As Americans prepare to celebrate our National Day of Thanksgiving, we are hearing reports from Mali, Beirut, and France about terrorist attacks. For many of us, these reports recall painful memories of our own experience with terrorism on September 11, 2001 and the days, months, and years that followed.
It is difficult to give thanks for the blessings of liberty when attacks on the liberties of others make us aware of how vulnerable all humanity is in the hands of terrorists. Right now, we are especially conscious that our lives are connected in the human community and that we are not really as self-sufficient as we might think.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann points out that the observance of Thanksgiving reminds us that life is a gift.
Thanksgiving is a contradiction of the values of a market economy that imagines we are self-made and can be self-sufficient. When we give thanks, we commit an act of defiance against the seductions of our society. . . We may sing all kinds of patriotic songs and feast to satiation on Thanksgiving Day. Beyond all of that is our acknowledgement that life is a gift that evokes response. We are never self-starters. The drive for self-sufficiency is an unnecessary and futile idolatry.
Enjoy family, friends, and a bountiful feast on Thanksgiving Day. Then, sometime during the day, find a place where you can be alone and quiet for half an hour or so. Take a pen, some paper, and this quotation with you. Read it over a few times and then make a list of things that make your life what it is because God and others have blessed you – evidence that you are not self-sufficient. Say a prayer of thanksgiving over that list and think of ways to express your gratitude to whomever else is on the list. Do it right away before the pressures of everyday life make you forget.
Here is a video meditation for your Thanksgiving on a text by Brian Wren with piano accompaniment arranged and performed by Tom Howard.
And here is the Collect for Thanksgiving Day from The Book of Common Prayer.
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
May your heart be filled with gladness and gratitude as you celebrate Thanksgiving with those whom you love. And please continue to pray that God will comfort the victims of terror and turn the hearts of those who commit such violent acts so that they might become agents of peace.
I'll see you in Church!