I come from a long line of worriers. In fact, my nickname at home and among my friends is “Wemberly,” after the children’s book Wemberly Worried. Wemberly, a mouse, worries about everything—especially as she starts school: What if the teacher is mean? What if the room smells bad? What if they make fun of my name?
So this week’s Thanksgiving text is for all of us Wemberlies. Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. ... Look at the birds of the air. ... Consider the lilies of the field.”
Ironically, Matthew 6:25-33 is read on the occasion we worry and fuss most about food: Thanksgiving. Will the turkey thaw out in time? Will the family get along? What kind of wine should I bring to the host?
If you’re like me, these words from Jesus both comfort and annoy. I want to say, “But Jesus, what about all my other worries—the list is endless: finances, health, war, global warming ...?”
But Jesus says rest in the mercies of God. The thanksgiving table in our homes isn’t the only one where we will enjoy fine linens and our best tableware, gathering to tell and retell family stories. We gather at another thanks-giving table, we hear the stories of God and are filled with joy and gratitude. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Breathe! I am here. I am with you—in this meal, in these people, in all that I have promised.”
Peter Gomes, professor and pastor at Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass., says Thanksgiving must begin and end with God. If there is to be any thanksgiving at all, he says, we must liberate the holiday from the clutches of the pilgrim mystique and the count-your-many-blessings-name-them-one-by-one routine. Instead, we give thanks for the God whom the pilgrims adored, whom the slaves from Africa praised, and whom our ancestors throughout the ages have thanked—amid both worry and want, success and joy.
Gomes writes: “In spite of our fumbles and because of God’s grace we are not daunted by the troubles of this age, nor are we fearful of what is to come. We do not bless God for our wealth, our health, or for our feeble wisdom. We bless God that God is, that we are, and that God’s promise and love shall be with us when time itself shall be no more.”
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