Sermon Archives

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Thanksgiving Day, 26 November 2015
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
Thanksgiving

A few years ago, I read an article about Sam Sifton, food editor of the New York Times.  In his book, “Thanksgiving, How To Cook It Well,”  Sifton explains what we already know: “Thanksgiving is scary for a lot of people.  It’s a holiday that’s filled with a lot of stress…Do I have enough plates? Do I have enough glasses? Am I really going to have a tablecloth?  What is a tablecloth?  Can I use a sheet? That’s cheap.  Maybe I should…And what do I do about Uncle Morty?” Sifton writes, “Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be complicated… Everything’s gonna be okay…It’s a pretty simple meal when you really think about it.  You’re roasting a giant chicken. You’re mashing some potatoes.  You’re mashing almost everything.  It’s basically a pile of mush on a plate with slices of big chicken.”

Even still, Thanksgiving can be scary for a lot of people.

In today’s Gospel message, we get the sense that the disciples were scared, too.  This new vocation they chose – to follow Jesus – was filled with a lot of stress.  ‘What will we eat?’ ‘What will we drink?’ What will we wear?’

See, up to this point in the Gospel, Jesus had been teaching in the “Sermon On The Mount” about what it meant to be disciples.  He taught about a new way of looking at God’s kingdom,  about the beatitudes, about how to be authentic in humanity, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and about how to live and pray in community. 

Then Jesus offers even more instruction about what “righteousness” means.  That’s when the disciples got a little fidgety in their pews.  They began to wonder ‘What will we eat?’ ‘What will we drink?’ ‘What will we wear?’
The disciples, eager to please Jesus and to be good disciples, might have, at that moment, had a wavering faith – a faith that until that point, they could hold onto.  And here was Jesus, teaching them to move away from their cultural values towards a life of trust and obedience in God’s reign. This made them hesitant; they needed reassurance. 

We are not unlike those disciples. Eager to please and do God’s work in the world, but sometimes with a wavering faith.  Jesus is asking us to move away from cultural values towards a life of trust and obedience.  
Few of us are exempt from worry and anxiety.  Many people are scared of losing homes or losing jobs, worry about not having enough money or about caring for children while caring for parents; or are anxious about danger or terror attacks. People (who have little) worry about the basics: adequate shelter, food, and water; finding a decent job; taking care of families; having enough money to survive. 

We all have legitimate reasons to fret and worry, even while we know that fret and worry do not change the realities. Will God love me if I show my vulnerabilities? If God is going to provide for all my needs, does that mean that I can just goof off?  Trusting in God’s tender care is not easy.  Life makes us hesitant; we need reassurance.

As the disciples fidgeted, Jesus could smell their fear. With compassion, Jesus taught the disciples with the language of their wisdom tradition.  He appealed to their common sense and their understanding of how nature works. Isn’t life more than food? Isn’t the body more than clothing? Look at the birds… the lilies … the grass. Therefore, do not worry, …

Jesus asked the disciples to “strive first the kingdom” –not chronologically, but in priority. In other words, to keep their mind on divine things, not on human things. Jesus reminded the disciples to think less about what they were doing and to consider more about what God had done, is doing and has promised.

Jesus reassured them that the one who called them / to that radical “style of life” was also the Creator who lovingly provides for all of creation and who, in the end, brings all of creation into God’s reign, worry or not.  Jesus reassured them. Look, he said, God comes to where you are most vulnerable – where you are worrying – in that cross of the moment.

It was the cross of the moment in 1863, for Abraham Lincoln, when he set one day aside, the fourth Thursday of November  – for our national day of thanksgiving. In that vulnerable moment, Lincoln’s life consisted of a confluence of anxious situations – his political future uncertain in the 1864 election, his own cabinet members openly detesting him, his wife’s investigation as a traitor. In that moment, Lincoln called on a spiritual practice called gratitude.

Lincoln remembered that in the midst of personal worry and suffering, the one thing to remember most is the goodness of God.  Facing circumstances that seemed too difficult for him to endure, Lincoln leaned into God’s goodness and mercy by giving thanks as his first response and calling the nation to make an annual practice of it.

So, we give thanks today, as one gathered community, reassured by God’s loving care.  When we begin to respond to life with less worry and more thanks, we come to know what God has done, is doing and has promised. We begin to realize that we can face the uncertainties of life. God lovingly provides for all of creation.

God is already acting in our life by calling us together today to share a meal – a special meal. This meal has been a tradition for years.  This meal is what people are craving more than carbohydrates and protein, for today’s meal helps us remember who we are and whose we are. The meal of which I speak, of course, is the Eucharist.

By giving thanks as our first response, we recall that on the night in which he was betrayed, the night of his most vulnerable moment, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, …And, after supper, Jesus took the cup of wine, gave thanks...In this thanksgiving meal, Jesus is present to us, to our worries, to our joys, to our laughter and our tears. 

And, for all the Thanksgiving dinners we will enjoy this afternoon, may we remember that God will pour grace gravy over all the trimmings.  May we remember that in the midst of our worries – in the cross of our vulnerable moments – we can respond first with thanks for all that God has done, is doing and has promised.   In the reign of God, may we look out for each other, share what we have, and offer love and laughter.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!  It is right to give God thanks and praise. Amen.