Thanks Be to God
Happy Wednesday, everyone! And happy Thanksgiving Eve. As I settle back into my work rhythm (returning from sabbatical, and more recently, from continuing education last week), I’m thinking about Thanksgiving and how I’ve seen it work in our culture.
This year, I’m thinking about how Thanksgiving fits into some of the surrounding holidays. There’s all kinds of things to say about the problematic ways Thanksgiving has been mobilized as a settler-colonial holiday, and has been used to denigrate the gifts of indigenous communities, but I’m actually going to set that aside for today. There’s a lot to be said there but I want to examine another aspect today.
In the Western Christian church year, we’re kinda big on Triduums; delivering holidays in threes, though we don’t always (still) celebrate all three. The example that sets the rule, as so often in Christianity, is Easter: we celebrate Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I think we miss out when we don’t consider one of those in relationship to the others. Some of us just celebrated All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and maybe All Souls’ Day, another Triduum. It’s almost time to start (liturgically) looking forward to Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Epiphany. (I’d argue that there it’s a bunch of days, celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas.) My overly-nerdy explanation aside, my point is this: we can learn something about how holy days and holidays work by paying attention to what’s happening around them in the calendar.
So, Thanksgiving, as you may know, is not particularly a Christian holiday. It is, like every day, a good occasion for prayer and reflection, and gratitude practices are certainly an important part of our faith. But I’m interested in what happens around the day, and how it might inform how we pray, how we gather, and how we eat.
I think part of the ritual work happening for a lot of us at Thanksgiving is to gather up the abundance in our life, and to share in that. Maybe we have a friend over for pie, or maybe we get to got to a relative’s house for a giant feast. A lot of the imagery of the holiday is about abundance: big ol’ turkeys, literal and figurative cornucopias, and even the sense of “returning home.” Whether or not these activities are blessings for you, I think they signify an opportunity to share gratitude and celebrate everything we have.
But I think in white US culture, that abundance and satiety is (sometimes immediately) set aside for Black Friday and its attendant “feasts” of the market. And look: if searching around for a good deal or a great gift brings you joy, then I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that. (And I often count myself among that number in any case.) But I think it’s important to remember that much of the advertising we’re exposed to in the US is trying to create a sense of lack, scarcity, and urgency. It’s a dramatic tension to what a filling meal with warm friends might create.
Maybe I’ll hit a store because I actually found my time with my family unfulfilling. Maybe on some level I believe that I’ll show my love well by spending money on them. Maybe there’s some other urge or desire I’m driven to fill, and spending money is a way to try to do that.
I’m trying to be more intentional about how and why I spend money these days. And for me, part of that is leaning into the abundance that is in my life. I can’t buy everything I want, and I get to watch as housing in our community becomes less affordable for me and for so many others. And in the midst of that, instead of (or in addition to!) a gratifying trip to the store or the website, I can take a moment, take a breath, and be grateful for what’s in front of me: the kindness of strangers, the laughter of the children in my life, and the love of God that draws me more faithfully and deeply than any store bells.
Blessings to you as you see where gratitude leads you.
Ministry Highlight: Sabbatical Sharing with Pastor Davi
I’d love to invite you to join me for an evening of sharing and conversation about my Sabbatical journey. I dug into the idea of “Theologies of Place,” especially working to learn more about Bellingham and Whatcom County. Come by or zoom in for a conversation about what I’m learning and how our sense of place might lead us more deeply into our spiritual paths and into the work of justice! Come Thursday, November 30 at 7:00 pm, in the Church Sanctuary or via Zoom. Let me know if you have any questions, and bring a curious spirit and maybe a notebook. Contact the office for the Zoom link. <3