A Harvest, a Feast...and Then?
The signs are all around us...Give thanks this thanksgiving! But in a world that is ever increasing in its pressure on us to not be so thankful (for one reason or another), it is important for us as people of faith to take a step back and ask ourselves...
Just what is it that we give thanks for?
A Harvest, a Feast...and Then?
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
November 24th, 2013
You know, I think that it’s safe to say that there are Sundays on which it is exceptionally difficult for a preacher to preach.
This is one of those Sundays.
It’s not that the message that needs to get across is anything incredibly difficult...the meaning of Thanksgiving is that we should give thanks…but it’s the knowledge that, once that statement is said, is there really anything more that we can say?
It’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? What do we do on Thanksgiving, a day dedicated in our communities and our culture to the giving of thanks? We give thanks, of course! And, we, as Christians, make sure that we take the time during our meals to give thanks to God for that meal. And so, as a result, for a preacher to tackle the idea of Thanksgiving in a sermon…well, it makes me simply want to say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for God is Good! Hallelujah. Amen. Now let’s go eat!”
Don’t get too excited. I’m not letting y’all off the hook that easy.
Because, while it may be intimidating to contemplate preaching on this day, it certainly is a challenge because, in reality, there is so much more that needs to be said than that…
For me, the question of Thanksgiving, and how we approach it, comes down to this. On Thanksgiving, what is it that we are really giving thanks for?
We all know the mythology of the story behind Thanksgiving...that this celebrational feast was started as a way to give thanks for the bountiful harvest, and for the teaching of the native peoples which helped create the harvest, that would get the pilgrims through a harsh New England winter. And so, we could say, “well, we give thanks for the bounty of food that is laid out before us.”
But, I have to wonder, what if the harvest was lean this year, or the cupboards bare on Thanksgiving day…what then do we give thanks for?
Ah, then it is the gathering of family and friends together that we give thanks for!
But, what if there is no one to call family? What if we are lonely or alone on this day...what then do we give thanks for?
Maybe it is the things that we have! Our home. Our vehicle. Our stuff. Those things that make us happy?
But what if those things have broken, or been stolen, or even been taken away from us? What then do we give thanks for?
It can be hard for many of us to contemplate such a bleak picture as the one that I have just painted, but for many of our sisters and brothers around the United States and around the world, even within our own community, this is all very true and very real. With no food on the table, perhaps not even a table to gather around, no loved ones…nothing…it could be very hard indeed for us to give thanks.
But, you know, even when we are not in such dire straits, it can be very difficult for us to give thanks…I wouldn’t say that it’s because we are unable to see the blessings that are before us, but because we don’t see them as blessings at all.
We see them as our just due. I mean, really, for the most part, as a culture, we don’t tend to think of the things that we have in our lives as blessings from God, but things that we have earned. The money in our pocket or the product at the end of the day comes from our own hard work and effort. The food on our table is the benefit of our labor. The people that surround us are there because we are good people. When we look at the things that we have, the food that is in front of us, and the people that surround us…do we even understand that there is something to give thanks for?
Do we approach Thanksgiving ala Bart Simpson, “Dear God: we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”(1)
Yes, friends, whether it is that we face a scarcity in our lives or an abundance, it is hard indeed to give thanks.
And so, again, I ask us…what is it that we are giving thanks for?
I would encourage us to first stop us from thinking in terms of the things that we are thankful for. That’s a dangerous thing to get involved in, the listing and accounting and comparing from this year to the next, from one person to another.
Also, things come and go.
We should instead be focusing on the true source of those things. Despite all of our human arrogance that fools us into thinking that we are the masters of our own destiny, that we are the cause and the source of all the things that we have all around us, the truth is, it all comes from the Lord, our God.
And these things, in and of themselves, are not the blessings…but they are, BUT ONE of the signs of the blessings of God. The blessings of God, that which we should be always, in everything, rejoicing in and giving thanks to God for, is the LOVE that he has for us, and the salvation that we find in him.
Everything else is just gravy.
When we think of it this way...no matter what we have, no matter what we don’t have, we are compelled to give thanks to God. No matter how lean the year may be, no matter how hard we have worked, we are driven to give thanks to God. In all things, because he shows his love for us in a myriad of different ways, we can’t help but turn to him, give thanks to him, and praise him in all things.
Sisters and brothers, this week, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let us truly thank the Lord for the food that is around our table, for the people that we have in our homes, and the signs of the blessing of God that we have all around us. But, at the end of the day, let us be sure to take a moment, each and every day, but especially on the day that we set aside as a culture to give thanks, let us give thanks to the Lord for the love that he has shown us and the ultimate gift that he has given us in the salvation, grace and mercy known in his son, Jesus Christ.
(1) The Simpsons, "Two Cars in Every Garage, and Three Eyes on Every Fish", 11-1-90, Written by Sam Simon & John Swartzwelder.