November 26, 2008, First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, Chicago, Tom Gaulke
Thanksgiving Eve Service, 7pm
Primary texts: Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Luke 17:11-19
“He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.”
Let us pray…
Thankfulness is a sacred action,
Thankfulness is pleasing to God,
Thanks-giving is a holy act,
According to Holy Scriptures.
In the act of giving thanks,
In the act of offering thanksgiving,
that we have many things
(and we acknowledge that we continue to receive many things)
that, simply, we don’t deserve:
Acts of kindness or generosity
from strangers or from friends.
Acts of kindness or generosity
Thankfulness acknowledges that those things we have:
(Food, Family, Friends,
Employment, Love, Hope…)
Tomorrow we might not have anymore.
that every blessing truly is a blessing
And that every good thing in our lives truly is a gift.
Thanks-giving admits humbly that:
No matter who we are,
Regardless of our race, our nationality, our education
Whether we are a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, or a Samaritan
And regardless of creamy smooth skin conditions or flaking, itching leprosy,
Family legacies or criminal history,
A nice clean resume, or a crinkled pink slip,
No one, in the eyes of God,
Is more or less entitled to any good gift
than any another.
That is, no one is more entitled to stuff,
Or more deserving of “life, liberty,” or “the pursuit of happiness,”
Than anyone else.
No person is more important
Than any other person
in the eyes of God.
It is when we forget to THANK,
That we start to take our blessings for granted.
This happens throughout history.
This continues to happen today.
Whether as exiled slaves from Egypt reaching the Promised Land
Or as pilgrim travelers reaching the new world,
(Though historically our initial response might be to give thanks:
For home and harvest,
After a long and dangerous desert or ocean journey,
Eventually (after Thanksgiving Day), history tells us, we exiles and pilgrims…
We humans tend to forget:
We forget that the land we reached is not our own,
(rather, faith tells us, it is God’s).
We forget, historically, that the welcome and the hospitality received from those who already lived here was an act of God.
We forgot to give thanks.
Yes, we forgot.
And as a result, we started to think we were entitled to all that we had.
We humans… imagined… that because we were a certain kind of human:
Because we were European,
Or because we were Pilgrims,
Or because we were:
We humans—some of us—imagined…
(And we even claimed):
That perhaps we deserved what we came to call our own: the Americas, the New World, the “Promised Land”
Many imagined that perhaps we deserved to own the land that others were living on—
perhaps we deserved even…to own the people!
Imagination can be a dangerous thing.
More than the natives,
More than those Indians and Africans who some humans would make into slaves,
More than any others…
Perhaps (some humans imagined):
Perhaps we are gifted with so much,
Because we are more deserving of God’s blessings than others.
Perhaps we are specially chosen,
Perhaps we are better,
Perhaps we are even more human than other humans in the eyes of God—“A city on a hill!”
Perhaps, some of us humans imagined…
Perhaps “This land is my land,” some of us sang,
“And it’s nobody else’s land.
Because we deserve all of this,
And we don’t have to share it with anyone.”
“Perhaps,” some of us said.
But we were wrong.
We were wrong.
We were wrong,
because at the heart of Thanksgiving,
At the heart of giving thanks for all that we have,
Is the truth that
Nothing is ours.
The world is on loan.
The blessings we receive are indeed blessings.
The good things we enjoy are certainly gifts.
Gifts meant to be shared.
Thanksgiving is a national holiday.
It is not a part of the church calendar.
But if we, as people of faith living in the United States, are going to celebrate it (and I hope we do).
May I suggest we do so in a way that honors the God of the Bible.
In a way that honors
The God of justice and of liberation—
the God of Jesus, who heals those who mainstream society excludes—lepers and Samaritans and prostitutes and so on.
May we celebrate giving thanks in a way that honors the God who proclaims that the lowly shall be lifted up, the humble shall be exalted, and last shall one day be first;
May we thank the God who calls us to love and serve our neighbors, and not to lord over them (even if we have the power to do so).
And may I suggest: we do so in a way that is honest.
We know that God desires us to see all our neighbors as sisters and brothers,
We know that God calls us to treat all people with radical and uninhibited love,
But we also know that we are human.
And we know that we mess up.
(may I suggest?)
Let’s repent when we fall short.
Let’s seek forgiveness when we fail.
And we will fail.
And let’s rejoice in thanksgiving
In the promise of God’s unfailing and unrelenting forgiveness, grace, and love.
And now may the peace….Amen.