It Changes Everything
Updated: Nov 23, 2018
“Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love food. I know several folks who consider themselves “foodies” and take pride in their refined palates and rare ingredients. Not me. Anything edible will do. Give me something deep fried or filled with fat and I’m happy. This may be one reason Thanksgiving rates at the top of my list. Who doesn’t love any giant food orgy where you eat as much as you can of all sorts of gluten and sugar filled dishes? Take that health food police.
Of course, the food is nice, really nice, but the most important part of the day is the time we take to be with family and friends. We set aside a few hours to sit down with loved ones and break bread together. The decorations and all the other “stuff” surrounding other holidays don’t seem to invade Thanksgiving. Unlike Christmas and the pressure of the perfect gift, the “just right” decorations, multiple weeks of services, concerts, parties and other events surrounding that holiday season, Thanksgiving is about gathering and sharing. The fact that the turkey is dry (again) or we forget the pecan pie doesn’t really seem to matter so much. A little extra gravy or an extra slice of pumpkin pie cover up the perceived imperfections. After all, we are together.
It’s as if thanks and presence change everything-the way we schedule and order our day, treat others, see the world around-everything. Hmmmmm, maybe there is something to all of this.
The reading above from Luke’s gospel about the last supper doesn’t seem to fit Thanksgiving. Jesus is preparing for his own passion and crucifixion, and trying to get his friends ready for the same. And yet, our Lord takes the time to give thanks. He shows patience in sitting down and spending time with those he loves. He does the same thing at other important, often urgent and difficult times. He gives thanks before feeding the five thousand (John 6:11). He gives thanks before the healing and resurrection of his friend Lazarus (John 11:41). These and other examples from his ministry show times when it would have been easy to get caught up in the urgency of the need, the task at hand and the “doing” of whatever needed to be done. But Jesus first gives his presence; gathers around real people and gives thanks to God.
I heard a story recently about an Episcopal priest and mother who recounts when she first heard about the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. She was devastated and in tears. She wondered what she could do. Her young son came into the room and wanted to show her his costume for Halloween. He was going as one of the wacky, wavy, blow-up inflatable’s you see in front of used car lots all over town. He flopped into the room, flailing and falling all over. She smiled through the tears and thought, “This is what I can do.” In the midst of the trials and travails of a broken world and her own life, she could stop, give thanks and take the time to be with one she loved.
We have so much to do. We have tasks to accomplish and things to “be” in this life. But we are never too busy or important to stop, truly be present with others and give thanks. When we do, we follow Jesus. It changes our vision and softens our hearts. It calls God into our midst and ultimately becomes a way of life.