Thanksgiving Day 2012
Persistence in Faith
Good morning and happy Thanksgiving. It's good to see all of you here this early for a
holiday morning. Actually, its not really that early; the Brotherhood of St. Andrew met
at 7:00 this morning, as we do every Thursday. We enjoyed pancakes, bacon, coffee and
orange juice, and we opened the meeting with the General Thanksgiving found on page
836 in the Book of Common Prayer, which begins, “Accept, O Lord, our thanks and
praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which
surrounds us on every side.” Think about that. Do we ever pause and truly comprehend
all that God has done for us: the splendor of creation, the beauty of this world, the
wonder of life, the mystery of love, family, friends and loving care. A month ago, I went
to Colorado to visit my son. As I drove from Denver to Telluride, I was in awe of the
snow covered mountains framed against the brilliant blue sky, the rock formations in
Glenwood Canyon, the engineering feat of designing and building the highway and
tunnels through those mountains and canyons, the incredibly beautiful landscape and,
then, upon arriving, the warm embrace from a son I hadn't seen in over a year. How
could I not thank God for such blessings?
Our readings this morning are about appreciating our blessings and then, sharing them.
Speaking of blessings, I thought our service Sunday before last, pledge Sunday, with
almost every family in the parish coming up to place their pledge for next year on the
altar, was very moving. It seemed to me there was much more happening than just
committing to give money. The Holy Spirit was definitely present. Now, before looking
at the readings more closely, let's digress for a minute to consider some animal theology.
First, there is Dog Theology, which goes like this: “You feed me. You pet me. You
shelter me. You love me. You must be God!” Then there is Cat Theology, which says,
“You feed me. You pet me. You shelter me. You love me. I must be God.” Finally,
there is Squirrel Theology, which can be summed up in one word, NUTS, N, U, T, S,
which stands for Never Underestimate The Squirrel. You know about squirrels, how no
matter what you do, you cannot keep them from getting the seed in your bird feeder.
They use all their attributes to get what they want: they dig in with their toes, they
balance precariously, they use their tails like anchors, and they use their front paws like
a surgeon's skilled hands. They are very persistent.
So, how does being like a squirrel relate to us this morning? Well, most of us don't have
to worry about getting enough seed to eat. In fact, today, many of us will eat far too
much. We will say grace and give thanks for all that we are about to partake, but will
then partake of two to three times as much as we ought to because it tastes so good. As
we read in Deuteronomy, “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the
good land that he has given you.” But, are we as persistent as a squirrel? While
encouraging us to appreciate our blessings, our Gospel reading also tells us to not worry.
Going back to the General Thanksgiving, it says, “We thank you for setting us at tasks
which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and
delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to
acknowledge our dependence on you alone.”
However, we are only human. We get anxious and we worry. Sometimes our faith is
tested because, rather than relying on God, we strain to be in control. I can certainly
relate to that. 20 years ago I thought I was in control of my life. Then I went through an
ordeal that lasted nearly nine years, a nightmare that, at the time, seemed like an eternity.
At various times during my ordeal I would think and say to God, I thought you would
rescue me, keep me from having to endure this pain. He didn't, but, fortunately, I never
lost my faith in God's love for me. My faith sustained me, gave me strength to keep
from being totally swallowed by despair. I learned that God allows good and bad into
our lives and that we can trust Him with both. I learned that trusting God when the
miracle you have prayed for does not come, when it seems there is only darkness, that is
the kind of persistent faith that believes God loves us, hears our prayers and knows what
I am reminded of a prayer I came across during those difficult days, a prayer written in
1935 by the Rev. William Massie, Pastor of an AME church in Jacksonville, Florida. I'd
like to read it for you now.
“Lord; keep me from all bitterness, I pray. In these perplexing days of doubts and strain,
when courage fails and faith and hope grow dim, Oh, let me not complain.
Oh, save me from the ever-haunting fear that clutches my heart with wild demands, that
chills my love, that paralyzes faith, that blinds my eyes to all God's plans.
Lord; let me not feel pity for myself, but go my way with laughter and good cheer; with
head held high and eye and heart aglow, with strength to scorn each tear.
Let me not feel that I alone do suffer. I would not doubt the wisdom of God's plan; the
world has ever groaned and sought release from pain, since time began.
So let me face the future unafraid. Today is good: tomorrow taunts with fear. Tomorrow
I shall find but God's today to prove anew His presence near.”
So, let's be persistent like a squirrel. Or, as in the words of The Amplified New
Testament, “Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have
to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear?
For the heathens wish for and crave and diligently seek after these things; and your
heavenly Father well knows that you need them all. But seek for and strive after first of
all His kingdom and His righteousness, His way of doing, and then all these things taken
together will be given to you besides.” Or, as it says in the General Thanksgiving,
“Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the
example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for
his dying, through which he overcame death; for his rising to life again, in which we are
raised to the life of your kingdom.” So, we are called to be like a squirrel, to be
persistent in faith. Sometimes it isn't easy: when a loved one is sick or dying, when we
can't find employment, when we're struggling with some personal tragedy. But today,
especially today, we are reminded that God is with us always. And for that, especially
today, Thanksgiving Day, we are thankful.