A Day for Thanksliving
November 20, 2022: Ingathering Sunday
The Rev’d. Dr. Gretchen S. Grimshaw
Trinity Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, CT
I love Thanksgiving. It has always been among my favorite holidays.
It is the holiday that is strictly reserved for food and fellowship. No gifts to wrap. No presents to buy. No apologies or excuses or consternation about what to give whom.
We all know from the get-go what to give whom.
It’s Thanksgiving. The holiday of thanks giving.
The only holiday reserved especially and exclusively for our expression of gratitude to God for God’s grace.This is the only holiday devoted to the goodness of God that is not denominational.
The only religious holiday (for those of us who consider it a religious holiday)
that I can celebrate in earnest with my friends of all faiths.
I especially love sharing Thanksgiving with my friends from around the world.
Because although Thanksgiving is historically an American holiday, I think it is fundamentally a human holiday. For there is no one on the face of God’s gracious earth who does not have something for which they can be thankful. No one. No matter how trying our circumstances. No matter what pain or sorrow we are enduring.We have all tasted the sweet miracle of life but by the grace of God.
Every one of us is a pilgrim. And we travel each day at God’s pleasure.
Every life is a pilgrim’s process. And every pilgrim’s progress is a gift from God.
Long or short, our lives are God’s works of art. God’s miracles.
Even Cicero, the ancient pagan orator, called gratitude the mother of all virtues, the most capital of all duties. Cicero used the words grateful and good synonymously; inseparably united in character.
And so, long before the dawn of our common era, the great thinkers of the day knew that living a “good life”, was somehow wrapped up in living a grateful life.
Even when gratitude is at a premium. Yesterday was the burial service for our beloved warden Becky’s nephew Andrew and unborn grandniece Elizabeth. Both lost their lives in a horrible car accident less than two weeks ago just down the road from here. And so I have been thinking a lot about grief and gratitude as we approach our feast of thanksgiving.
Is gratitude a relevant virtue in the midst of abject suffering and grief?
It’s a question we might all have asked over the last couple of pandemic laden years.
Does gratitude have a place in our grief? And I think the answer is a resounding yes! Gratitude is not only relevant in the midst of grief, it might be the most holy response to grief, and maybe to all forms of suffering.
Because gratitude is the realization and the acknowledgement that we are not in control.
Unlike anger, which rests on the notion that we should have some control,
Gratitude accepts that we are contingent. That we are dependent on forces beyond our ken or capability. And so the mere fact that we have had life in the first place must make us grateful from our core.
And so gratitude may well be the most helpful response to grief.
The best way to cope with loss is to remember with thankful hearts what we had to lose, and what we have left. To identify the empty tomb in the midst of our despair.
And to begin to appreciate and claim whatever new life and love arises out of the ashes of our sorrow.
I think gratitude is the holy response to grief.
Gratitude is thanksgiving.
The word thanksgiving is used over 200 times in the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. And it is integral to the texture and the essence of the right relationship between human beings and God, in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.
Psalm 50 says “Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me.”
Thanksgiving is the premier offering, and the precursor for going along the “right way” to God.
Which is why from the time of Cicero and the Hebrew Scriptures,
gratitude has been characterized as the apriori condition to living a “good” life,
as oxygen is apriori to living a biological life.
That is to say, it is impossible to live a good life without living gratefully…without living with thanksgiving. We could call it thanksliving.
It is no surprise that in the New Testament, the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucrivstia. Eucharist. The Greek word for thanksgiving is the central act of Christian worship.
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we literally celebrate Thanksgiving.
And, as we all know, the origin of the Eucharist was the last supper,
where Jesus, enjoying food and fellowship with his disciples, offered thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving is our most holy Christian expression of our communion with God.
And so for we Christians, the Last Supper was the first Thanksgiving.
And thanksgiving begins with appreciation.
Appreciation is the feeling of thankfulness.
Appreciate is from the Latin ad pretium, which literally means to add (ad) value (pretium).
To appreciate something is to add to its value. When we appreciate something, we increase its worth.
