Thoughts for Thanksgiving Day

Today is our American holiday celebrating food - Thanksgiving. We give thanks for all of our many blessings and celebrate by eating lots of food. Thanksgiving is not about gifts nor does it celebrate a saint. For most of us, it’s simply a feast.

We celebrate this feast by eating a feast. By eating our favorite foods, comfort foods like green bean casserole or sweet potatoes with marshmallows, pecan pie, turkey and cornbread dressing.  Or perhaps eating exotic variations of the traditional Thanksgiving feast - deep fried turkey with oyster dressing, jalapeno cornbread and curried carrot soup, turkey with poblano mole sauce.

The readings for today are certainly apt. Joel says, do not fear, for God makes it rain and causes the trees and vines to bear fruit and that vats will overflow with wine and oil and the threshing floors shall be full of grain. Everyone will eat in that time and place of overflowing plenty and be well satisfied.

The letter to Timothy reminds us to give thanks for everyone.

And Jesus reminds us (in one of my all-time favorite passages) not to worry about our lives, about what we will eat or drink or what we will wear.  He asks us to consider the birds of the air who neither sow nor reap and the lilies of the field which neither toil or spin and yet are given blessings beyond measure. Not even Solomon in all his glory is clothed as one of these.

How much more will God provide for us, the God who knows our needs, Jesus asks? So why should we worry about our lives when worrying will not add a single hour to our span of life? Why don’t we simply have faith that God will provide?

And friends, we do have all that we need. 

Now, I am glad that the letter to Timothy is included, reminding us to give thanks for everyone. Although I note that the letter focuses on the upper rungs of the ladder once it gets specific.

But I kind of wish a reading from the Letter of James had been included instead. The part where James says, “What good is it, brothers and sisters, if a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”

Friends, we have all been provided for. We have all that we need and more.

But there are others who do not. And I wonder how God is going to provide for them?

Last Friday, I was on a subway car in Manhattan, returning to my hotel after a sumptuous lunch with some other church people who wrote sermons and reflections for a book that is being sold to benefit homeless ministries in New Jersey.  That book is called “Hungry, and You Fed Me.”  I was full and thankful for the food and the company and for my many blessings. I was well satisfied.

And a woman on the train was holding a child and a sign that said she needed help. She asked us all to help her.  But of course everyone looked the other way as she passed by.

And I remember what Teresa of Avila said, that God has no hands and feet in this world but our hands and feet. If God is going to provide for that woman (unless we think that Jesus didn’t mean her when he spoke those words we read today), then it has to be through our hands. 

I was relieved to see, as I got off the train, a group of people on the platform pulling a wagon filled with sandwiches and water bottles and juice. A subway feeding ministry. Those were the hands and feet of God who made those sandwiches and pulled that wagon.

And then I was over at Food Lion the other night, buying canned goods to be blessed at our Thanksgiving Eve service at church and taken two local outreach ministries here in town. The grocery store had a display of boxes already filled with food to be donated to local feeding ministries. 

You didn’t even have to shop, just give the clerk $5 and the store would deliver the boxes for you.  But the clerk told me that not many people were buying them this year. Still, she had thought that the week of Thanksgiving would be a good time to put the boxes out when so many were shopping for their own feasts and her thanks to those customers who did buy them were filled with genuine gratitude.

There were the hands and feet of God there at the Food Lion attached to a young woman making minimum wage.

This is a land of plenty, and yet we have so many in our own community and across this great land of ours who lack food and clothing and shelter.

Do not worry, says Jesus, about what you will wear and what you will eat. 

But perhaps we might, this Thanksgiving, worry about what someone else is going to wear and what someone else is going to eat. God will provide, but as James says, what is the good of wishing someone in great need “peace” and telling them to be filled with God’s food and to keep warm with what God provides if we do not feed and clothe them ourselves? 

God has no hands and feet in this world but our hands and feet. And so on this Thanksgiving, let us give thanks for what we have, for all our blessings, and enjoy our feasts, and use our gifts to provide for others from God’s abundance to us.

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.


Ray Barnes said…
Happy Thanksgiving Penny. I like the balance you arrive at in your post.
"God has no hands and feet in this world, except ours", is very well worded I think.
It is very easy to say "God will provide" and to forget that his way of providing is to make providers of all of us.
Thanks for this.
Thank you, Ray! I am giving thanks for all my blogging friends today, especially you!