Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

We live in a world that constantly tells us to worry.
While the things we worry about might be changing every day, the concept has been around for thousands of years. Our gospel lesson for this evening makes that very clear:
  • Matthew 6:25-34 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-- you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.
Worry. While this definitely applies to us today, it was around in Jesus’ time, too. How do we know? Jesus talked about it. They're like warning labels—they wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a reason.
In today's world, we are told that we have to not only worry about having food, but having the right kind of food. Not only having clothing, but the right kind of clothing. Not only having shelter, but the stuff to make it comfortable and attractive. Beyond even these things, we also have to worry about having the right phone, transportation, bike or car, job, internet presence, lifestyle. Worry. Worry. Worry. Worry.
In two days, we have one of the most massive shopping days in the country. A new worry: will there be enough of the latest fashion/toy/deal left? Scarcity. The ads tell us what we need, and then that they won’t have enough for everyone. Worry.
This is probably closer to what those in Jesus’ time would have worried about—not necessarily brands and internet sites and such, but having enough. Scarcity. It’s what almost every advertisement is built on—do you have enough? What if you run out?
Worry brings about fear. In this case, we have the fear that someone will get to what I want or need before me and that because of that, there will not be enough left for me. Fear. What’s the solution to this fear?
Society would say—beat that other person to what you want before they beat you. Win. If the store only stocks 100 of that item, then be sure that you beat out person number 99 and buy the last three.
What about Jesus? Now, I’m not asking what Jesus would do or say, but what he did say. Look, right there in the Scripture: Do not worry about your life…can any of you by worrying add a single hour to it? Are you not of more value than birds of the air?
Jesus says “stop worrying.” A life is more than food or clothing—more than stuff—and worrying about getting enough stuff does not benefit anyone.
I said that in two days, one of the biggest shopping days in the country will take place. Companies have invented things we’ve lived without for thousands of years, and advertisements have convinced us that we need it, that we can’t survive this year without it, and we better get there before someone else beats us to it.
Am I saying don’t go shopping on Friday? No—go ahead, go shopping, who knows? It might be fun. What I am saying is that we need to watch how much meaning we attach to stuff—to wants and luxuries.
If our eyes are only on that, only on Friday sales and stuff and shopping, we miss something. Something else takes place before that. Thursday. Thanksgiving Day. A day that we celebrate abundance. This is the opposite of scarcity. Thanksgiving is a day that we remember all that we have already.
In celebration and evidence of this abundance, mountains of food are prepared. In evidence and celebration of the parts of life that are more than material, families or friends gather together, caring for their relationships. These blessings are more than just stuff. Tomorrow is the day we remember all we have, not all we want, and we realize all we have is a lot.
When we get to that point—the realization of our own abundance—we move a bit more toward the second part of the gospel lesson. We strive for the kingdom of God. Yep, kingdom of God. It’s right there in verse 33: strive for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.
The Kingdom of God. That place that is like a mustard seed, where people love their neighbor as they love themselves, where everyone loves God first and foremost, where the sick and suffering are cured. The Kingdom of God that belongs to the poor, the children, the last and least in this earthly realm.
This is the reality that will come fully at the end of time, but that we get little glimpses of through Jesus’ descriptions and the work of the Holy Spirit in the world we live in now. This is the reality we get glimpses of when we see the good happening in the world, when we see that all of God’s creation—people and creatures—have what they need.
God knows what we need--really need--and God knows that it’s more than stuff.
We have what we need in abundance. Abundance. Abundance of time—a holiday. Abundance of care in relationship—family, friendships, community. Abundance of food—grandma’s cooking or St. Joe’s meal. Abundance of love—God’s love for us and our love for one another.
We are blessed beyond belief. We have a God who cares for us so much that this God actually came to us in his Son, to live with us, laugh with us, cry with us, rejoice with us, suffer with us, and die with us. This God, who took on humanity so we might understand, so we might have life now. This God who rose that we might rise as well. This God, who made the world, full of blessing, overflowing in abundance.
So, on Thanksgiving, don’t worry about tomorrow. Be there in the day of thanksgiving, and celebrate abundance. That is what we do, after all. We celebrate abundance—we give it away, and we make sure that everyone has more than enough. We make sure—as a community—that this life, this day, is about more than just me, myself, and I.
We gather together with family, friends, with community. Whether you’re at grandma’s house, your own home, at the local community center, or wherever, take a moment to look around at everything and everyone around you, and remember that you are blessed with abundance. Amen.

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