“The gifts of God for the people of God… Thanks be to God.”
We say it here at Western before we share the bread and the cup of communion. Our Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox brothers and sisters refer to the same meal as “eucharist,” Greek for “thanksgiving.” No matter how we self-identify, as Christians we are to be thanksgiving people.
Some of my friends use all of November as thanksgiving practice, daily expressing gratitude for a loved one, a book, a beautiful sight on a walk. These last few days at Western have provided more than enough opportunities: for all of you surrounded Susan Lively with love and friendship this past year as well as deacons and friends who shared holy hospitality at her service; for all who were part of our worship service celebrating God at work through Miriam’s Kitchen, particularly in those who shared stories; and for Margot, the long-time Miriam’s volunteer with tears in her eyes, grateful for all that Western means and stands for, “particularly here and now,” in her words. (She has never worshiped with us yet wants a Micah 6:8 t-shirt!)
Margot’s words remind me that I need thanksgiving practice, that we all do, and not just for November, or even the national holiday.
Thanksgiving doesn’t make us perfect, but makes us into the people God needs us to be. Thanksgiving people can see what is worthy of thanks in any person or situation. Without being Pollyannas, Thanksgiving people know how to name and share God’s activity, even in times of darkness or despair. Thanksgiving people do not harass others because of sexuality or race or anything else, because they honor all people’s humanity. Thanksgiving people tend not to overspend on unnecessary items because they value what is truly important. Thanksgiving people don’t believe that guns solve problems, nor do they shun others of different creeds and culture. Thanksgiving people know, despite world’s despair or their own personal darkness, that life itself is reason enough to give thanks.
Thanksgiving is not easy, especially if you don’t do it often. Rejecting the claim of the world’s despair on our souls requires practice. Thanksgiving may not be in the air we breathe in; we have to commit to breathing it out.
As we prepare for this Advent season, in an era when the political climate exacerbates rather than ameliorates the problems of our world, don’t just celebrate Thanksgiving; become thanks-giving. Resolve to be a Thanksgiving person, part of a Thanksgiving people here at church. This world needs a Thanksgiving you. Look for God, especially in the hard places, and give thanks. When reasons for giving thanks are not obvious, point us to them, and don’t be afraid to give us one yourself.
As you practice Thanksgiving, may you experience each new moment, each person, each place or situation and hear on some level, “The gifts of God… for all people everywhere!”
Grace, peace, love and thanksgiving,