Sermons That Work

A Priest Colleague…, Thanksgiving Day (A) – 1996

November 22, 1996

A priest colleague of mine tells the story of a friend who was about to enter a large, exclusive department store. Standing back to allow a young woman to enter the door before him, enter she did while he held the door, and without a “thank-you” or a nod, she proceeded on her way. Needless to say he was angry and annoyed. A total lack of manners on her part … a total lack of gratitude. When people forget to practice good manners and thoughtfulness, it makes life very bleak indeed. When people fail to express gratitude something is very wrong.

How unusual it is for a nation to be known as a thankful or grateful nation, a nation, a nation that says “thank-you,” that makes a day of Thanksgiving a national holiday. Nations commemorate the ending of a war, a national triumph, a great leader, but seldom does a nation pause to say “thank-you” to God the Giver, the Sustainer, the Redeemer of life.

Today we in this nation pause to do just that. We remember, of course, the time in 1621 when a strong, courageous group of people prepared a dinner to which they invited everyone to honor and acknowledge God’s generosity, grace and mercy. It was a “thank-you” dinner for survival, and one which acknowledged that in the midst of hardship and adversity, on a strange and foreign land, they had tested the kindness of the Lord, and they had known His providential care. In this act and by their invitation to people not related to them in any way, they remembered their manners. They practiced thoughtfulness. They exhibited gratitude to a generous and loving God. They set an example which we follow today.

So it is today that we gather, first to make Holy Eucharist, to give thanks to God at His altar table … and that is what “Eucharist” means — thanksgiving, then to go to our homes or the homes of friends to feast and feast most likely very abundantly.

Our celebrations both here and there would be amiss, however, when we remember those who have no one to remember them: the old, the poor, the lonely, the improvident, the inadequate, for whom today is no different from all the other days of the years. Because we remember them, because we are truly grateful to the Source of all blessings, at this Eucharist we give and give generously that the hungry may be fed, the needy clothed and the lonely forgotten ones be given companionship. As the offering is taken today, I urge you to give most generously. Without such tangible generosity and gratitude on our part our Thanksgiving Day will not be complete.

Today we remember the loving kindness of the Lord; we remember those who have no one to remember them, accompanying our remembrance with our generous giving and we look forward to the time when we and all those we love will be joined at the heavenly table where with the Father and the Holy Ghost we shall be fed by the Son with His own flesh, His life given for the life of the world. Amen.

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Christopher Sikkema


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