Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Towards Thanksgiving Sunday, October 11, 2015

Reading:  Matthew 6:25-33
Theme:  Where does the "happy" come from in Happy Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is a harvest festival.  What do you do -- how do you celebrate it, when your harvest seems bitter, small, or unusually full of weeds?

Thanksgiving is different in our family this year.

No turkey dinner and an evening of rummoli, euchre and other games with my sister and her family.  She gets a chemo treatment this Wednesday and even with the drugs she expects to feel pretty sick through the weekend.  The most we might manage is a lunch out together before she retires home to rest.

And I know we’re not alone in this.  I think of other families in our congregation struggling with illness and loss right now.  Of families of our area devastated by two recent highway pile-ups on the 401 near Whitby.  Of people in our city living daily in poverty and homelessness.  

What is Thanksgiving, really?  What do we remember and celebrate it in the midst of illness, loss, loneliness, sorrow, injustice and anxiety?

In this Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus says to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  Until this year I hadn’t really thought about how birds don’t always have it easy, either.  We speak longingly of being “as free as a bird,” but birds are also exposed to a lot of nasty weather, risks, brutal exposure and sometimes harshly short lives.

I wonder what I can learn from them -- or from the beautiful but unprotected lilies, about living within the goodness and good purpose of God.

And then there are also the first-Thanksgiving stories of our country's three founding peoples. 

On the English side is Martin Frobisher.  In 1578 on his third expedition to the New World, he ran into trouble he had not faced before – freak storms, extreme cold and drifting ice.  One ship was lost and those that remained were scattered.   When finally they were reunited and able to land together on the shore of Frobisher Bay (now so called), the expedition’s resident priest led all hands in a service of thanksgiving.

A generation later and on the French side of our heritage, in 1604 Samuel de Champlain was leader of the new French colony in Port Royal struggling to survive an unexpectedly harsh winter.  His solution was to create the Order of Good Cheer, by which the members of the community took turns in groups preparing and hosting a feast and an evening’s entertainment for the entire community, including their First Nations neighbours.

Passing through adversity … reconnecting after separation … struggling with hardship and anxiety … creating and enjoying community against the cold and across boundaries.

Anything there relevant to our time?  And Thanksgiving?

And then there's the third (really the first) of our founding nations’ thanksgiving stories -- no once-a-year-holiday, but repeated rituals in the course of ordinary life. In the potlatch of the West Coast First Nations, for instance, it’s interesting that the emphasis is not so much on giving thanks for and celebrating how much you have, but on demonstrating and enjoying how much you are able to give away.

I wonder ... anything there similar in spirit to what Jesus says about not focusing on what we will have to eat and drink and wear, but on “striving first for the kingdom of God,” within which all that we need will be given?

I trust our worship this Sunday will only deepen our Thanksgiving spirit.

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