Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Eve of Thanksgiving Day, 2014

Good evening to all, as we are here on this Eve of Thanksgiving Day and gathering not only for ourselves in this moment but on behalf of all our wider parish family first of all—those travelling in the holiday weekend, especially in the context of some less-than-friendly weather, and all those coming together with family and friends—and lifting up in prayer our Church and the larger Christian family, our neighborhood and this wider community and our nation and all the wide world. The whole of creation, as fall slides toward winter, resting in the arms of our Creator and Redeemer.

Interesting that in the liturgical directions for Thanksgiving Day the Proper Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the sentence at the beginning of the prayer that indicates the theme or season, the Proper Eucharistic Preface is the one prescribed for Trinity Sunday. “For with your co-eternal Son and Holy Spirit, you are one God, one Lord, in Trinity of Persons and in Unity of Being; and we celebrate the one and equal glory of you, O Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”   The message for us seems to be the one so often repeated, I believe first used generally in the Twelve Step movement:  Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.  The old song: “He’s got the whole world in his hand.”  We get caught up in the daily ups and downs of life, but to step back, to see ourselves and our world in the big picture.

All these competing strands of our life coming together in this holiday. Food, football, family. More food. And then apparently for many there will be a just few hours of sleep, and then long drives up to Grove City for the 3 a.m. outlet store openings.  Some places opening even earlier, in the middle of Thursday afternoon.  The first wave in the coming storm of hyper-consumerism, I guess, even in this still somewhat  fragile economy. All that, and as we take care of our last minute holiday preparations this evening and tomorrow morning, this word from Jesus in our gospel reading.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

It happens that this Thanksgiving service is the last service at St. Andrew’s in this Church Year, as we will be all ready to go for the new year and Advent Sunday this coming Sunday morning. And the message for us is about how we would see our priorities, our concerns—how we would organize ourselves day by day in the New Year ahead.

We hear this evening and would be called to represent with our lives something countercultural. Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  . .  .  Indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

A moment of Thanksgiving not simply for the blessings that we have received, but even more for the one who is all blessing, from before time and forever.   And what does that mean? What does it look like? His kingdom?  His righteousness.  We sort that out along the way, of course. No easy answers. And understanding that “our” kingdom and “our” righteousness may be what we need to set aside in some sense, to come into relationship with him.  In the light of his resurrection, conforming our lives to the cruciform shape of his. Seeking not to find our own way, but to follow in his footsteps. 

Paul has this wonderful moment in the  passage from First Timothy appointed for this evening. A clue for us, perhaps.  “That we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” 

I’m not sure we’ve always—or even ever—done a good job of this.  Turmoil and distress from one end of the world to the other.  Ferguson, Missouri.  The terrorism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.  Failures of trust, betrayal, loss of hope.  Arguments, mean-spiritedness, mutual disregard, self-centeredness, even violence, so much a part of our Christian past and our Christian present. Even in the life of the church. 

No question about it. But we would at the end of this year just pause. In thanksgiving at Thanksgiving.  That this might be our prayer.  To lift up in the feast of this world that it might be for us a pathway forward, from the food of this life to  the food that endures for eternal life. To make his way our way.  Advent Sunday just ahead, and as we get up from the table this week, to say in our hearts and to be ready for this reality:  The Lord is near.

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