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A Thanksgiving Reflection

November 22, 2018

As I look back and remember Thanksgiving dinners growing up, I think about the Pilgrim and Turkey Candles that we would put on the table. I also remember the Thanksgiving celebrations at school and the narrative of Squanto and the Indians welcoming the Pilgrims to this land.

Well, that narrative, like so many others, was written by the conquering people to justify somehow the reality of theft, genocide, and murder. While the Pilgrims may have been initially welcomed and assisted by the people of the First Nation, the story soon took a dramatic turn as the White European Immigrants (did you catch the subtle note there?) took over the land and pushed the welcoming people further West.

Today I believe there is another ugly narrative that is just below the surface… well, actually it is all around us and out in the open. While I believe we can recover a narrative of thanks and cooperation, Thanksgiving has been hijacked by corporate and consumer greed. Do you remember when that greed was confined to the Friday after Thanksgiving? Now it has crept into the very day itself and spread throughout the weekend to include “cyber-Monday” sales. I was absolutely appalled to see a JC Penny commercial aired this week. As the family sits at the table and the man at the head of the table says what he is thankful for, a woman gets up while saying “I am thankful for sales” and leaves the meal to go shopping! Besides the obvious sexist stereotypes, the fact that craven consumerism has replaced a day of thanks is appalling!

So, do we toss out the notion of a time of thanks-giving? Do we ignore the commercialization creep? Or do we look to somehow recover something that is good?

In Estes Park, the community is invited to a Community meal put on by Service organizations and hundreds of volunteers at a local church fellowship hall. There is no cost for the meal, but folks who can, give donations to help out. The first year we were here, we attended the meal and were impressed with the whole concept.

When I think of the table of plenty, I think of the table that Jesus spread before his disciples and which became the Lord’s Supper for us today. A table (at least in the churches I pastor and in the Air Force when I was a Chaplain) that is open to all. A table of blessing that is big enough to make room for all to have a seat.

Last Thanksgiving we spent the day with my Dad. Mom had passed away the morning before and so that meal was bittersweet. This year we have our niece and her husband from Colorado Springs with us along with our neighbors next door with the exception of Mindy who is with her Mom in California for Thanksgiving.

There is much to be thankful for as we gather. Yet I am also reminded that there is much to be done. In that I am thankful that there are many who are willing to step up and be the difference in the community and in the world.

May we begin the process of confession and reconciliation with the descendants of the First Nation who welcomed European Immigrants to their home. May we build a table big enough for everyone to have a seat. May we tear down human constructed walls of division and instead be about the work of love, healing, welcoming, and peace.

These words from Howard Thurman, written for Christmas also have a place at Thanksgiving.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Dear reader, may we be about that work this and every day. Then the prayer will be fulfilled.

Dona Nobis Pacem et in Terra

Grant Us Peace on Earth

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