Thursday, November 24, 2011

Daily Office Reflection: Thanksgiving Day, 2011

MP: Psalm 147; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; John 6:26-35
EP: Psalm 145; Joel 2:21-27; 1 Thess 5:12-24

Growing up, Thanksgiving was my mother's side of the family's turn, descending on our house for cocktails and a huge meal. 3:00 in the afternoon was the appointed arrival time and I can remember waking up to the sounds and smells of cooking coming from the kitchen, Mom and Dad being up early to start the prepartions: turkey in the oven early, pealing potatoes, cutting turnips (hard to do!), pealing onions, setting the table, cleaning the house, getting appetizers ready and the bar prepped, moving furniture around in the living room and dining room so everyone could fit. All this going on with the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on in the background, phone calls from relatives unable to make the get-together but wanting to be there in spirit, and eventually the string of football games, in the background, that pervade this day.

A tremendous amount of food and work, all given in thanks, although it took me a long while to figure that out. Growing up, this day was all about family, and of course eating. Historically this day has its roots in traditions from early settlers of this country, and their thanksgiving for the success of their harvests. As we have matured, our understanding of those settlers' actions, and our own country's treatment of those who were here before us and were aggressively pushed out of our forbearers' way, has helped in making this holiday more about family then thanksgiving for harvest. In addition, our society and culture have moved beyond our agrarian past, allowing these traditions, like today's, to continue on, with different meanings for many.

Our faith journey can very much mirror this maturing of how we understand this national holiday. Many start their faith lives with a literalist understanding of our faith. Some never leave the seeming comfort of that simplistic approach. Many simply walk away because they believe, and have been told, that there is no other way to have faith and belief in our Triune God. Yet there is a far richer understanding, a deeper conversation that can alter how we see, appreciate and understand Scripture and our faith. Almost any kind of literalistic approach in life shutters us from deeper perceptions and meanings and these narrow understandings quite often lead to abusive treatment and the creation of barriers between people.

We can give thanksgiving for complexity, and the richness seeming contradictions give our lives and our faith. We can give thanksgiving for a God whose very complexity begs us to live into the richness of a life-long conversation with each other about these scriptural contradictions, with our Triune God right in the middle of all those discussions.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: P-Town Harbor, 2006, jfd+

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