Due to the nature of parish ministry and the hamster wheel of Sunday services, the sermon prep for Thanksgiving Day, a Major Feast that is supposed to be “regularly observed” in the Episcopal Church, but for which I will not get fussy because I know we don’t “regularly observe” all the Major Feasts here, often gets short shrift. So, here I am, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, sitting my study in a closed Parish Office, giving on the first real thought to what I might say tomorrow at 10 am. As I read through the lessons appointed for Thanksgiving, a theme comes quickly to the fore. It seems that the lectionary folk would have us notice that there is a dichotomy between worry and thankfulness.
The prophet Joel writes to the people of Israel after an invasion of locusts. Now, whether this book is really about bugs or about a nation invading their Palestinian homeland, I’ll let the reader decide, but either way, what comes in the wake of either invasion is, most commonly, fear. The destruction of crops or buildings and the real threat to livelihood and life lead the people of Israel to the point of anxiety and worry. And what does the prophet Joel say to them? Well, he says what every person who speaks on behalf of God says to an anxious people, “Do not fear.”
The same holds true of Jesus. As he looks out upon a crowd of people who are victims of the rat race, he sees the worry in their faces. First century Jews, most of whom were from families relying on subsistence tradesmen for survival, were always on the verge of economic disaster. There was a real and present fear of hunger around every corner. But Jesus, somehow without platitude, but rather real conviction, can look out on faces wrinkled with distress and say, “Don’t worry, God’s got this.”
For 21st century American Christians, living in a Pinterest world, on the day we turn our focus to the perfect Instagram worthy Thanksgiving table, it would behoove us to listen to Joel and to Jesus. Worry is the antithesis of thanksgiving. If our lives our lived only wondering where the next things is going to come from, we are never able to live with a spirit of thanksgiving in the moment. So, I urge you, dear reader, to not worry. Don’t fret about the right homily, the perfect centerpiece, or the ideal moisture content in your turducken. Instead, be grateful for the moment, for the relationships, for the food, and for our God who is ever present and the giver of every good gift.