Dear Friends in Christ,
We enter into the time of Thanksgiving with fear on our hearts, with concerns about our future both near and far away.
Twenty-four hours a day, the media has been filled with images of horror. We hear stories of unspeakable terror. We hear about victims who are too young to be singled out for death, of the elderly and of the innocent. It makes it hard to focus on Thanksgiving when our hearts and minds are being pulled away by the events perpetrated by people bent on destroying and killing.
The Old Testament lesson for tomorrow, from Joel 2, reminds us of God. A God who loves and cares for his people.
Do not fear, O soil;
be glad and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things!
Do not fear, you animals of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil…
Twice Joel tells us to “Fear not.” He then goes on to remind us that there will be an abundance; that the rains will come; and that the threshing floor will be full and the vats overflowing with wine. Joel reminds us that God is bigger than any event. God is bigger than any series of events.
It is from God that we receive our abundance. The abundance that gives us life and joy.
Joel’s message is one of consolation. It is a message of God’s love and goodness. It is a message of security. It reminds us of who God is and that God will provide all that we need.
The Gospel for Thanksgiving is from Matthew 6:25 and it reminds us of how important we are in the hierarchy of God’s creation:
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus tells his disciples, “I tell you, do not worry about your life…” Matthew’s Gospel was written at a time when the early Jesus movement was being persecuted. Life was difficult. There was conflict everywhere. The worst conflict was the destruction of the Temple by the Romans a few years before this Gospel was written. Jerusalem and the surrounding areas were destroyed by the Romans in response to a Jewish insurrection. Jews, followers of Jesus, and others, all fled for their lives as their homes were destroyed. It was a time of terrible violence and terror.
The writer of Matthew was trying to calm his community. He was trying to reassure them that God was with them. Even though they did not matter to the vengeful Romans, they did matter to Jesus. They mattered to God. In fact, Jesus tells them that they are more important than the birds of the air that are abundantly provided for.
Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry… indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
Instead of worrying about what we cannot control, Jesus encourages us to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
As we gather with family and friends, please join me in turning off the barrage of bad news in the media. Join me in giving thanks for all that have gathered and all that we will receive. Let us give thanks to God for the abundance that He has given to us. And join me in giving your loved ones an extra hug and reminding them gently, in Jesus’ words, “Do not worry.”
May your Thanksgiving be filled with love and peace.
The Rev. Canon Ted Babcock