After a long day of flying, we made it home late last night from a wonderful Thanksgiving.
How was your Thanksgiving?
Ours was spent in Florida visiting our son while staying in a “classic” Florida hotel that was once the retreat of the wealthy, and is now the retreat of folks enjoying the Florida equivalent of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which was not a bad thing. One should experience a “classic” hotel now and then, and look forward to the next time. But I digress, how was your Thanksgiving?
It’s an odd holiday. Secular, but tinged with anonymous religiosity. Once we trotted out stale images of Pilgrims giving thanks to God for the bounty shared with them through the generosity of nearby Indians, although I think we implied that it was the Pilgrims who were generous. We conveniently ignored, or perhaps never knew, that the Pilgrims had a mind to convert or kill any natives they could find, and that their form of religious faith was unforgivingly stern. These days we mostly put Pilgrim hats on turkey figurines, and get on with eating and football. Is that because we know more of the history than we used to? Or is it that we have forgotten whatever history we once knew? Could be either one; but there was something redemptive in the Thanksgiving myth. It celebrated an attitude of gratefulness to the Almighty for bounty that could not be claimed as solely the work of one’s own hands. It celebrated friendship between peoples who would otherwise be enemies. It celebrated the happiness of fellowship with families, friends, and neighbors. It celebrated celebration itself. Those are not bad things, and we could use more of them.
So, how was your Thanksgiving?
When we moved to Walla Walla and had no nearby family, we decided to invite anybody and everybody to join us for a Thanksgiving feast in the church fellowship hall. We provided the turkeys. The rest was pot luck, but with a request to bring the best dish possible. It was an amazing experience. Some came who would otherwise have been alone. Some brought entire families. Some were in between. Everyone came because they actually wanted to come. Never was there such a feast, and we continued it every year until I retired. At first it seemed strange. Now I miss it. It came close to fulfilling the mythology of Thanksgiving.
What were you thankful for on Thanksgiving?
I’m sure you recall that the Pilgrims were refugees from persecution in England, and stoic toleration of their temporary presence in Holland. On the whole, their persecution was not that big a deal by modern standards, but it was enough for some of them to risk their lives on small boats as they crossed the Atlantic for a foreign land. Today the nation is is an uproar over a few Syrian refugees, and ten thousand is a few, who have not even arrived, nor are likely to anytime soon. They have endured everything from brutal dictators, mass bombings, and merciless terrorist gangs, to sinking overcrowded boats and long walks through inhospitable lands. Are the few innocent ones among them just cover for the many who are secret terrorists? You would think so from all the caterwauling going on. FB and coffee shops are filled with anxious conversation demanding that not one refugee be admitted until we have a system in place to examine each one. This from people who have not bothered to find out that we already have such a system, and a very thorough one at that. They seem to the be same people who believe that they are safer being armed, that the economy is in the tank, and that a scary black guy is president.
I wonder what they were thankful for? A sale on ammo at the local gun shop?
I know a better place to start.
In the midst of it all let us give thanks for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; and above all for the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and the hope of glory (adapted from the BCP). To me, the means of grace is more than anything else like the gift of a complete set of tools for us to use. Maybe I’m a closet semi-Pelagian; who knows? Anyway, being thankful for them means that we can do something with them, but what? The Sermon on the Mount might be a good place to look for an answer. To keep it basic for beginners we might try to:
- Hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Be merciful
- Be a peacemaker
- Be willing to be ridiculed for righteousness sake
- Be trustworthy and honest
- Let your light so shine that others will give glory to God because of you
- Let your yes be yes and your no be no
- Confront violence in radically peaceful ways
- Pray for those who persecute you
- Don’t act too pious, especially in public
- Give anonymously and generously
- Talk with God using simple words and short sentences