Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving, 2012

November 21, 2012  The Eve of Thanksgiving Day  
I Timothy 2: 1-7; Matthew 6: 25-33

Good evening and a word of welcome as we gather for worship at the beginning of the Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend. 

It is something of a complicated holiday.  There is of course the very ancient tradition of a time each Fall to celebrate the end of the harvest, with themes of gratitude for those who labor in the harvest and for the abundance of God’s provision for his people, and with related themes of the good stewardship of the earth and of all the good gifts we receive and enjoy—and of course with  prayers of care for those whose harvest has not been abundant, and whose lives are marked by special need.

This the pattern behind the story of the Pilgrims.  A story with a bit of special resonance in our family because of Susy’s ancestor Peter Brown, one of those who arrived on the Mayflower and who would have been at the table on what we call “the First Thanksgiving.” 

I like to tell the story as well of a time when I was in seminary and when one of my seminarian colleagues was doing his field education in a parish in downtown Oakland, California, that was in those years of the early 1980’s involved with the resettlement of Cambodian Hmong refugees.  They had an after-school program in the church, and one day in mid-November I went down to pick my friend up while that program was going on, and I stepped into the parish hall, where a group of these young children, perhaps just a year or so separated from the refugee camps, were putting on a pageant of the “First Thanksgiving,” all of them dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians and practicing their lines.  This old story now becoming a part of their story.

So complicated.  The big news this year seems to focus on the Thanksgiving holiday as the beginning of what is called the “Christmas Shopping Season,” with all kinds of controversy this year about stores opening early Thursday evening to get the jump on the Black Friday sales extravaganza—and with all the stresses this is placing inevitably on those who work in the retail industry, who now will be joining restaurant workers and other hospitality folks in needing to spend this traditional time away from their families. 

And of course there’s the weekend as a time for football games, movie openings, concerts and theatrical events.  To spend in front of the television or out on the town.

And with it all, the complications of memory, the pain of loss.  A weekend when the parent who can’t provide much for his or her children feels that distress even more sharply.  And for those who are alone, who have experienced the loss of a parent, a husband or a wife, a child, will find the silence of the holiday table to be indeed a deafening silence.

Wherever we find ourselves on this weekend of Thanksgiving, and perhaps all of us at several points along the spectrum at the same time: thankful, concerned, stressed, and distressed, altogether: wherever we find ourselves,  as we are here this evening, that we would hear in the midst of it all a word from Jesus in this reading from the gospel, that we would not be so swept up in our joys and sorrows and busyness, that we would forget who we are.  And whose we are.  And that if anything even as we live right here and right now, that we would remember that we are citizens of another kingdom, subjects of another King.  With all the powers and principalities of this world competing for our time and attention, competing for our time, talent, and treasure.  Just this word: Seek ye first God’s kingdom, and his righteousness. 

As they say in the Twelve Step movement: Remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.

So my prayer for us all this weekend, that we would recall in our thoughts and prayers, in our minds and hearts, that we would be nourished in all things to live lives of holiness and righteousness, and to give thanks in every circumstance to the one who is the giver of all good. 

And in all that, a happy Thanksgiving to all.

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