This year, an unwelcome presence looms large over all of our Thanksgivings. Oh, how I long for those childhood thanksgivings when the only unwelcome presence at Thanksgiving was the brussels sprouts, which thanks to my Mom, always managed to make their way onto my plate. If only the coronavirus was as easy to deal with as brussels sprouts. As a child, I became quite adept at swallowing those little suckers whole so that I didn’t have to bit into them and have their flavor invade my senses. I’d take one look at the obligatory brussels sprouts on my pate, take a deep breath, and pop them in my mouth and down they went, one at a time. Fortunately, my Mom was a cook from a different generation who always boiled vegetables into mush. So, there was no fear of choking on a whole soggy brussels sprout.
This Thanksgiving, the unwelcome presence of a global pandemic, is keeping us from gathering together in our homes with family and friends. Most of us will sit down with only the people we live with, no invited guests, no visiting family, no large tables, filled to overflowing with loved ones. Small turkeys rather than large turkeys were all the rage in the grocery stores this week. Over Zoom, I have heard people lament the empty spaces which will dominate their Thanksgiving celebrations.
Like the lepers who failed to give thanks for their healing, some of us may even be tempted to give Thanksgiving a miss this year. I know, I know, we do indeed have so very much to be thankful for. A small turkey is better than no turkey. A small gathering is better than no gathering. The lingering presence of COVID is better than having COVID. We are so very richly blessed! We have so very much to be thankful for. We have roofs over our heads, food on our tables, technology to connect us, and most of us are healthy! We have the means to protect ourselves from the lingering presence of COVID and should we find ourselves testing positive, we are blessed to live in a country where our medical needs will be met. In a world-wide pandemic, Canadians are blessed to have the odds in our favour.
We have so very much to be thankful for. We ought to be among the first to offer our thanks and praise. I suspect, if the questions I’ve received from some of you over the course of this week leading up to Thanksgiving are anything to go by, I suspect that some of us may be keeping company with the nine lepers who failed to offer thanks and praise to “God.” This Thanksgiving is much like other Thanksgivings, when folks have asked me a perplexing question: “How or to whom do progressives give their thanks?” Over the years many of us have moved beyond the old images which personified the DIVINE MYSTERY which we call “God” as a person, a super-hero kind of super-person.
Who am I kidding those old images personified “God” as an old-man in the sky who enjoyed various omini super-powers. This omni-god was omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent – all powerful, all knowing, always and everywhere present – sky-god is the same god which so many people conjure up when they tell me that they don’t believe in God.To which I usually reply, I don’t believe in the same god which you don’t believe in. This image of the DIVINE MYSTERY falls far short of the ONE in whom we live, and move, and have our being, the ONE who in IS BEING ITSELF.
So how or to whom do we give thanks and praise when we no longer think of God as a super-hero, up there, or out there, who functions as a kind of master puppeteer in the sky? I will admit that it is so much easier to say, “Thank-you” to a deity that we have personified than it is to give thanks to a deity which is BEYOND the BEYOND and BEYOND that also! Our thank-yous to the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being, tend to be expressed in words which are so much more awkward than simply saying, “Thank-you Father” or “Thank-you Lord” or even “Thank God.”
I’ve said it before many times. So, let me say this again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with personifying the MYSTERY which lies at the very heart of realty. Humans personify things, or entities that we have relationships with. Personification of stuff, or ideas, or entities beyond our ability to name or comprehend is a way of relating to what lies beyond our very selves. There is nothing wrong with personifying the DIVINE MYSTERY which we call “God” unless we forget that our personification is a personification and begin to worship it instead of the ONE who is BEYOND our personifications.
Let me say that again, because it is important: There is nothing wrong with personifying the DIVINE MYSTERY which we call “God” unless we forget that our personification is a personification and begin to worship it instead of the ONE who is BEYOND our personifications.
When it comes to the DIVINE MYSTERY which is the SOURCE of ALL BEING, language fails us. Even a simple “Thank God” begs the question as to what we mean by the word “God”. Sadly, when folks hear the word “God” all too often images of a supreme being, who demands our thanks and praise, comes to mind, and we find ourselves bowing before an idol of our own making.
Learning to love, the ONE who IS BEYOND the BEYOND, and BEYOND that also, with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, is a tall order. But it is nothing new to those, who since the beginning of time, have sought to move beyond the worship of idols. The ancient Greek noun for “god” is “theos;” we get our word theology from this – theology means words or ideas about “God.” the ancient Greek noun “theos” was derived from the Greek verb “theo” which means, “to flow.” Our ancestors described the DIVINE MYSTERY as the LIGHT which flows through all things.
Jesus’ life, his teachings, and his death, proclaim that “God is LOVE.” As followers of Jesus, surely, we can begin to understand the DIVINE SOURCE as the LOVE which flows through all things. Our language may fail us, so of late I have begun to express my thanks to the ONE who IS BEYOND words with the phrase, “Thanks be to ALL that is HOLY,” precisely because all things are in “God” and “God” is in all things. The word panentheism is used to describe the DIVINE in ways which try to capture the notion that everything is in “God” and “God” is in everything, while at the same time recognizing that “God” is more than the sum of everything. “God” is BEYOND the BEYOND, and BEYOND that also. Thanks be to ALL that IS HOLY!
As followers of Jesus, let us remember that the ONE Jesus called ABBA, is LOVE; this LOVE flows through all things. So, let our Thanksgiving celebrations open us to the realty of our many blessings and let those blessings flow through us. Let our thanksgivings give birth to gratitude as we gratefully respond to our blessings by embodying LOVE in the world.
May our “God” who is LOVE, flow in, with, through, and beyond us, so that everyone may know the LOVE in whom we live and move, and have our being by our love. Let them know who we are by our LOVE. Let us remember that LOVE flows both ways. Just as surely as our blessings flow through us, so too the pain of our sisters and brothers flows, for we are ONE. If the coronavirus teaches us anything, surely it reminds us that we are intimately connected one to another. Humanity is suffering and the balm which can sooth the pain which we are all in together, is the LOVE which lies at the very heart of ALL that IS, flowing in, with, through, and beyond us. Thanks be to ALL that IS HOLY!
Over the years, I learned to love brussels sprouts, when they are cooked properly. In the endless flow of this life, nothing stays the same, for life without change is death, which in and of itself is change. We are richly blessed. This year we may not be giving thanks for all the blessings we usually give thanks for. But we are still richly blessed. So, let us give thanks to ALL that IS HOLY!
Let the LOVE in which we live, and move, and have our being, flow in, with, through, and beyond us, now and forever. Thanks be to ALL that IS HOLY! Amen.
View the full THANKSGIVING Worship Service below