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Deadlines being what they are, I’m writing this Thanksgiving piece on gratitude long before the bird’s in the oven, the potatoes have been mashed and the pumpkin pies are cooling on the wire racks. The hardest part is putting fingers to keyboard without those olfactory cues. Nonetheless, it’s not difficult to reach inside a grateful heart, as we do every year at this time, and thank God for being alongside us on the journey.
The Thanksgiving narrative many Americans learned in school and celebrate each year is a destructive myth, said the Rev. Irv Porter in a webinar offered on Monday. Porter is the Associate for Native American Intercultural Congregational Support in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The webinar was offered as a part of Native American Heritage Month, which occurs each November.
Many cultures around the world celebrate a harvest festival. Here in the United States, Thanksgiving represents that feast to celebrate the fruitful harvest. Steeped in the piety of early Americans, the hallmark of the holiday was an outpouring of praise to God for the abundant harvest — for life itself.
A common table prayer opens with “O Lord, make us truly thankful for that which we are about to receive …”
Some Presbyterian congregations are changing the Thanksgiving script to make it a more truthful and culturally healing narrative.
Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One …
The children practiced their song repeatedly in the fellowship hall. The adults, gathered in the kitchen assembling Thanksgiving food baskets, didn’t mind listening to them. It had been a while since the struggling church heard children’s voices within its walls. The sound not only brought smiles to wrinkled faces, but a few tears as well to cataract eyes.
Behind the admittedly corny saying that graces many a collectable coffee mug, “Ministers never retire, but are simply put out to pastor,” there lies a grain of truth — retiring church workers face some very real challenges.
A couple years ago, at our family Thanksgiving gathering at my sister’s house in Virginia, I brought a variety of blank notecards, envelopes and stamps.
I asked each person in the family — young and old — to write a note to themselves and to include anything they wanted: joys and concerns, thoughts about our get-together, goals for the year ahead — anything at all. I explained that I would keep the notes for a year before dropping them in the mail. “It will be a surprise when you receive your note back,” I said. “You’ll recognize the handwriting and remember you wrote the note to yourself last Thanksgiving.”
When I go to the gym and get on a treadmill, I sneak a look at the people around me. Who are they? How fast are they going? How steep an incline is their machine set at? Then I compare myself to one of them. Am I going faster? Is my incline steeper? Lately, it often seems that I’m much slower than my gym neighbors. They have better numbers showing on their machines.
From the rising of the sun in the east to its setting in the west, you have blessed us with life, family, food from creation and spiritual ways drawing us closer to you.