The readings for Thanksgiving (Dt. 8:7-18, Col. 3:12-17, and Mk. 5:18-20) are about gratitude and Thanksgiving. Paul makes it clear that, when we are grateful to God, we live accordingly.
I often struggle with biblical concepts related to land, acquisition of the land and prosperity bestowed by God. I struggle especially when politicians remind us that we have been blessed and that we Americans are Godâ€™s chosen people. Somehow Godâ€™s bounty to us gets twisted into a divine mission to â€œsaveâ€ the rest of the world from itself. It is wrapped up in the prosperity Gospel. Go to church, say your prayers and God will shower you with blessings. Of course, those of us who have been privileged will reap more of the divine rewards. We may even have to oppress others to get what we â€œrightfully deserve.â€
I do not think God works that way. The Bible constantly reminds us that God lets the sun shine on the good and the evil and lets the rain fall on the just and unjust. My friend, Phyllis Jepson, signs all emails with â€œGod bless everyoneâ€”no exceptions.â€ God does bless everyoneâ€”American and Iraqi, gay and straight, white and black, rich and poor, the powerful and the oppressed.
The readings are a powerful reminder that whatever we have comes from God. We should be grateful. All is giftâ€”pure gift. The earth is gift and we are to cherish it (not rape and pillage it). Everything we have comes from God and our instant response should be gratitude.
We have been blessed with abundance in Americaâ€”some of us at least. We should eschew haughty pride and humbly walk with God and do justice. Justice is all about right order and right relationships. In Colossians, Paul tells us about the fruit of gratitude. We live according to Godâ€™s callâ€”the narrow path of justice. We are to live by the values taught and modeled by the nonviolent Jesusâ€”peace, justice, mercy, inclusion and forgiveness. We are not to live by the values of empireâ€”war, oppression, judgment, exclusion and hate.
We are wont to say that America is a Christian country. We must have prayer (Christian prayer at that) in our schools and public assemblies. We are to celebrate Christmas not the holidays. The plain truth is that we are not living as a Christian nation.
Consider the whole chain of life. We abort babies when they are an inconvenience to us. We euthanize the old when they are no longer useful to us. We wage war and murder millions in the name of â€œdemocracyâ€ while we are really seeking their resources whether they are bananas in Guatemala or oil and water in Iraq. We oppress millions in sweat shops around the world so that we can have things we really do not need. We victimize immigrants for cheap labor and low cost products while we rail against â€œillegals.â€ We imprison a significant proportion of our population, especially minorities and the poor. We execute criminals when we can easily confine them to protect society.
Let us resolve to give thanks. Let us be grateful for all that we have. Then, let us share the bounty with all of Godâ€™s children. Let us care for the widows, the orphans, and the aliens among us. Let us forgive our enemies (even our 9/11 enemies) as the Amish* readily forgave the man who murdered their children. Let us wage peace. Let us cherish children. Let us make sure that all people have dignified life-sustaining work. Let us rehabilitate criminals while we protect society. Let us welcome those who want to come and share the bounty we have received. It is not ours to hoard.
Let us start acting like Christians!
*I highly recommend Amish Grace which describes what went on in the aftermath of the murder of the children in the school.