Saturday, September 6, 2008

Eve of Thanksgiving Day, 2007

November 21, 2007 Eve of Thanksgiving Day Psalm 65

Besides eating too much and watching too much football, what’s this holiday about?

Thinking about the great themes of the harvest (as one who is a generation removed from the farms on the high plains of North Dakota, where my grandparents grew up, but still with a memory of summer visits with cousins there, and having heard all the stories!), the invitation in this moment of an abundance to remember the one from whom all blessings flow, the Giver of sun and rain and good growth--and then the invitation, certainly as we hear in our collect and in the reading from James, to reflect on our stewardship. The stewardship of God’s abundance, as we recognize that abundance in our own lives and in the world around us.

Not just about material abundance, of course, but the gift that we have of life, of creativity, of the potential of relationships. Jesus says, “from those to whom much has been given, much will be expected,” and that’s not just a word for Bill and Melinda Gates, though it certainly applies to them as well. It is for all of us. Wealthy or poor or stumbling around in the middle. Vibrant with health or struggling with limitations. Rich in family or friendships, or living mostly on our own. However we mark this day of Thanksgiving, and whatever our circumstance, we need to hear this word, as we look into the mirror each morning: “much will be expected.”

And where, good Christian people, do we go with that? Certainly abundant opportunities for compassionate outreach, which is one way to think about stewardship. And that very often, and I think very appropriately, will take a material form. Whether it’s talking about what Bill and Melinda do with their foundation to work with malaria in Africa, or about what any of us might be able to do in sharing of ourselves with others, and especially with those in need. The in-gathering of non-perishable food items for our neighborhood food bank this evening is a small sign of that: what we can do, what we are about as a congregation in so many ways, and all that we do in our families and our neighborhoods and the good works we all support as we can in the wider world.

But to me, as I come to this holiday, and to a question about what Christian stewardship is about, I return to what we call the day on the calendar, Thanksgiving, and to see it in this context at the deepest level about what I guess we would call attitude. Inner orientation. A sense of a generosity first and foremost, as a generosity of the heart, a generosity of spirit. With lightness, and joy. Where there is an abundance of care, of love. The foundation of Christian stewardship, the self-giving love of Jesus, the meaning of the cross, and because he loved us, because he loves us, there is this stirring of affection and compassion in us as well. Our Roman Catholic friends have a devotion to what is called the Sacred Heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus—and there is a deep truth there not just about him but about us as well. Love calls out to love.

In this, I found myself this week looking again and listening again to the words of the Psalm appointed for this service, Psalm 65, printed in our service leaflets, and especially just to listen to the singer of the song, praising God, filled with God’s love to an overflowing abundance, as then in these final verses:

“May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,* and the hills be clothed with joy. / May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valley cloak themselves with grain;* let them shout for joy and sing.”

I just think this is really nice. Reaching deep down into what we would call the Royal Priesthood, our character, each, one of us, as mediators, channels, charismatic doorways of the divine presence, avenues, communicators not just in words but in the substance of our lives, of God’s care and interest and love. And to be most of all, every day and in every moment of our lives, about the expression of God’s abundant blessing.

I say blessings in formal ways at the ends of services, at baptisms and marriages, often at the bedside in a hospital room, when an infant or young child is brought to the communion rail. But that’s just a reminder of what we can all be about. I’ve blessed seeds out in farm country on Rogation days and boats and homes and youth group mission trips and dogs, and cats, and hamsters, and birds, and lizards and iguanas on St. Francis’ Day. We can all do that. What the priest does in this iconic way, that’s what we’re all about. The deep stewardship of God’s blessing. Uncovering the holiness of the origin in God of all things. Revealing it, announcing it.

May the fields be rich for grazing, the hills clothed with joy. Bless the earth, everything on the earth, all that will live and breathe, that ever was and ever will be, rocks and wind, ocean and mountain. May the meadows cover themselves with flocks and the valleys be dressed in grain, let them shout for joy and sing.

Thanksgiving, and blessings.

Bruce Robison

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