Peter Munson is a great friend and inspiring colleague. I’m passing along his wise words for this Thanksgiving Day.
Meditation for 27 November 2013
From The Rev. Peter A. Munson
32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Thanksgiving and Thanks-Receiving
Julia and I are part of a year-long learning group of ten people. We come from points far and wide (even The Netherlands), meet in Boulder every few months for a learning/growing/sharing/supporting weekend, and meet each Wednesday morning on a Google hangout phone call. Our goal is to live into our most expanded, most creative, most loving selves… to live into what we perceive God’s biggest dreams for us are… to support each other in pursuing that call to growth, transformation, and service. One of our members is having a surgical procedure today, and on the phone call this morning, our leader, Julie, offered to Julianna the suggestion that tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day, maybe it could be for her a day of “thanks-receiving”… maybe she could allow others to reach out to her and love her and give thanks for her.
I really love the Thanksgiving holiday. It is not nearly as commercialized as Christmas. Costco was not putting Thanksgiving displays up in late August, as they did with the Christmas items. It seems to me that many of us do try to stop, for a least a few minutes on Thanksgiving Day, and pause to give thanks to God for our many blessings. At St. Ambrose, we have had a tradition for many years of getting together with one or two other churches and worshiping on Thanksgiving Eve. My favorite part of the service is when people write down the people and things they are thankful for, pass their prayers forward, and then a few of us get to read them out loud to the entire congregation. These prayers are always heart-felt, and often funny, too. I suggest to you that this is much better way to begin the Thanksgiving holiday than thinking about what time you can start shopping on “Black Friday” or – even worse, in my opinion – what time you can start your shopping on Thanksgiving Day.
Julie’s suggestion about thanks-receiving made me smile, and pause, and think. I see many people in the Church walking around feeling burdened, wondering if we are “doing enough for God”. (I must admit, I fall into this category at times.) But giving to others doesn’t work if there is not someone on the receiving end. And giving thanks doesn’t work if there is not someone or Someone on the receiving end. In the Church, I’m afraid we make it sound like it is ALL in the giving, and the message that God intended from the beginning – for there to be a flow of giving AND receiving – gets distorted. In the passage above, do your eyes immediately skip over verse 32 and run to verses 33 and 34? Can you hear Jesus’ words, where he says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”? (If we could really take in that God’s good pleasure is to give us the kingdom, wouldn’t our whole perspective about possessions – and life, for that matter – change?)
Are some people in the world too selfish, too self-centered, too narcissistic? No doubt about it. But I think there are millions of people – maybe even billions of people – in the world who have a huge amount of trouble receiving what God wants to give them – namely, God’s love. Under that umbrella of love, there is God’s grace, God’s offering of a peace that passes all understanding, God’s appreciation for us, God’s thanks for us… God’s benediction (the words of blessing that God speaks to each one of us).
In the Christian tradition, we talk about being like Christ, doing what Christ did, learning to love others as Jesus loves us. God also tells us to give thanks, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but on a regular basis… as Paul said, “in all circumstances.” But if we are following in Christ’s footsteps, if we “love because he [God} first loved us”, then it also stands to reason that we offer thanks because God first thanks us. And when God thanks us, do we let it land? Do we receive God’s thanks? Do we even hear God thanking us? Or do you just squirm and think, as you read this, “Peter is talking heresy right now. He has lost it!”
Perhaps we can start a national revolution this Friday. Instead of getting further caught up in the crazy national mindset that you and I will personally help a business finish the year “in the black” by shopping on this one day of the year called Black Friday… or on the night before Black Friday… even if I have to go into more debt to do it, what if we all took this day that most of us are given as a holiday – a “holy day” – and instead spent our time taking in all of God’s words of love, blessing, and thanks… freely poured out on us?
I imagine God saying to Jesus and to all the people of faith who have gone before us, “Hey, everyone, take a look! They’re not shopping on Black Friday. They are taking in our thanks. They are receiving our love for them. Look at how relaxed and joyful and peaceful they look. How cool is that?” And I imagine God saying, in the next moment, to you and to me, “Thank you! Thank you for being you! And quit worrying so much about whether you are doing enough for Me! Have some fun – for My sake!”