Thanksgiving is upon us and this preacher wonders what can be said. Biblical faith calls for us to give thanks in all times and places. But the mood seems different this year. Everywhere I look there seems to be division. Our poor old Church is wearing itself into what my mother would have called “a frazzle,” as we try to decide how to keep our Ship of Faith together.
Meanwhile the nation is sorely divided and seems to be sliding into a dysfunctional state. Perhaps the National Day of Thanksgiving can help. A word to unify is needed.
In another time, the nation and the world were caught up in an unthinkable war. But then a great leader emerged. He spoke of four freedoms:
Freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
That president, a terribly crippled and ill person, found his voice at a critical moment; and an artist, Norman Rockwell, painted four pictures, and there was the renewal of hope in a troubled land.
Freedom from wan
t inspired the artist to present the loaded thanksgiving table with good food, the gathering of family, and friends, somehow a connection was made. The table was not perfect, it was white and critics found other faults too, but the speech inspired the artist to envision a call for thanksgiving.
In the church where I worship, each Tuesday evening as our free clinic opens, we have a meal for the community. Those who come reflect the diversity of the city — those who are left out of the American dream — and some churches.
Table fellowship is, or should be, our oldest model for worship. Regardless of what the National World Church decides, our congregation will be about the business to ensure freedom from want, from fear, opportunity to speak, and a special place for those who live in the shadows.
At our house, the phone will ring or the email will ding — it will be good friend Natalie, “Can you bring a hot dish for 50?” It seems mundane and far from leaders gathered to decide the fate of a denomination.
One has to understand friend Natalie. When our free clinic opened five years ago, she went to see the local restaurant owners to say, “Give us food for Tuesday and you can send your uninsured employees over to the free clinic.” One shop, a French bakery, now gives their wonderful bread and baked goods each Tuesday. The word is out: the poor can have French cuisine at Grace Church and one can also find a warm coat for free.
Natalie is an investigator for the Human Rights Commission, and, along with assuring freedom from want, also fights for the f
reedom to resist. S
he is tireless in seeking justice for all.
I do wonder how Rockwell would paint that picture.
Such doings were first born at a table for the dispossessed, where one took the cup and the bread and spoke the historic word: “Take, eat, and know that you are free.” Yes, free to resist all who would limit who sits at the table. Table fellowship for everyone is a powerful act. It is an invitation to resist all who would limit freedom. Give thanks — resist!
Lord Jesus Christ, heavenly host, you who prepare a table before us, give us imagination and courage to resist all who would limit access to your table. Amen