November 24th, 2019
“Restore the First Love in God”
I would like to talk about “Thanksgiving.” As you may know better than me, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays in the United States. The word “Thanksgiving” is a compound noun to be combined the two words, “thanks” and “giving.” That is, the words, “thanksgiving” means “to give thanks to God.” Thanksgiving is not only the most significant holiday but also the oldest holiday in the United States.
The holiday Thanksgiving became the federal holiday in 1863 during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, celebrating on the fourth Thursday of November. Its purpose was for protecting widows, orphans and oppressed during the American Civil War, and “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in heaven” (John C. Maxwell, The Communicator’s Commentary).
The origin of Thanksgiving began from the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. The Pilgrims 102 people left Europe on the ship of Mayflower to find religious freedom and settled at the New Land in 1620. The survivors, 53 people, and 90 Native Americans at the New Land celebrated the first harvest in 1621. It was known that they were Puritans, who established their own Massachusetts Bay Colony. They held three days of the holiday celebrating Thanksgiving as “days of prayer thanking God for blessings.”
In the two stories of the origin of Thanksgiving, you may notice that there is a common theme of Thanksgiving. That is, “thanks to God for blessings.”
In the scripture, we may also find a kind of source of “thanksgiving.” It was in the situation while Israelites still stay in the wilderness. Moses begins this chapter 26 of Deuteronomy by reminding the children of Israel that God will be their supreme Helper. Moses emphasizes that God is the source of blessings.
“When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name” (Verses1-2).
In summary of today’s text, Moses says that do not forget God, how God helped you, how brought you out from Egypt, and respond God as giving the first fruit with gratitude when you get at the land.
We often forget our first mind. We may forget even the first love. Does anyone remember the first love? Someone says, “People never forget their first love.” The reason is that the first love never make it complete. The love of people may depend in need because all human is immature and weak. Therefore, we have to follow Jesus Christ, who is perfect love. We may forget what we have promised with the first mind. We may make a mistake. However, our Lord Jesus Christ never forgets his promise, and never changes his love toward us. Therefore, restore our first love in God so we may receive God’s blessings continually.
Does anyone remember when your faithful journey began? Some of you may be after confirmation class. Some of you may be from joining in youth retreat. Some of you may experience tremendous grace of God, such as healing, recovering, and blessings. Some of you do not remember when it happened because, from birth, you were Christians. Whether we remember or not when our first love toward God began, we may indeed know our love toward God is something that changed from the beginning.
I propose the ways we shall restore our first love toward God. The first of all, to restore the first love toward God, we have to use God’s gifts to God’s fullest expectations (v.1). God’s gift to each of us is our potential. In other words, our gifts to God are what we do with that potential. For example, the chief way that we can be disloyal to God is to make smaller what God intended to make larger. If you do not use God’s gifts fully, the gifts may lose, or become smaller than God gave you it. Do not forget that our lives intend to fulfill the expectations of God. To do so is to concretely express our gratitude to God for the blessings of God.
The second of all, to restore our first love toward God, we “shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground,” which God gives us for God (vv. 2-4). This act is an acknowledgment that God is the source and owner of everything that we possessed. Its origin is from “the pass-over” of Israelite in Egypt. All the firstborn belong to God since a death has passed over the children of Israelites. The God, who protected them, promised them the land once God heard their cry in Egypt and delivered them. God protected them and provided for them in the wilderness. Now, God gives them possession of the land. Therefore, Moses encourages them to place some of the first fruits into a basket and bring it to the priest of God when they have harvested in the Promised Land. To give thanks to God with our first fruit is our confession and expression of love toward God.
Then thirdly, I propose that to restore our love toward God is to “share the story of God’s goodness with others” (vv.5-9). Israelite’s testimony begins with Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, the father of the sons whose names were given to the twelve tribes. Jacob was 130 years old when he went down to Egypt, taking only seventy people with him. However, when they came out of Egypt, they were over seventy thousand people. That was not their strength and character. Their testimony focused upon God’s greatness. Sadly, many Christians share their testimony in a self-centered, not God’s greatness. I hope we shall share our testimony upon how God works for us, how God blesses us, and how amazing God’s love. To restore our first love toward God is to share God’s story, not our story. I hope you can share God’s story when you gather with your family members during thanksgiving days.
Then lastly, my propose to restore our first love toward God is to “worship and rejoice before the Lord our God” (vv.10-11). The Israelite would take the basket of first fruits and set it before the Lord (v.10) in a spirit of worship and rejoicing. The puritans, pilgrim’s fathers, gave thanks to God for blessings and protection of God in the new land. The federal holiday, Thanksgiving’s purpose is also to give thanks to God for all benefits.
I would encourage you to have meaningful thanksgiving days with your family members and loved ones. I hope you do not forget to give thanks to God. To restore our first love, let us remember the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Do not forget God is our owner and provider forever.
Thanks be to God. Amen.