Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Eucharist Reflections

Sorry it has been so long since I dropped by to reflect. I was talking with Rickey and Anna today and they both encouraged me to make a brief reflection on the Thanksgiving Eucharist that I held for my two churches.

This year, I've been wrestling to get through Pastoral Care at divinity school (a class with which I have a strong love/hate relationship). I remembered a line from one of the books I read for this class about reclaiming holidays for the Church. One of the holidays the author suggested we reclaim was Thanksgiving. She or he suggested we rename Thanksgiving as “Immigrant Appreciation Day” in honor of the Native American's who welcomed the European settlers to their land. As I began to think about this image in preparation for the homily, I found myself in an uncomfortable space. Were it not for the Native American's generosity, would we be here? And to think of how we have treated this race of God's children is unsettling. My Methodist History teacher mentioned in one of his lectures just a few weeks ago that Tennessee’s mythic hero Andrew Jackson was responsible for this country’s shameful act of "Ethnic Cleansing"--The Trail of Tears. How could I "celebrate" in light of this injustice? Had I not read that book nor heard this lecture, Thanksgiving this year would have been another mindless participation in national egoism, but this year, I found it much harder to enjoy.

I managed to find solace in Christ's invitation to His Table, and in the Epistle Reading that went along with the service:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NRSV)
6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9 As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

I challenged myself and my parishioners to envision what Thanksgiving would look like if we were the generous host of immigrants today. What would our tables look like? Who would be seated around them? The inclusive language of verse 13 created a spiritual image of a Great Thanksgiving Dinner of which we soon partook! Placing myself as the needy alien in front of the bountiful table of the Lord was a humbling image. Holding out my hands to receive my daily bread was moving. I emphasized that we have received seed and as we put that seed to good use, the supplier of our seed will cause our supply of seed to multiply.

How do we play this out? One small way we are doing it is by bringing canned food items with us to each communion service which we then donate to the local food bank. Hanging from the arms of the cross in front of our sanctuary are plastic grocery bags filled with food for the poor: a powerful icon with the heart of Thanksgiving in front of our corporate face! May our celebrations in lieu of justice form us into prophetic extensions and voices against injustice.



Susan Price said...

Thank you, Mark, for sharing your thoughts with us. I appreciate your openness, and vulnerability.

I used to have long discussions with my late father about topics like "Manifest Destiny" and "Survival of the Fittest." We did not think alike on these issues. They simply did not line up with things that I was reading in my Bible, and what I now recognize as the promptings of the Holy Spirit regarding "the least of these," and "walking humbly before your God."

My class this year is studying the thirteen original colonies in US History. One day the chapter we studied spoke of the Pilgrims' slaughtering Indians. When they related their victory to their pastor, Mr. Robinson(?) he responded along the lines that it would have been better to give them the Gospel. We had an interesting discussion about that.

I wonder how many of the Waodani Tribe of Ecuador would today be in the Kingdom of God if the Saints, Eliots, and other families had gone in with cannons and guns and killed those whom were involved in the murders of those five missionary men?

RC said...

Great reflection! I love imagining the plastic grocery bags filled with food for the poor hanging from the arms of the cross in front of your sanctuary! I'm grateful that hearts in our community are moved in these ways. Your sharing with us strengthens all our hearts in our capacity to "care." Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I love that you chose to use the word "Eucharist" in this post. The basic canon for mass and celebration of Holy Communion recalls Christ at table with his disciples. In the rehearsal of the story, we say that he commands them to do these things "in remembrance" of him. The interesting thing about that tern "remembrance" is that the Greek is "anamnesis"--and active NOT FORGETTING. It is active, because it is the antithesis of forgetting (anti-amnesia).
When we celebrate the offering of Christ, we are a party to drawing all of human suffering into the act of consecration, and offer it to the Body of Christ to be made new in the Imago Dei.
God bless you for being part of that work. Peace.

living stones said...

Mark, I'm glad you wrote about your Thanksgiving Eucharist. I deeply appreciated the practical and creative way you helped your church community share--plastic bags hung from the crucifix and filled with food for the hungry.
You described it as "a powerful icon with the heart of Thanksgiving in front of our corporate face." I am betting it is as image they will remember--I think I will,too.

Blessings, Anna

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