Monday, December 7, 2015

Sermon: Thanksgiving

Wishes, Thanksgiving, Panels, Superstition, Prayer

A Sermon preached in Christ Church, 
Grosse Pointe, Michigan
by The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate

Thanksgiving Day
26 November 2015

Listen to this sermon here.

Thank you, God.  Amen.

A few years ago, I read an article about Sam Sifton,
food editor of the New York Times. 
In his book, “Thanksgiving, How To Cook It Well,”[1] Sifton explains what we already know:

“Thanksgiving is scary for a lot of people. 
It’s a holiday that’s filled with a lot of stress…
Do I have enough plates?
Do I have enough glasses?
Am I really going to have a tablecloth? 
What is a tablecloth? 
Can I use a sheet? That’s cheap.  Maybe I should…
And what do I do about Uncle Morty?

Sifton writes,
“Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be complicated…
Everything’s gonna be okay…
It’s a pretty simple meal when you really think about it. 
You’re roasting a giant chicken.
You’re mashing some potatoes. 
You’re mashing almost everything. 
It’s basically a pile of mush on a plate
with slices of big chicken.”

Even still, Thanksgiving can be scary for a lot of people.
= = = = 
In today’s Gospel message, we get the sense
that the disciples were scared, too. 
This new vocation they chose – to follow Jesus –
was filled with a lot of stress. 
‘What will we eat?’ ‘What will we drink?’ ‘
What will we wear?’

See, up to this point in the Gospel,
Jesus had been teaching in the “Sermon On The Mount” 
about what it meant to be disciples. 
He taught
about a new way of looking at God’s kingdom. 
about the beatitudes,
about how to be authentic in humanity,
as the salt of the earth
and the light of the world,
and about how to live and pray in community. 

Then Jesus offers even more instruction
about what “righteousness” means. 
That’s when the disciples got a little fidgety in their pews. 
They began to wonder
‘What will we eat?’ ‘What will we drink?’ ‘
What will we wear?’

The disciples, eager to please Jesus and to be good disciples,
might have, at that moment, had a wavering faith –
a faith that until that point, they could hold onto. 
And here was Jesus, teaching them to move
away from their cultural values
towards a life of trust and obedience in God’s reign.
This made them hesitant; they needed reassurance. 

We are not unlike those disciples.
Eager to please and do God’s work in the world,
but sometimes with a wavering faith. 
Jesus is asking us to move
away from cultural values
towards a life of trust and obedience. 

Few of us are exempt from worry and anxiety. 
Many people are scared of losing homes or losing jobs,
worry about not having enough money
or about caring for children while caring for parents;
or are anxious about danger or terror attacks.
People (who have little) worry about the basics:
adequate shelter, food, and water;
finding a decent job; taking care of families;
having enough money to survive. 

We all have legitimate reasons to fret and worry,
even while we know that fret and worry
do not change the realities.
Will God love me if I show my vulnerabilities?
If God is going to provide for all my needs,
does that mean that I can just goof off? 
Trusting in God’s tender care is not easy. 
Life makes us hesitant; we need reassurance.

= = = 
As the disciples fidgeted, Jesus could smell their fear.
With compassion, Jesus taught the disciples with the
language of their wisdom tradition. 
He appealed to their common sense
and their understanding of how nature works.[2] 
Isn’t life more than food?
Isn’t the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds… the lilies … the grass.
Therefore, do not worry, …

Jesus asked the disciples to “strive first the kingdom” –
not chronologically,
but in priority.

In other words,
to keep their mind on divine things,
not on human things.
Jesus reminded the disciples
to think less about what they were doing and
to consider more about
what God had done, is doing and has promised.[3]

Jesus reassured them that
the one who called them / to that radical “style of life”
was also
the Creator who lovingly provides for all of creation
and who, in the end,
brings all of creation into God’s reign, worry or not. 
Jesus reassured them.
Look, he said,
God comes to where you are most vulnerable –
where you are worrying –
in that cross of the moment.

It was the cross of the moment in 1863,
for Abraham Lincoln, when he set one day aside,
the fourth Thursday of November[4]
for our national day of thanksgiving.
In that vulnerable moment,
Lincoln’s life consisted of
a confluence of anxious situations –
his political future uncertain in the 1864 election,
his own cabinet members openly detesting him,
his wife’s investigation as a traitor.
In that moment,
Lincoln called on a spiritual practice called gratitude.

Lincoln remembered that
in the midst of personal worry and suffering,
the one thing to remember most
is the goodness of God. 
Facing circumstances
that seemed too difficult for him to endure,
Lincoln leaned into God’s goodness and mercy
by giving thanks as his first response
and calling the nation to make an annual practice of it.

So, we give thanks today,
as one gathered community, reassured by God’s loving care. 
When we begin to respond to life
with less worry and more thanks,
we come to know
what God has done, is doing and has promised.
We begin to realize that we can face
the uncertainties of life.
God lovingly provides for all of creation. 

God is already acting in our life
by calling us together today to share a meal –
a special meal.
This meal has been a tradition for years. 
This meal is what people are craving
more than carbohydrates and protein,
for today’s meal
helps us remember who we are and whose we are.[5] 
The meal of which I speak, of course, is the Eucharist.

By giving thanks as our first response,
we recall that on the night in which he was betrayed,
the night of his most vulnerable moment,
Jesus took bread, gave thanks, …
And, after supper, Jesus took the cup of wine, gave thanks...

In this thanksgiving meal, Jesus is present to us,
to our worries, to our joys, to our laughter and our tears. 

And, for all the Thanksgiving dinners
we will enjoy this afternoon,
may we remember
that God will pour grace gravy over all the trimmings. 

May we remember that in the midst of our worries –
in the cross of our vulnerable moments –
we can respond first with thanks for all
that God has done, is doing and has promised.  
In the reign of God, may we
look out for each other,
share what we have, and
offer love and laughter. 

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God! 
It is right to give God thanks and praise.


[1] “Thanksgiving Do’s and Don’t from Sam Sifton,” by Alexandra Ludka, November 16, 2012.  Cited at on November 19, 2012
[2] New Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew p. 210-211
[3] This quote excerpted from Rt. Rev. G. Porter Taylor in his Nov. 21, 2012 weekly reflection at (link expired).
[4] What Makes This Day Different, p. 122-123
[5] YES! Magazine, Fall 2012, page 31 “Tribe Returns To Traditional Diet” by Kim Eckart

No comments:

Post a Comment