Thursday, November 28, 2013
So perhaps this is why American Thanksgiving doesn't quite know what to do with itself. Our best expression of gratitude is, apparently, eating Turkey, watching football, and binging on Pumpkin Pie. We count our blessings and then we consume more blessings, we take even more for ourselves, we take a second helping. We're not sure what else to do. That's Thanksgiving, right?
But if you can embrace powerlessness, if you can see the grace in your giftedness, then your gratitude simply can't stop at "counting your blessings" and passing the potatoes. If grace is the object of your gratitude, then giving thanks has to become about giving. When you see yourself as the recipient of a gift, generosity is the only appropriate corresponding action. Is this not one of the lessons of the story of the "unmerciful servant" (Matthew 18:21-35)? When we see our own powerlessness in receiving grace, we are free to extend grace to the powerless... to the ones who can't or haven't "earned" it. Gratitude demands generosity, forgiveness... love! It demands that we leave our tables of abundance and declare grace to those who are empty.
I'm not suggesting that we do away with the Thanksgiving holiday as we know it. I'm not even saying there's nothing good about it (in fact, there are few things more worthwhile than enjoying time with family... and indeed, resting with and celebrating family can be a profoundly appropriate response to grace, by virtue of its theological rootedness in the Sabbath rest into which God invites us). But if Thanksgiving is going to be worthy of its name, it mustn't stop at the abundance of the table... it must travel into to the darkness of the tomb and pronounce liberation for the captives—we as its fellow recipients.