Thursday 6 October 2016

Living Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving this week.  At least, in Canada.  And I mean the holiday named Thanksgiving, of course, not actual thanksgiving, itself.  That should happen every day.  I think it’s the point of a “holy-day,” to commemorate something we should be living out the other 364.

So go and be thankful, every day.  That could be the message of many a Thanksgiving sermon.  We might ask people what they’re thankful for or who they’re thankful for, maybe even in a creative and interactive way (yes, we’ll be doing that) and remind them to give thanks, to each other, to farmers for the harvest and workers for all they create, to friends and family and, of course, the Creator.  And not just this holiday weekend, but everyday.

You can’t command people to be thankful, though, or even to express their thanks.  Sure, from a young age we teach that one should say “thank you” when we are given something.  It’s a sign of politeness and respect to do so.  But just saying it doesn’t make you thankful.  Haven’t you ever said thank you when you weren’t really feeling thankful?

Our sense of gratitude is so easily impacted by expectation and entitlement.  It wasn’t what was expected or we expected better or we deserve it because it’s our right or it’s your job to provide that to me anyway.  And then there’s the things that we’re definitely not thankful for, like hate, war, violence, sickness, famine - that’s a long list, too.

But doesn’t that make it even more important that we be thankful for life?

Let go of the expectations and entitlement for a minute, please, and recognize the gifts that we are truly thankful for, the gifts that are deeper than those that we can be distracted from.  We know them, we do, because they feed us and they are life giving and life changing.  They may be large or small.  It may take a moment to discern them, to move aside all the other “stuff” that can get in the way, but choose to make that moment.  And not just one day, but everyday.

When I was little, we always said grace before meals.  This grace: “For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful.  Amen.”  I’m pretty sure that there were some meals I wasn’t too thrilled with.  I may not have eaten all my vegetables and sometimes there may have been beets, even.  But I remember “truly thankful.”  I may not always have seen it at the time, but I know it meant more than what was on the plate.  It meant that I was fed and cared for, had a place to be and people who cared for me and loved me.  It meant there was something greater.

I wonder if that grace isn’t for more than meals.  Maybe it’s for each new day, each new experience, each new moment that feeds our lives.

The gospel story for Thanksgiving this year is Jesus telling his followers that he’s “the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:25-35)  I’m truly thankful for that, not perfectly, but truly.  And because Jesus feeds us, we should feed others.  Not perfectly, perhaps, but truly.  That’s living thanksgiving.  Truly.