So when we are thankful for God’s gifts, when we appreciate them, we are actually enhancing their value.
Now that is an awesome concept.
To think that the value of God’s gifts can be increased by the way in which they are received. To think that I, a broken, bruised, flawed, fractured, frightened, fledgling featherless bi-ped
can add value to the incredible gifts that God alone has bestowed. That I, that you, that we have a hand in the quality of our blessings. How great is that?! And how daunting!
And yet, thanksgiving is not a cursory, perfunctory, obligatory act
that we are programmed to perform so that we may remain in God’s good graces. It is not good business. It is not good manners.
True thanksgiving is neither a reflex nor a requirement.
It is rather a freely offered critical and crucial completion of the creative process. We complete the process by appreciating the value of God’s creation.
We increase the value of the creation when we give our thanks.
Without our appreciation, the gifts of God cannot realize their full potential.
Wow! Gratitude is that powerful!
When we are truly thankful, with our whole beings, with our full completment of resources and gifts, We become, in the words of Richard Hooker, one of the 17th century fathers of Anglicanism, “associates of Deity.” By appreciating the gifts of God we become partners in the process.
We are needed by God to glorify God’s gifts. The fullness of God’s grace is, to some degree, in our hands.
It is no accident that our Ingathering Sunday is perched just before Thanksgiving.
It’s a day when we as a community give thanks for the blessing of our little corner of the Jesus movement that we call Trinity Church in Brooklyn.
The tradition of an ingathering sabbath dates back as far as we can remember in our faith tradition.
Our Jewish foreparents celebrated their good lives by bringing a portion of their harvest, God’s harvest, to the Temple at the end of every growing season.
It was a way of acknowledging with a substantial sacrifice of their harvest,
the deep spiritual value of their common life as a community of faithful souls.
Our scripture teaches us from the very start of Genesis, that sacrifice is the proper response to gratitude.
So today we offer our pledges of personal sacrifice, of time, talent and treasure to this beloved community of God. Today we can put some teeth into our thanksgiving. To turn our thanksgiving into thanksliving.
To offer whatever we have to offer to the glory of God and God’s purposes through the work and companionship that makes this parish such a special sanctuary in our weary and broken world.
I want to close with a poem I wrote in honor of Lancelot Addrewes.
One of the founders of Anglican spirituality.
Lancelot Adrewes is famous for his book and habits of devotions.
He is said to have prayed with abject thanksgiving at least five hours every day. Unless he was really busy. On those days thanked God in prayer for 7 hours.
A Thanksgiving Day Poem Dedicated to Lancelot Andrewes
We lift our hearts unto the Lord. We bow our heads in praise. Through hope and disappointment, with all ends and means and ways, Every day, and every moment, with each breath, and every blink, Everywhere, in every cranny, in the heart and on the br ink,
In all times and in all places, in the rare and the routine,
In antiquity, eternity and all that’s in between;
For our coming and our going, for our work and for our rest,
In our rising and our falling, feeling cursed or feeling blessed;
With glee, and joy, and gladness, with respect and awe and praise,
For compassion and forgiveness, through our trespass and malaise; Through our angst and our elation , when we’re brilliant or a fool,
For curiosity, commitment, creativity and cool;
For the whole of your vast heaven, and the fullness of your earth,
For community and family, and membership at birth;
For the warp and woof of nature, for the yin and yang of time,
For the order of the universe, its meter and its rhyme;
For lavender, and chartreuse, for bashful, bright, and bold,
For summer squash, and autumn leaves, and snow and marigolds;
For every mole and freckle, every sniff and every snore,
For every rotten wrinkle, every follicle and pore;
For every living thing, every fern and every fungus,
Every being, every beetle, Lord, for everything amongus;
Within, around, above, below, beside, beneath, between,
For everything for evermore we’ve ever never seen,
We’re humbled and we’re grateful; with our lives we sing your praise. And we’ll thank you from our toe bottoms for all our blessed days.
God bless our Thanksgiving!
© November, 2022 The Rev’d. Dr. Gretchen Sanders Grimshaw