Leader: Make a joyful noise to the LORD all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing.
All: Know that the LORD is God. It is God who made us; we are God’s. We are God’s people, the sheep of God’s pasture.
Leader: Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise. Give thanks to God. Bless God’s name.
All: For the LORD is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever and God’s faithfulness to all generations.
God of gratitude, the Apostle Paul wrote “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This makes sense when things are going well. What about when things are unpleasant? What about when we experience grief and loss and harm? How can we give thanks? Holy God, your greatest gift is life itself and life itself is unending. Remind us again that no matter the circumstance, nothing can separate us from your love. Because of this we can say with the words of that old hymn, “Take our moments and our days. Let them flow in endless praise. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication
We give because we are grateful, Holy God. Bless our offerings that they may plant the seeds of gratitude in many hearts. Amen.
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27).
Recently my wife’s aunt Susan shipped her a set of family silver table settings and a set of family China. My wife, Nicole, and I have been hosting Thanksgiving for family and friends since we started dating 26 years ago. And as we’ve moved around the country, our extended family have made it a priority to travel any distance to be a part of the celebration. This year the family will be joining us to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family silver and China.
The China has been passed down from Nicole’s grandparents. Burleigh Crane and Dorothy Warren had set their wedding date for the summer of 1942 when Burleigh was called up for active duty in the U.S. Army. The wedding date was moved up to February. After the wedding Burleigh was deployed to Italy as an artillery commander. Upon his return in 1945 Burleigh and Dot settled into their home in Milbridge, Maine where they would live for the next 60 years. They raised two children and were fixtures in the community. At their wedding they received two sets of China. They used one. The other was never opened. They stored it in the attic where it remained for over 75 years. Until this year. Next week the family will gather for Thanksgiving to use Dot and Burleigh’s China set for the first time.
A couple weeks ago, Nicole and I talked with Aunt “Sue-sue,” as she is known, about our Thanksgiving plans. Susan wept as she talked about how meaningful it was to pass something of the family legacy on knowing that it will be used to celebrate the rituals of gathering together and giving thanks.
This year the gospel lectionary for Thanksgiving is John 6:25-35. In this text Jesus unfolds a complicated metaphor around food. Backstory: Jesus fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fish and then left to sail across the Sea of Galilee. The crowds, amazed by Jesus’ miracle and wondering if there was more where that came from, followed Jesus and his disciples across the sea and caught up to him in the town of Capernaum. When the approach Jesus, he says, “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life.”
What is the food that endures to eternal life? In the context of the Gospel of John, this “food” is faith. For Nicole and me, our commitment to giving thanks, gathering family, and honoring legacy arises out of the faith that was passed on to us, a faith that sustains us day to day, moment to moment through scarcity and abundance. Let’s face it: family can be a real pain in the ass. Traveling long distances to attend family gatherings can be difficult and even dangerous at times. There are family conflicts, losses, absences, and griefs. There are times when we set our own preferences and agendas aside for the good of the group. There are some days when the sacrifice doesn’t appear to be mutual. Faith means looking beyond the moment to what endures.
All of us–Nicole, Aunt Sue-Sue, me, nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, and the rest–are looking forward to feasting on brined turkey, mashed potatoes, squash au gratin, roast vegetables, homemade cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, pies, ice cream, carrot cake, and Nicole’s famous espresso-and-Grand Marnier-infused chocolate mousse for dessert all served on the family China. Left-overs will keep us fat and happy for another week or two. But the food that endures is faith, love, and a legacy of gathering to give thanks.