Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Feast of Abundance

This Thursday, all over America, people will celebrate a truly American feast: Thanksgiving, our national feast of abundance.  We'll gather with family and friends, eat turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, and that green bean casserole with the mushroom soup and the little onion strings.  (Actually, you can have that green bean stuff, I'm not going to eat it.  And the candied yams with the little marshmallows on top - you can have those too.  And anything with jello.)

If we're lucky this Thanksgiving, we'll also spend time with people we love, people we don't get to see that often.  My oldest daughter is home from college this week; my younger daughter is here too, and we will have a rare weekend with our whole family together - not to mention some very old and dear friends who will be with us.  We will be surrounded with love and laughter.  I feel that just the presence of these dear people would be enough of a blessing this year, even if I never caught sight of a turkey.

It is a time of year to be truly grateful.  And it's a time to remember the real diversity of our nation, as all over America, people will gather around tables to give thanks:  old and young, rich and poor, all races, all religions or no religion at all - people will gather together to remember their blessings.  The diversity of the people who celebrate this feast is part of our heritage as Americans.  This holiday brings us all together in one great celebration - a celebration of abundance that says for this one day, there is more than enough for everyone.  More than enough to eat, a warm house, beloved family, dear friends, and a God who provides for us all.  Because all of these blessings come from God, who is the source of every blessing.

If we look deeply at our Christian tradition, it is clear that our Thanksgiving observance reflects God's true, real, ultimate hope for all people.  The prophet Isaiah says:  "On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.  And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever.  It will be said on that day, This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

Our Thanksgiving Day celebration, with its feasting and its gathering and its common rejoicing by the rich diversity of American people, reflects God's hope for the world: the world as it was created to be.

But we know that this world is imperfect: it is not the world God desires for us.  God's dream has not yet been realized.  There are people on Thanksgiving Day, and every day, who do not have enough - people who are homeless, addicted, ill, suffering, in the midst of war, lonely, impoverished, stressed and angry.  In this economy, there are more and more people who do not have the things God dreams of for them.

Years ago, I saw a cartoon with a man shaking his fist at God, up in the clouds.  "God!" he is crying out.  "There are people starving!  People sick and suffering, people homeless, people stuck in poverty, people dying!  Why don't you do something about it?"  And from the clouds, God's voice answers: "I did do something.  I sent you."

We are the ones God has sent to minister to this broken and suffering world.  Our hands and hearts are the ones who can continue the work our Lord Christ began, when he entered this world to share in its suffering.  We are the ones whose hearts, overflowing with abundance, can bring God's love to our troubled communities.  We who are blessed can become a blessing.  We can celebrate Eucharist - a word that simply means "thanksgiving" - by sharing God's blessing with our world.  When we celebrate Eucharist, we become the Body of Christ, given for the world he has made.

We are Christ's Body this Thanksgiving season.  As we accept the calling our Lord gives us, to work in partnership with him to restore a troubled world, we can make small steps toward that dream our God has for all people.  As we feast in abundance this Thanksgiving, let us remember that our Thanksgiving feast is a blessed, abundant reflection of the feast God intends to provide for all people of this world.