27 November 2008
For days all over America people have gone to and fro from the grocery store, gathering the fixings for today’s feast. Cookbooks, with pages stuck together with splatters of the sauces of Thanksgivings past, have been pulled from shelves to rehearse the incantations, which produce the dishes like Mother used to make.
What makes a feast? Excess, that’s what. What separates feasting for ordinary munching is excess! What makes Thanksgiving, thanksgiving is the simple fact that there is more food coming to the table than the most ambitious glutton could ever put away. The leftovers piled high on groaning tables assure the heart and mind that there is indeed enough. Abundance comforts the heart.
I submit to you that what we are about today is a token of the Kingdom of God. Feasting and over-abundance point toward the generosity of God the creator of the universe. What God intends for all humanity is more that we can ever imagine. Grace is excessive, excessive, excessive.
The first reading appointed for this day describes the promised land as a feast, “a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of live tress and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, …” This is good news. This is a Promised Land, abundant, excessive in its fertility and fruitfulness. Above all this marvelous place is a gift!
Jesus points to the excessive generosity of God in the reading from Matthew’s Gospel. Worry in not the appropriate posture of creatures gifted by a generous God. Why are you worrying about everything from what you will eat or drink or what you will put on? Is not life about more than this? Jesus then points out how excessive God really is. “Consider the birds who do not work and toil and yet God feeds them. Consider the lilies and other flowers. They do not toil or spin and yet God has clothed them with beauty that would have made Solomon in all his glory green with envy. If God is so extravagant with grass, which is here one day and gone tomorrow, will he not clothe you? Therefore do not worry. Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things. But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
We of course have a persistent tendency to forget that all is a gift and to delude ourselves into thinking that we are ultimately responsible for what we enjoy. The first reading for Thanksgiving Day reminds us of the proper scheme of things, “You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you. Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who give you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.”
We forget to our own peril.
A man landed a job painting the yellow line down the center of the highway, which had to be done by hand. After three days the foreman complained, “Your first day out, you did great. You painted that line for three miles. Your second day wasn’t bad; you painted two miles. But today you only painted mile, so it looks as though I’ll have to fire you.” On his way out of the office the employee looked back and said, “It’s not my fault. Every day I got farther form the paint can.” We become empty and begin to worry when we forget where abundance is to be found.
We are living in anxious times. The economic situation all over the world is fragile. There is a persistent fear that there will not be enough. If everything is dependent on us that is the truth, for we are not enough. But for those who are willing to believe and trust their lives to God who revealed himself in his son Jesus, the Christ things do not ultimately depend on us.
The Kingdom of God is the realty where God reigns. It is a gift. All our life is a gift. All that we have is a gift. We are here tonight to celebrate the fact that ALL that exists is a gift. The appropriate response is gratitude. As our Lord said, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.” We must not mistake striving for earning our way. Striving is about living into what is already ours. It is as Kierkegaard said, “a breakthrough to the already.” The Kingdom of God is a party. The only way we will be excluded is if we insist on not showing up.
So later today when you are feasting and starting through that second plate of culinary extravagance remember that a feast is what the Kingdom of God is all about. On that day ordinary snacks will be excessive. Amen.
Deuteronomy 8:1-3,6-10, (17-20)