I can only imagine the excitement of the Pilgrims at harvest time. They had endured a very cold and terrible winter. I am sure they had wondered if any of the seeds they had sowed would bear any fruit. They soldiered on till harvest time. And then they realized the fruits of their handiwork, much like the psalmist who was well acquainted with agrarian life and who shares these thoughts: “Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” What fascinates me about Thanksgiving is the incredible desire to take a pause and offer thanks for all the gifts and blessings that you and I have received.
As I said elsewhere, central to the Christian ethos is the idea of thanksgiving, and our Eucharist is based on this idea. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of Thanksgiving for the salvation that has been wrought for us. In a sense, then, what the Pilgrims did wasn’t alien to their understanding of what it meant to be a Christian; it was, in fact, rooted in it.
I will always remember my first Thanksgiving. I flew to Maryland to be with my aunt, who lives in Riverdale. I knew next to nothing about Thanksgiving, but I was happy to be in Maryland for this holiday. On the way to my aunt’s house, I saw this cliché on a church’s sign-post: ‘What are you thankful for?’ I thought about the question, and I still think about it. This is because the opportunity to ask myself this question reminds me of all the gifts that surround me. In a more somber way, I acknowledge my dependence on these gifts and live my life in appreciation for them.
Each and every day is an opportunity to give thanks... even for the smallest of gifts. Waking up in the morning to see the sunlight is an opportunity to give thanks. Taking a shower, dressing up, and grabbing breakfast is an opportunity to give thanks. Dropping of kids at school or taking them to board the bus is an opportunity to give thanks. Driving to Christ Church to serve you is an opportunity to give thanks. Driving home after serving you is an opportunity to give thanks. In fact, every single bit of my life - and of yours - should be about an opportunity to give thanks. And we dare to give thanks because the gift of giving thanks shapes the very nature of our relationship with others and ourselves. More than that, the ability to name the very people and things for which we are thankful is a stark reminder of our own sense of humility and interdependence.
As I have said before, I’d prefer to live thankfully than faithfully. To live thankfully is to appreciate every single gift that you have, and that gift includes the people you love as well as those you may not necessarily love. You may wonder, "Why also people I don’t love?" Well, as scripture poses, what benefit is it to love those who love you? Believe me, giving thanks even for those you do not necessarily love helps you to correct those things in your life that you don't love about those you may not love.
There is a story about an elderly man who lived in Phoenix. The man calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but your mother and I are getting a divorce. It’s been forty-five years of misery, and I can’t handle any more.”
The son screams at his father, “Pop, what are you talking about?”
The father responds, “No, we can’t stand the sight of each other any longer. We’re sick and tired of one another, and I can’t talk about it anymore. Just call your sister in Chicago and tell her.” He then hangs up.
The son proceeds to call his sister in Chicago, and tells her what their father had said to him. She gets very upset, calls her father in Phoenix, and screams at him, “You’re not getting divorced. Do not do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing.” And then, she hangs up.
The old man puts his phone down, turns to his wife, and says, “Honey, the kids are both coming home for Thanksgiving. They’ll be here tomorrow … and they’re paying their own way!”
Yes, they are paying their own way! The prank was an attempt to get these older kids, who are now parents themselves, to be thankful for something… that, among many other things, paying your own way to see mom and dad can also be an expression of your thankfulness to them for all they have done for you.
What are you thankful for? Don’t wait to hear about mom and dad divorcing before you decide to fly home to see them on your own dime. Do not limit yourself in your expressions of gratitude.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.