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Since this is the week before our annual bacchanalia centered around food and football, it would seem appropriate, at the very least, to give lip service to the idea of giving thanks. I mean, isn’t that what justifies the overeating and overindulging. Saying that this is all part of us being thankful for what we have seems to justify whatever we choose to consume on the fourth Thursday in November. Why? That’s a no-brainer; it’s Thanksgiving. I mean, dah.
And although I recognize that may sound pretty flip, I do believe that Thanksgiving is an important cultural celebration for Americans, especially American Christians. You see, if we can work a little sincerity between the oyster stuffing and the pumpkin pie, this day can push us to remember that most of us have plenty for which to be thankful. For example, even for us who may be standing on the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, most of us have enough to eat and clothes to wear and a roof to keep us dry. And most us have contact with some folks who care for us and for whom we can care. And for those of us who feel connected to the creator and the sustainer and the redeemer of the universe, we have a sense that there’s more than life right now and that there’s a loving force that’s guiding us into the future. You see, for all of this, most of us can be thankful. And these are the big things. There’s a plethora of other reasons we have to be grateful, specific things that may mean something to us but which might not to others. Now I think that’s the reality in which most of us live. And for that reason, it’s certainly appropriate to set aside one day to offer thanks to the one who loved us before time had meaning and will after that meaning disappears. Thanksgiving offers us the chance to have a positive cathartic experience, because it encourages us to get the thanks out before we move in the Christmas season. And I’ll tell you, that’s always been my focus in these pre-Thanksgiving essays.
But this year I want to challenge both you and me to do a little more than just be thankful. I want us intentionally to remember all those folks who may not be thankful right now. And I’ll tell you, if we choose to look, I think we might be overwhelmed by the number. You see, there are plenty of honest and sincere brothers and sisters in Christ who look at their lives and see very little cause to feel gratitude. Of course, there are all kinds of reasons a person might feel like that. For example, I think it would be really difficult for an individual who’s lost a loved one to be thankful even on Thanksgiving. And I’m not sure we can expect a guy or gal who’s personally facing disease or divorce or depression to do cartwheels regardless of the day. And some even may find it difficult to celebrate given the situations faced within our country and communities as well as our churches and congregations. You see, regardless of whether it’s caused by things coming from the outside or some insidious stuff festering on the inside, there are folks who feel no reason to be thankful in six days.
And so as most of us celebrate this day by expressing gratitude, I think it’s also important for us to remember those who aren’t nearly so optimistic. You see, rather than trying to guilt them into making expressions that may only increase their alienation and sadness, we might want to recognize the suffering and the sadness some folks are experiencing right now. And even though we might not be in a position to show our sympathy much less to address their needs, we sure can be watchful, in other words, keeping our eyes open so that we might see those who are struggling. And with our vision clear and focused, we might want to do something about the problems they may face. Of course, we won’t be able to address all their concerns, much less change lives enough that everyone feels thankful. Still, we may have the power to help those who are sad feel a little more happy and those who are worried feel a little more peace and those who are burdened feel a little more free. You see, we might be able to give those who can’t muster the emotions a genuine reason to be thankful.
And so, as we move toward another Thanksgiving Day, let’s not only remember to be thankful ourselves but also a little more sensitive and responsive to those who see little reason for thanks.