How do we give thanks when a chair at our table now remains empty? Or when finances suddenly change for the worse? Or when illness or accident limit a loved-one?
Throughout history people have celebrated with feasts on the heels of tragedy.
The feast of Purim celebrates escape of the Jews from annihilation during the reign of King Xerxes. (See the book of Esther.)
Seven years into the Eighty Years War, following a year long siege, the city of Leiden celebrated in October of 1575 when the Spanish treasury ran dry ending the siege after many days of hardship, fear, and death. The Puritans experienced this feast of thanksgiving.
The Puritans’ first Thanksgiving feast in the New World commemorates the blessings that a few people had survived their first year at Plymouth.
Hardships people have endured becomes a dark background upon which the brilliance of God is quickly recognized, like a diamond sitting on black felt.
Thus this week we celebrate Thanksgiving to acknowledge God at work in our lives, carrying us through hardship. We share times of joy while we recover from hardships endured to remind us again that God is with us in all circumstances.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRSV)
I love the six weeks before Christmas. Each day my calendar becomes increasingly packed with activities and preparation for activities: family dinners, special worship services, and parties.
As life gets increasingly busy, taking time to pray and to listen become increasingly important. In the days ahead plans will get complicated and interrupted. Friends and family members will push our emotional buttons. In these coming days taking time to pause will become increasingly important.
Prayer and meditation allow us to step back from our emotional responses and use the portion of our brains that is uniquely human, the center for reasoning. This portion of our brains allows people to think things through and consider long term consequences of our actions. But when anxiety flares, when we might most need our ability to reason things through, this portion of our brains gets disconnected and our emotional response kicks in. Perhaps in a primitive time in human development a more emotional response encouraged a flight or fight response, but now, especially in social occasions, those who react emotionally, physically lose it.
In a parable on anxiety Jesus commands us: “Look at the birds … Consider the flowers …” In other words take time to ask: Where is God in all this? What is the bigger picture that all this busyness fits into? And ultimately, where do I fit into God’s mission today?
How do you step back when your emotions attempt to disconnect your God-given ability to think rationally?
With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment.
Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.
— Proverbs 3:5-6 (CEV)
I had no idea what I was getting into when I first recited the Boy Scout Oath:
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country …
But should this read: “my duty withGod and my country”? For I have done nothing entirely by myself. In the Navy I was but one of over a hundred sailors needed to put a ship to sea. As a pastor I am but one of several people needed to lead an effective worship service. Even when I visit someone in the hospital, I am nothing unless I am doing my duty with the Holy Spirit.
For just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body,
so it is with Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 12:12
Thus my robe and stole remind me each Sunday morning that many people have ministered with me, preparing me for my duties with God. Thus each morning I pray and listen for God with me as I seek to do my duty.
This Monday I again wore my navy blue suit. The “scars” where stripes once encircled its sleeves and pock marks where ribbons once pierced it remind me of those with whom I did my duty to country and those on patrol this day and those eternally on patrol.
For with the continued efforts of others to do their duty with God and with our country, my efforts continue to have meaning.
Some people eat merely to live, I love the taste and texture of food.
I’ve boasted that cooking is merely organic chemistry: make a suspension, denature some proteins, and caramelize some sugars. But good food is more, even beyond the biology of growing yeast to make bread rise.
Good food produces an aroma that entices us before it reaches the table reminding us of previous meals and evoking meals yet to come.
Good food is a work of art with colors and textures that show the complexity of life.
Good food invites conversation with friends and family that further enhances the experience, for when we share our meals we share our spirits.
Good food begs a connection with the Triune God who created us and all that sustains us.
Good food tells the story of creation and of God’s love for us each day, a love that we desire to share with those near to us and with new acquaintances.
O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. – Psalm 34.8: