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Thursday, November 24, 2011

God, Thanksgiving . . . and Pie"

Thanksgiving is not about us; Thanksgiving (Eucharist) is about God's generosity to us. God blesses us so that we may give thanks to God, and God gives us the opportunity and call to bless other people with what we have been given. We do this in worship and also through gifts to the food shelf, at home, in the grocery store, and every place where we meet other people.

Vicar Erik Doughty, Day of Thanksgiving, year A; text: Deuteronomy 8:7-18

This is a sermon about God, controversy, community, Deuteronomy, thanksgiving, opportunity, and pie.

No doubt today when you sit down at table to a perfect dinner of perfect food with perfect family members who all get along perfectly, you will begin to discuss the doctrinal rightness of the Lutheran Church, compared to all the other churches out there.


Okay, maybe you will have a reasoned and civil discussion about the proposed constitutional amendment to keep same-gender couples from legally marrying in Minnesota.

Not that either?

Perhaps a discussion about the Occupy Wall Street protests?

Maybe not.

Ok, maybe a REALLY contentious discussion: “Pumpkin pie is the ONLY appropriate pie for Thanksgiving dinner. Discuss.”


You know some of these are the kind of discussion that That One Family Member (every family seems to have one) brings up. And then since you disagree but you are supposed to be on your best behavior, you butter your dinner roll in quiet rage. You grit your teeth and continue to be gracious.

Well. . . Life in community begins with meeting people where they’re at. So today, where are you at?

I did a brief, unscientific poll about this day. Here is what brought people joy on Thanksgiving:
Black Friday
Time with family
A day off
being with family
being with friends
cooking together
being surrounded by love
realizing how big family is

And here is what made people pensive on Thanksgiving:
High expectations of the day, which are not (or cannot be) met
Being away from family or loved ones
Cleaning house in preparation
expectations of perfection
making the gravy
relatives who are ill
memories of those who have died
being an “orphan”

For some, the gathering used to be larger, but now people are spread across the nation and can’t get back.

Some are living on unemployment checks, or on food stamps, or on a limited retirement income; a turkey is not in the budget this year.

For many, dealing with depression is really hard on days like today.

I do not trivialize or discount any of this. It is our reality. The problem is, it is really too easy, surrounded by our food and our family and our issues, to get the impression that Thanksgiving Day is about us.

So perhaps the most unusual part of the day will be the point when we, in the midst of it all, stop and give thanks to God for the gifts we have been given.

Our reading from Deuteronomy today reminds us of four things.
First: that all our wealth is not ours through our own effort;
Second; that all we have is gifted to us by God;
Third; our wealth is given to us not because of our faithfulness, but because of God’s;
And finally, it is given to us so that we may bless others.

Publicly acknowledging any one of those is a bit different, friends. Agreeing to all four is downright strange. I invite you to be just that strange, and to be that strange at your Thanksgiving table and elsewhere.

Every time I go to a certain grocery store in town here, I am reminded of the gifts I’m given, because the bag I carry out to my car says THANK YOU in approximately half-a-bazillion different languages. There’s an English-language Thank You. . . and there’s Swedish: Takk . There’s German. There’s Spanish. And French, and Hebrew. And some others I haven’t figured out (except that I’m pretty sure they mean “Thank you”).

But the one that really makes the connection for me is the Greek version: Eucharisto. Eucharist. It’s an ordinary expression of thanks. It’s an ordinary bag of groceries, like the groceries we give to the food shelf. But Eucharist is also an ordinary meal of bread and wine which Christ makes unusual, strange (in the best sense of the word) for our sake, making the ordinary into the extraordinary, giving his own life and grace for all who take and eat, take and drink. We have an ordinary, unusual savior, who makes us ordinary people extraordinary, unusual and blessed with his presence.

And the really strange, amazing thing is that our Holy Eucharist, our Holy Thanksgiving Meal, here at this altar, sends us right back around into our usual lives-- to our Thanksgiving meal back at home. And that Holy Thanksgiving stays with us through the extremely ordinary TSA checkpoint, through traffic, right into whatever ordinary daily life holds. It gives us strength. It lets us be graceful even without gritting our teeth. It drives us to unusual generosity, to give away blessings of food and money and time we’ve been given, that the blessing of Christ’s love and grace may go along, too. And it reminds us to give thanks at every table, in any language, for each sack of groceries and for Christ’s presence.

Let me be clear: Because you commune this morning, it will not make all your troubles go away. All the difficulties I talked about a few minutes ago? Still there. And communing will not make your boss micromanage you less. It will not get you a job if you don’t have a job. It will not make police forces and protesters see eye-to-eye. It will not solve homelessness or hunger; it will not make Thanksgiving dinner with that one relative that makes you crazy any less crazy-making. It will not prevent the anti-gay-marriage amendment from coming to the vote.

Yet our Holy Thanksgiving Eucharist meal WILL strengthen YOU for the work you have to do. This IS where Christ meets us, and feeds us. It IS where Christ sends us out into the ordinary world -- where Christ again meets us in every human face. Where people are hungry, we have the opportunity and call to feed Christ. Where people are cold, we have the opportunity and call to clothe Christ. Where people struggle, we have the opportunity and call to aid Christ. You know what the really irritating part about being Christian is? That crazy-making relative? That problematic, proposed constitutional amendment? Also opportunities to serve Christ and love the neighbor. This may mean that instead of buttering your dinner roll quietly, you speak out and say what you believe. It may mean some uncomfortable moments. It may move from the polite to the real.

Sisters and brothers, this Thanksgiving meal, the real presence of Christ for us; this real Word of grace and life, is still calling, reminding: Remember to love God and serve the neighbor. To give thanks in the grocery store and the church building. To feed hungry neighbors. To see a need and address it. Remember what we call ours is given to us so that we can bless others. Today you have opportunity to give money and food to help hungry neighbors; please, give. Today you have opportunity to join us at the Lord’s meal; please, eat and drink. Today you can take Christ’s love out into everyday life with you. You don’t have to, but you all get to. It’s unusual; it’s ordinary; it’s our opportunity and call; it’s the grace and love of Christ, and it’s yours. Please, share it.

Thank you. Thank God. (And have some pie!)


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