meaning is somewhat lost today because most of us do not have to grow our own food. However, the Thanksgiving dinner can still remind us that if we perform our responsibilities, we will reap the rewards and satisfactions.
Celebration by a feast is a tradition that has been done for many centuries. In fact, we can see feast of joy in both the Old and New Testaments. For example, Abraham made a feast when the three visitors came to him. (Gen. 18:6-8) And in the New Testament we see in the Lord’s parable that when the prodigal son returned to home, his father made a feast to celebrate his son’s return. However, the most extensive treatment of feasts is seen in the laws given to Moses during the Exodus from Egypt. For the Lord commanded Israel that when they occupied the Land of Canaan, they were to observe many feasts throughout the year. In these, there were three major feasts they were to keep: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of the Harvest, and The Feast of Ingathering. Each one of these feasts had a special message to the Israelites and also, unbeknown to them, each carried with them internal representations concerning the regeneration of man.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was the first feast the Israelites were to observe. They were to perform it for seven days, starting with the day after the Passover. They were strictly commanded to eat only unleavened bread during these seven days. Clearly, this feast was to serve as a reminder of the Lord delivering Israel from the Land of Egypt. Internally, this feast was a representation of the first step toward man’s regeneration or salvation, namely, when he is purified from falsities. When we make a true commitment to obey the Lord’s Word, the Lord is able to deliver us from the infernal spirits who insinuate falsities into us. These falsities hinder the doing of good acts and delighting in them. But when the Lord delivers and protects us from the evil spirits who infest us with falsities, then we are free to receive good from the Lord into our daily lives, and are able to take pleasure in them.
This leads us to the next state, which is the implanting of truth in this commitment. The state here talked of, is represented by the next feast called the Feast of Harvest. This feast was to be observed when the first crops, usually wheat, were harvested. Before the Jews could eat anything of their new yield, they first had to bring a bundle of wheat to a priest, who would use it as a wave offering to the Lord. Then they were to feast on the things of their first harvest. This feast would serve as a means for Israel to ask the Lord for His blessing on the remaining crops for the rest of the year. The Feast of Harvest is a wonderful representation of our state after we are determined to obey the Lord. For when the evil spirits are gone, with their falsities, the Lord is able to enlighten us with truths whereby this commitment is able to perform uses that are true acts of charity. Just as the Children of Israel were to ask the Lord for His blessing, so to must we continually look to Him for the truths which can direct our lives toward good.
When the good that results form the truths in the Word are firmly established in our lives, then we enter into the third and most joyful feast: the Feast of Ingathering. this feast gave the Jews their biggest cause for celebration. In fact, the Feast of Ingathering is the closest feast to our form of Thanksgiving we celebrate today. At the end of the year, when all the fruits of the land were harvested, the Jews were to hold a major feast to celebrate their yield. The feast would last for seven days, during which they would eat all the types of food they harvested. Just as this was Israel’s most joyful celebration, so too does this represent our most delightful state when we are in a fully regenerate state. When our delights spring from the goods that are in accord with the Lord’s Word, we enter into the heavenly joys, peace, and security that comes with a full state of regeneration. When we enter into this state, we are in the full enjoyments of the Lord’s gifts to us. It is then that we are in the highest degree of happiness and fulfillment that we are capable of receiving.
When a feast is given, it can form a most powerful illustration of the appropriation of heavenly goods and truths in us. For eating signifies appropriation, or having goods and truths attributed to ourselves. Also, a feast serves as a picture of the conjunction of the Lord’s action and our affirmative reaction to it. These two desires makes our regeneration possible. For the ingredients of a feast come from the fruits of the land. These fruits were made possible by the Lord’s infinite power and providence. However, the crops of the field do spring from the ground automatically. A farmer must put forth a great deal of work before the earth will yield the fruit that will be useful. It is the same with our own individual states. The Lord is constantly with us striving to make us conjoined with Him. However, this conjunction does not come about until we put forth the effort in putting away the evils we see in our external thoughts and deeds. When we shun evils and desire to do good, the Lord is able to lead us where we can enjoy the spiritual fruits of our labors. Therefore, a thanksgiving feast can nourish our natural bodies whereby we will feel a satisfaction and contentment. And as a thanksgiving dinner can do this for our natural bodies, our spiritual lives will find contentment and satisfaction in the goods and truths from the Lord if we allow them to fully enter into us. Then our spiritual fasting will be changed into a spiritual feast, and we will truly understand the words of the prophet Zechariah to the Jewish captives in Babylon, “The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore, love truth and peace.” (Zech. 8;19) AMEN