11/13/2022 Homily on Gratitude Sunday Rev. Betsy Wooster
Isaiah 12: 1-6
You will say on that day:
I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
and you comforted me.
2 Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Come Holy Spirit, Come, as we listen for your voice in a world so filled with noise. Calm us now and open us to your spirit. May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.
“Anyone who has never seen the rejoicing at the place of the water drawing, has never seen rejoicing in all his days.”
This quote is a reference in Rabbinic sources to a ritual at the heart of the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles, where the celebration of water was central. People carried water from the pool of Siloam and poured it from a golden pitcher.
The festival remembers a time when the Israelites had escaped from Egypt and were without water in the wilderness. The people were desperately thirsty, so much so that they blamed Moses and were ready to stone him.
I think it is fair to say that they were experiencing the medical symptoms of dehydration: they were agitated, weak, stressed, confused. They were ready to stone Moses. Moses! In their thirst, God gave them water from a rock.
And this is the part that most of us remember from this story if we were told about or read this story from the book of Exodus. God told Moses to hit the rock with his staff, and the people would have water.
From the book of Exodus:
“I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” (Exodus 17:6.)
It stands out, right? Water, from a rock?
How do we know when we’re thirsty? Doctors from the Mayo Clinic reminds us that our bodies need water and that we forget, or just don’t bother, to drink enough of it. Here is a quote from Mayo’s website:
“Did you know you're already dehydrated when you start to feel thirsty? Don't wait to take a drink. Instead, practice these simple tips to master a hydration habit that lasts for life.”
They make it sound so easy, don’t they? It’s easy for us anyway, as we have access to clean, nourishing water anytime that we need it.
But, water is so vital, that when it shows up unexpectedly in the wilderness, it’s life giving, it’s life saving, and it becomes remembered year after year as the saving grace of God. The ritual of the water drawing was a celebration – a great celebration! – of God’s power and goodness. It was a ritual of remembrance and gratitude.
In the passage from Isaiah today, Isaiah recalls the rejoicing of the water drawing for the Hebrews in exile. From the portion of Isaiah known as first Isaiah, this short 12th chapter of only six verses, is a song of praise written during the Israelites captivity in Babylonia, when they trusted that God would provide them water from the wells of salvation.
Such a song of praise was written as a prayer of hope that they would return home and celebrate these holy festivals as a community once again. In the midst of trouble and hardship, they remembered the power of God when their ancestors were dehydrated and desperate. And they remembered the celebration of the water. They turned to hope. They turned to gratitude. They kept the faith.
On this gratitude Sunday, the prophet Isaiah speaks to us of the hope, trust and thanksgiving that the people of Israel offered to God during a time in Exile.
We belong to a rich tradition of faithful people, who have so many things to be thankful for, on the one hand, and like all the generations before us, we also live in times of great trouble. And between gratitude and trouble, by faith we live in gratitude.
In gratitude, we affirm the value of God’s creation.
In gratitude, we seek to share the good news of God’s love, in word and in action.
In gratitude, we bring our gifts to meet the troubles of the world with peace, and with healing, and with our trust in God’s redemption. AMEN.