Thanksgiving Reflections for 2019
By Bishop Robert Wright
Turkey with all the trimmings, long beautiful tables stuffed with loved ones, and nose-filling aromas come to mind when the subject is Thanksgiving in most of America. Gatherings around this special meal prompt reflections, silent or spoken, individual or collective. Hearts swell with gratitude for life, health, hope, community, safety and opportunity. The memories of relatives and friends who have died come especially close to us at these meals. At these times, families pray, tell stories, and use sacred texts to mark this special occasion and meal. In these profound moments, gratitude is our Thanksgiving guest.
When I think of gratitude, I think of the Psalms. The Psalms don’t require us to join a religion or recite a creed. They don’t ask us to renounce or decide anything. There’s no political issue to be weighed.The Psalms just sing their experience into the air, searching for someone, anyone, to say Yes! Amen! I like Psalm 8 especially: “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, You have set Your glory above the heavens! When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:1,3-4)
In Psalm 8, before we get to the blessings of our individual lives, cultures or nations or even our losses and scars, we remember that God’s name is excellent in all the earth and God’s glory is above the heavens. And, simultaneously, God is closer to us than our own skin or synapses. God, the author and director of planets, moons, stars and all that decorate the sky, is concerned with human existence!
I hope when you give that Psalm thought, it causes you awe. Awe, that reverential moment that doesn’t need a preacher or church service. That moment when we know there is a bigness and wisdom to the universe that’s beyond us. And, that is fatal to smallness, partisanship and hatred. Moments of awe locate us among all the beloved-ness that God has created. We breathe in and realize that we are made to be partners with the Divine, with one another and all the created things.
These awe-filled moments grow my gratitude for life, even with all of its hardships. In those instances, the bad and the ugly fade and the good I have experienced and know rises. In those moments, my gratitude lets me see you for what you are: beloved of God and my brother and sister. No less. These aren’t simply feelings. There’s something to this. Something more real than I can express. Somehow, I am certain that the soaring moments of awe cause deep moments of gratitude. But not only that, they cause me to be thankful in such a way that I can sustain my hope and work towards a day when there will be a table big enough for all of us. Where all will be fed and none will be hungry, forgotten or afraid.