I love Thanksgiving. Always have. There are the memories of my family getting together, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Adults at the “big table” and us kids around card tables in the living room. We’d make up and put on plays for the adults, sneak extra helpings of whipped cream for our pie and watch “The Wizard of Oz” for the umteenth time.
Thanksgiving was the first time I drank coffee and had an “adult” conversation with one of my aunts. She was young and hip and I was in high school. I felt like a grown-up.
The other thing I love about Thanksgiving is that it is one of the least commercialized holidays of the year. Don’t get me started on the over indulgent, over commercialized so-called Christmas Season. The season we Christians enter next week is Advent, and the Christmas season does’t officially begin until December 24th and it ends on January 6th.
As I said, don’t get me started.
Anyway, Thanksgiving is really about the food. A meal. That’s it. People coming together, families and friends, to share a meal. At the heart of Christian faith (actually most religions) is a meal. Jesus, on the night before his death takes bread and wine and identifies himself with it. “This is my body,” he said; “This is my blood.”
He not only identifies himself with the bread and wine, he challenges his followers to do the same. “Whenever you do this in remembrance of me.” We even refer to ourselves as the “Body of Christ,” a body that is fully recognized, and realized in the breaking of bread.
Meals are important, obviously, but what might not be so obvious is the role of meals as acts of hospitality, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of love.
I have come to understand those meanings as I have become the chief cook in our family. I do most of the cooking. Unlike most women, who have traditionally been expected to cook, I got into cooking, first because I was single and got tired of junk food, and, second, because as I began to learn about cooking I discovered it was therapeutic. I enjoy cooking. It’s a creative and energizing experience for me. So I cook.
My most important discovery about cooking is the reality that, when I pass the food around the table, I’m passing myself. And when the food is received, I am being received. Anyone who cooks knows that. It’s a very human thing. And in a world where there is so much inhumanity this becomes even more important.
I believe that is one of the beautifully mysterious things about Jesus and his identification with the bread and wine. For that insight I am forever grateful.
One last thought about Thanksgiving. This is the time of year when people are most mindful of those who go without. Lots of effort by lots of people is made at this time of year to feed the homeless and hungry. That’s a good thing.
But the people who go hungry, and in our valley a third of the population is food insecure. Almost half of our children are food insecure.
Every day. Every month.
So, you know what I going to do? I’m going to the IV Food Bank website, ivfoodbank.org and make a donation. Not just for Thanksgiving. A monthly donation. Now my donation won’t feed all the people who need food each month, but it will help. Imagine if everyone who had the means to do so made a monthly donation to the food bank. Giving thanks for all they have been given.
Have a joyous and meaningful Thanksgiving!
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.