Freeport & Merrick
Thanksgiving is upon us. If you are experiencing preparation anxiety for the most important meal of the year – take comfort in these actual calls placed to the Butterball Turkey Help line.
When a Talk-Line staffer asked a caller what state her turkey was in (meaning how thawed was it) the caller responded with, “Florida.”
A gentleman called to tell the operator he cut his turkey in half with a chain saw and wanted to know if the oil from the chain would adversely affect the turkey.
Or - can I thaw a frozen turkey using my electric hair dryer? Or can I wrap my turkey in an electric blanket? Or how can I plop it in the aquarium with my tropical fish? Or in the tub while the kids are having their bath? Butterball also got a call from the owner of a chihuahua that climbed inside the raw bird while the owner’s back was turned. Then there’s the request, can I baste my turkey with suntan lotion? Get this question: how long does it take to thaw a fresh turkey?
Oh my. And that’s just the turkey! The details of meals, trips and entertaining are all consuming as we observe this most significant holiday in our culture. It is significant not for the food we consume, the company we keep, or that it’s now a gateway to the shopping orgies that begin around 6pm on Thanksgiving Eve -- or a football marathon to keep you from succumbing to food coma. Despite all this, Thanksgiving is important for it represents the best of who we can be. It reminds us who we are created to be at the core of our being. A giving, thankful people.
Gratitude is a key, spiritual habit found in all religions, belief systems, among people all over the globe -- throughout all the ages. Giving thanks is a habit mandated by God and faithfully practiced by Jesus.
We look at our Deuteronomy text today-- as Moses is preparing the people of Israel for entering the Promised Land-- and what does he say? “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.”
Moses insists the people keep God at the center of their lives once they were settled and prospered. Do not exalt yourself” Moses warned. Remember Egypt. Remember the great and terrible wilderness. The arid wasteland, the poisonous snakes and scorpions. Remember the tests. Don’t fall into idolatry thinking your achievements come from your power. Remember your Sovereign Lord and give God thanks. Giving thanks is built into the ritual and life of the people of Israel, in times of affliction, in times of prosperity.
The Pilgrims dug seven times more graves than they built huts in their early years in America. But they celebrated the bountiful blessings of God. From George Washington, to Abraham Lincoln, to Franklin Roosevelt, Thanksgiving Day has become entwined with American accomplishment and dreams, especially in times of trial and tribulation. The key to giving thanks is not just when all is well. We must give thanks even when we face worries and hardships. That is woven in the history of Thanksgiving. It is written in the biblical message. And it is the training we receive as Christians: to give when times are good, and when times are not so good. That is the faith we are called to exercise this week.
According to scripture, thanksgiving has little to do with all the blessings we have -- but it has everything to do with how we use our blessings in the times we find ourselves in.
Let us consider this: retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Macys encourage us to get off the couch and shop on Thanksgiving Day eve as a way to celebrate and inaugurate the “gift giving season.” What we used to call Christmas. Can we consider this appeal to shop a blessing as we also live in a time of the greatest income inequality since the Great Depression?
For a number of years now, Presbyterian leaders have encouraged us to take the Food Stamp Challenge as a way to raise our awareness of the hungry of 42.6 million people in the United States. They along with others religious leaders nationwide make a pledge to live one week on what the highest amount the a single Food Stamp recipient receives about $192 a month: a little over $48 a week. That’s about $6.80 a day. $2.28 a meal. Imagine surviving on that. Even though food stamps are meant to supplement, it still is not a generous help.
In addition, on the very tails of Thanksgiving, we are blanketed with advertisements luring us into a shopping frenzy known as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, (thank goodness they’ve left Sunday alone for now). At the very end of this extravaganza is Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is hailed by people of faith, by not-for-profits as a day to buy or donate to charities and causes we hold dear. What troubles me is why can’t Giving Tuesday go first? Why is it last? The fact that Giving Tuesday it comes after 3 or 4 days of spending frenzy tells us about the priorities our culture has set. Do we really only want to give the dredges, our puny monetary leftovers to the people who need it most? Our faith encourages us to make it a priority to give and shop through those organizations that pay fair wages, support fair trade and worker cooperatives around the world. Let’s skip the “Armageddon of retail” and spend our money wisely and compassionately as an act of Thanksgiving.
The apostle Paul teaches us, as Jesus did, that our service is best expressed in supplying the needs of the Lord’s people, and in seeing giving as overflowing in may expressions we can give thanks to God. We thank God as we gather around the thanksgiving table, but more fully when we serve those who need help. Paul encourages us to take such giving seriously. God blesses us – so in all things – all times – we will abound in every good work. Our blessings bind us as a community, as a people, so that none should be lacking. Now wouldn’t that be a day of true thanksgiving?
At the end of our bulletin we say, “Our worship has ended; now our service begins.” That is because service is an extension of worship. When we serve others and care for them in their need, we are worshiping, just as much as we are worshiping in this very hour.
Look at this harvest table that represents our food offerings. It is good we have accumulated this. But I know we can do more – because Merrick is a generous, caring community.
So, this week, do all the wonderful, traditional acts of American Thanksgiving. But as Christians, people of faith, let us do more. Remember the poor, to whom we are spiritually bound. Do the Food Stamp challenge. Don’t forget Giving Tuesday. Give food. Give clothing. Encourage and challenge those of means to be compassionate and responsible. As that old gospel song encourages, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” And in all things, give thanks. Make Thanksgiving Day a harvest of righteousness by your abundant acts of generosity. Let your life bless others, and above all -- let your life become a thank you note to God, written by your good and selfless service to others. Amen.