A Thanksgiving Sermon

November 7, 2019
The Rev. Curtis Kennington, Rector of St. Marks’ Episcopal Church, Troy, Alabama, Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Almost four centuries ago, fueled by faith and seeking liberty, European pilgrims reached the New World … a world where they could worship according to their own beliefs and start anew.

Our national day of thanksgiving is an opportunity for all of us to live in a renewed spirit of gratitude. A spirit of gratitude is an act of faith. It means we are unafraid to live because we have faith in the God who cares for us and provides for us and tends to us. God is faithful. His promises are true. He never fails.

A spirit of gratitude generates joy … not always happiness, but a joy that fills our empty places to the brim, or just the amount we need.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, out of all that Jesus counsels and commands, the part that seems relentlessly in front of us and regularly so difficult is the idea of not worrying.

Why do I find it difficult? Because my life – our lives – are seemingly full with worry and cause for anxiety. And it’s not just common anxieties like “what will we eat and drink” or “what will we wear,” but also more significant matters:

Will our kids be healthy?
Will I find someone that accepts me as I am?
Will I be able to retire?
What will my PET scan indicate?
Will I find work?
Will we go to war?

I think it’s always been this way. That is, I suppose life has always been full of reasons to worry. And yet, I also think we live in a time when the usual cares of life are magnified and draw us more deeply into our earthly and consumer culture.

We are assaulted daily by ads stemming from a marketing scheme of inadequacy – the desire to create in us a sense of inadequacy and a sense of lack so that we will give in to a product or person promising to ease that feeling –

The usual result is that our worries multiply.

So then, it’s not just, “What will we wear?”

But rather, “Will what I wear make me acceptable and attractive to those around me?”

And it’s not only, “What will I eat?”

But, “Is what I eat tasty, organic, instantly gratifying, or fat free?”

Personally, I am satisfied with my life – until I compare it with someone else’s.

I have enough of everything – until I meet someone who has more.

I am really content these days – until I’m not.

A ritual day of thanksgiving is a crucial time for us to take our minds off of our own wants and focus our minds and hearts on our blessings.

Thanksgiving Day gives us the opportunity for us to rest our hands from our labor and instead lift them up in praise.

Today, we have the chance to stop thinking about our problems and try to count the abundance that the Lord of all Creation has given each of us.

And give thanks.

Give thanks for what?
For family, friends, neighbors.
To give thanks for freedom from tyranny.
To give thanks for setting us at tasks that demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments that satisfy and delight us.
To even give thanks for disappointments and failures that remind us we are dependent on God and God alone.

And to give thanks for Jesus Christ – crucified, dead, buried, and risen.

And then we have to find the courage to stand by friends and strangers and share the good news we hear from the prophet Joel: You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.

The people of The Episcopal Church know how to do this.

We feed the hungry,

We tend to the less fortunate,

We pay attention to the world and this city and many of its needs.

Our Church does strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.

We should be certain that, while we are doing these mighty works, we are also giving thanks with our whole hearts – that our minds, our hands, our hearts are serving humbly and with thanksgiving. It is in this spirit that Jesus Christ connects with us.

In a moment, we will enter a time of great thanksgiving. We will come to the table and feed on him, in our hearts and with thanksgiving. And we will be changed.

And when we process from this place, in a spirit of gratitude, we might discover how to be faithful to our call to continue the mission of Jesus Christ, in a time and place yearning for the richness of the love of God. It’s inside you and me.

It is our Gospel duty to share it. Amen.

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