I begin these thoughts on the meaning or state of thanksgiving in 2013 by looking at the world around us.
I am not sure that we, today, understand the true story of the first Thanksgiving so many years ago or how it has come to be institutionalized and commercialized. We want our turkey, our football, our parades, and our sales. We don’t want to be bothered by the problems of the country or the world.
So I can’t help but think that there isn’t a whole lot to be thankful for this morning. I can’t help but think that the world is not in that great a shape right now. For every move towards peace, there seems to be at least one and sometimes two moves away from peace.
I can’t help but think that the United Methodist Church, a denomination that was one of those agencies of peace some two hundred and fifty years ago, is about to tear itself apart because the thinking of so many people is lost in time between then and now.
I see a society that is beginning to lose its ability to think creatively and analytically. We have so over-tested our children that there will be no hope of ever sparking creativity in them. And then there will be no one able to solve the problems we face, both that we know about and those that haven’t even appeared yet.
And we are going to have to make some hard decisions about how we treat this world we live in and on pretty soon; otherwise we are going to reach a point where all of the decisions that we have made in the past will not be correctable. We will have polluted the air and the water so much that it will be impossible to clean them; we will added so much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere that even those who deny climate change can occur will be forced to admit that the climate has changed. But then it will be too late.
We still have people who feel that power is gained through the gun and/or economic status, who will do whatever it takes to insure that they never loose that power. I am thankful that there are those like Pope Francis who quietly and gently point out that is not the walk of Christ. Perhaps in the coming days, more people will begin to speak out as he has and more people will begin to listen and society will begin to change. And that gives me hope.
And so, on this Thanksgiving, 2013, as I look forward to a thanksgiving day dinner that can’t be beat (and perhaps listen to Arlo Guthrie tell the story of “Alice’s Restaurant” one more time), I have a lot to be thankful for.
I look at where my family and I are today and where we have been for the past few years. To put it bluntly, we discovered a eleventh level of Sheol. Yes, I know Dante only wrote about ten levels but that is how bad it has been.
We are not where we need to be but we are moving up and for that I am extremely thankful. There are still some issues of health and finances that have to be resolved but things are a little bit better and I hope that they improve over the coming months.
I am thankful that there are creative people out there in the world, who understand the gifts that they have been given by their Creator and are using them in the manner that they are intended, for good and to seek peace, justice, and equality. This is perhaps the toughest task we as a civilization face because there are so many people who are willing to accept mediocrity as the best that can be achieved and who are unwilling but not unable to do more.
As long as there is one spark of hope in a world of darkness, there is always the chance that change can occur. As long as there is one little little glowing in the darkness, the message of peace will shine.
I would hope that today, as you pause to give thanks, that you will pause and begin to think about how you what you can to do to work toward peace, justice, and equality. That way, the thanks that you give next year will be greater and the world will say thanks as well.