October 2021

Growing up, I loved the church service on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. There was no Sunday School, so we had to spend the whole hour in the big church. I loved the organ, full and joyful, nearly all its stops pulled out for the rousing hymns. I loved watching the adult choir in their white and crimson robes and hearing them add to the magic with robust harmonies.

“Come ye thankful people, come; raise a song of harvest home…”

And my favorite:

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;

He chastens and hastens His will to make known;

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;

Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader in battle,

And pray that Thou still our Defender wilt be;

Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;

Thy Name be ever praised! and thy people be free!

Those lyrics are etched in my memory. The old Thanksgiving hymns are about thanks and praise, along with a certain measure of self-satisfaction. “We Gather Together” is replete with images of war, and praise for a deity who recognizes and rewards 'Us', his faithful flock, and protects us from 'Them', our enemies.

I still love those hymns. Is there something wrong with me?

Last Sunday I spoke about honoring our ancestors. And I asked - what do we do with the ones we might rather disown, or even ones we have disowned? How do we reckon with the harm they caused? Harm that may have been deliberate or harm done with full self-assurance that what they were doing was just and right and in accordance with “the way things should be” or divine intention? What might we still learn from them, and what might we have to teach them?

Some of us did not gather with family last Thanksgiving, and we may be still trying to figure out how and with whom to spend time this year. Perhaps, for some of us, this is a conversation to begin within our families. And perhaps, for some of us, it will be enough to simply be together, in whatever ways we can, and to be grateful.

Here in this community we can be grateful for what we have together. I am grateful to be part of it with you.

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