Lectionary 34.5(Thanksgiving Eve) – November 24, 2020
Faith Lutheran Church
Grace to you all and peace from God our creator, and our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Thanksgiving, as a holiday in the United States traces its beginning back to October 1621. Since that time, the holiday of was celebrated on and off up through 1942, when Franklin D Roosevelt signed an act of congress into law which placed Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving is a holiday for many when they gather together with family members and share a festive meal. A feast that for many of us, I would guess includes turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, and some type of pie–For me that would be Pumpkin, though I respect those who go the pecan route.
And this meal, eaten with those we are close to, typically has leftovers which are shared and consumed in the days following the gathering. The food that is shared continues to be feed beyond that first meal.
Yet, giving thanks was not an invention from the United States, but came from long before then. And as Christians, this is a story that we are familiar with. It is a story that we remember every time we gather around this table.
Every time we gather around the meal at this table, we celebrate thanksgiving. In fact, the English word Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eucharisteo, which means “to give thanks.”
Followers of Christ have participated in giving thanks since the earliest days of the church. One of the first records of what church “looked like” was written down by a man named Justin Martyr. As I share Justin’s description of the earliest Christian gatherings, I encourage you to consider how similar our worship is today, almost 1900 years later.
He writes, “And on the day named after the Sun all whether they live in the city or the countryside, are gathered together in unity. Then the records of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read for as long as there is time. When the reader has concluded, the presider in a discourse admonishes and invites us into a pattern of these good things. Then we all stand together and offer prayer, bread is set out to eat, together with wine and water. The presider likewise offers up prayer and thanksgiving, as much as he can, and the people sing out their assent saying the amen. There is a distribution of the things over which thanks have been said and each person participates, and these things are sent by the deacons to those who are not present.”
Giving tanks is part of our DNA as followers of Christ, beginning with those earliest believers, and continuing on through today.
Yet this giving thanks that is part of our Christian heritage means more than giving thanks for what we have received. In our reading from 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes that “by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” And the early church exemplified this by ensuring that when they gathered together, that the meal they shared was sent out to those who were not present among them for worship.
The early church was marked by a radical sharing of economic resources for the good of all people. And it is worth nothing that Paul did not make distinctions between who was deserving or undeserving of receiving generosity, but only that giving generously to those in need is a way to give thanks to God.
Yet, it can be hard to feel any ability to give thanks at times in our lives when it seems like the whole world is working against us. Yet it is in those times precisely when the world seems to be working against us that God’s presence in our lives is something to celebrate.
One example is our sending Hymn today, Now Thank we all our God, which was written by Pastor Martin Rinkart as a table grace during the Thirty Years War that devastated all of Europe. His wife had died of the pestilence and he wrote this for his children. The hymn affirms that we, along with Pastor Rinkart and his children, are on the receiving end of God’s goodness even in the most dire of circumstances.
Dear people, this thanksgiving we can name that all is not ok with the world. We can name that the struggles we are facing, be they with health, or work, or school, or anything else are real, and are not how they should be. Yet we can also remember that as followers of Christ, our call is to work for the realization of the Beloved community that desired by Christ that is only possible as a gift of God. And for that, it is indeed right, our duty and our joy, that we should at all times, and all places, give thanks and praise to God. Amen.