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The Pastor’s Pen                               November 22, 2017

And when Jesus had given thanks, he broke it (the bread) and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 

I Corinthians 11:24 NRSV

Last year’s Thanksgiving was awful for a whole bunch of people. Fresh from the Presidential elections earlier that month, families weren’t speaking with one another, feelings had been hurt, emotion’s ran high. It wasn’t the first time in American history when this was so. I can only imagine the conversations that took place around dining tables during the Civil War when brothers served on opposite sides, or during Vietnam, when so many fathers who had fought for their country in World War II struggled to understand the pacifism of their long-haired hippie sons. Daughters were not immune from these struggles or conversations, as everyone sought common ground and the good-will of family.

This year will be better, yet as one person said to me just today, “Thanksgiving is complicated.” Perhaps a better word is “fraught”. Families and friends gather with a deep desire to connect with one another over food and fellowship, to play games and enjoy conversations. We’ve grown unaccustomed to facing one another across tables for more than a few minutes, more often sharing a quick bite to eat, a text, an email. Then here we are on Thanksgiving, the day sprawling before us in the company of complicated relationships with those we love, or perhaps at some large gathering with strangers we’ve just met.

Gratitude manages to bridge the complications of fraught relationships and transcend the greatest of divides. This may be Thanksgiving’s greatest miracle. This week of Thanksgiving feasts, celebrated on varying days depending on when everybody can get together, focuses rightly on the feast of family, the feast of friendship, and the feast of life. The greater our challenges, the deeper our gratitude that we’ve made it thus far.

Every day was Thanksgiving for Jesus. When breaking bread with friends, he gave thanks. When the crowds were hungry and the day grew long, he gave thanks. When his friend Lazarus was reported to have died, Jesus gave thanks to God for the gift of life before bidding his friend to rise. At every turn, Jesus prayed, getting up before first light, going off to a lonely place to pray, slipping through the crowd after a long day of work, teaching, and healing suffering people.

Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, whatever day you celebrate it, with whomever you break bread, take a page from Jesus’ playbook. Give thanks for your messy, fraught relationships and sometimes complicated life. When the conversation gets stuck or teeters towards disaster, look one another in the eye and tell them how much you love them, and how appreciative you are that they are in your life. By the grace of God, that will be sufficient to see you safely through the pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving Blessing: Go your way, to the streets where you live, to tables of plenty richly laden with the feast of friendship, the feast of family, and the feast of life. Give thanks in all circumstances and above all, love one another. Give thanks.

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,

Pastor Anna V. Copeland