This morning, I went to the 136th Annual Union Thanksgiving Service, the oldest continuing interfaith Thanksgiving Service in the United States. My husband, John, preached the sermon. It was so wonderful that I asked if I could use it as today’s blog post. Here is his sermon:
Thanksgiving Day Dream
On this day, people all across America will dream the same dream. From one end of our nation to the other, in large cities and small, and in the suburbs, in the towns and on the farms, we will dream a common dream. The dream reveals the best that is in us as a people. It shows what we want our life together to look like. We might call this dream on Thanksgiving Day “The Dream of the Table.”
This Thanksgiving Day Dream is so simple, so homey, that it takes us by surprise. It features an endless table, with countless people sitting at it and eating together: women and men; children and adults; healthy and frail; wealthy and poor; yellow, red, and black and white. An investment banker from New York sits next to a truck stop waitress from Montana. An Iowa farmer exchanges stories with a New England fisherman. A bearded professor from Berkeley passes the gravy to an auto mechanic from the Deep South. A young soldier laughs as an old lady tells him a joke.
And the gigantic Thanksgiving Day table stretches far into the distance, where immigrant people from foreign lands have found their seats and enjoy the same meal.
This is our Thanksgiving Day Dream – “The Dream of the Table.” An abundant dinner banquet where all people share, and all people feast, and all people give thanks.
We dream this dream for a single afternoon each year as we gather around the Thanksgiving table. On this day, our nation seems to offer a single prayer of gratitude in dining rooms across the land as we sit to share a common meal.
In fact, Thanksgiving is the most universally celebrated holiday in our country. The dinner is shared in the homes of the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists come to the table. Descendents of Asians, Africans, and Europeans sit down to dine. Native Americans, Latin Americans, and Pacific Islanders celebrate by sharing a meal together.
Here in the Rochester area, as in many other locations, Thanksgiving takes place in soup kitchens and in suburban restaurants, sometimes with traditional formality and sometimes with casual laid-back comfort.
No matter how or where we partake of this great feast, it seems as if all of our nation’s people eat together today. On this one afternoon, we dream the Thanksgiving Day Dream – “The Dream of the Table.” And for one brief moment, we see and understand what God wants for us and for all people, every day of every year.
The sad truth is that Thanksgiving Day is only one day, and the rest of the year somehow seems different. The dream remains a dream. The world doesn’t normally appear as a dinner where all people share, and all people feast, and all people give thanks. Not all share, because some have plenty and others have none. Not all feast, as some throw away excess food in the garbage and others die from hunger.
Not all give thanks, for some can’t see past their wealth and others can’t see past their poverty. The dream remains a dream. So on Thanksgiving Day, we console ourselves with another helping of stuffing or more time watching TV football.
What keeps the dream from becoming real? What prevents us from taking our place at the table, and helping others to find their place as well?
Our dream of the great table isn’t realized because we stake our claim on the promises of the world rather than on the promises of God.
The world tells us we’re entitled to whatever we want. God assures us that all we have are blessings from God.
The world tells us there will never be enough, and we must grab all we can. God promises abundance and calls us to share our blessings with others.
The world tells us life is a burden. God offers life as a gift.
What makes the table a distant dream is our failure to trust in the promise of God.
We fail to trust God and that keeps us from sharing. We become preoccupied with holding fast to what is ours – and to getting more. We cling to what is ours; in our privileged lives we smugly claim our entitlement, as we keep taking more than we give.
We fail to trust God and that keeps us from feasting. When our lives are not in balance with the universe; we can’t truly experience or express authentic joy.
We fail to trust God, and that keeps us from giving thanks. We no longer see life as a gift; we experience it, instead, as a burden. Our failure to trust God pervades and pollutes our institutions, our communities, our society. We’re left anxious and alone and far from the table.
Today is Thanksgiving Day. Once again, we recall that haunting dream of the universal table, where all people share, and feast, and give thanks.
Will the dream come true for us today? Will we move from ideals into reality? Will we find our own place at the table?
Will we help others to find theirs?
Will we be the ones who feel entitled to whatever comes our way; or will we be the ones who stop, turn, and offer thanks for the gift of life? Will we be the ones who shun the lepers, the outcasts, the broken, the poor, the addicted, the infected, the diseased, those of different abilities, those of other sexual orientations; those of other nationalities or ethnicities or faiths or colors or creeds; or will we be the ones who stretch out our hands to offer welcome, acceptance, healing and wholeness?
This year, will the table we gather around be open or closed? This year, will the dream of the Thanksgiving table remain a dream, or will it become a dream come true?
This year, will we dare to trust God enough to share and to feast and to give thanks?
The choice is ours. The Dream of the Thanksgiving table is within our grasp. In our unique and particular corner of the universe, let’s make the dream come true.