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11/26/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - Thanksgiving Day

posted May 21, 2010, 6:46 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:46 PM by Terry Brady ]
“…Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what shall you put on…” (Mt. 6:25)

There is no question that this is precisely the Gospel that I both needed to hear and dreaded hearing this morning. My return visit to NYC to learn the fate of my foot has just been scheduled for next Wednesday. To say that I am both anxious and frightened is a colossal understatement. The dictionary definition of anxiety is:

“…distress or uneasiness of mind caused by apprehension of danger or misfortune; or, psychologically, the state of apprehension and psychic tension found in most forms of mental disorder.”

I am not sure which definition is more applicable to me this day! Clearly anxiety is unhealthy, yet we feel it regarding our children, our health, our safety, our money, our education, our future, and, ultimately, our death. The results of anxiety run the gamut and can be mental, emotional and physical.

This is Thanksgiving Day, the day when we are called to give thanks to God for the multitude of gifts we have been given. Thanksgiving can be considered the polar opposite of anxiety. Anxiety is fear-driven, whereas thanksgiving is characterized by acceptance. Anxiety is future oriented, whereas thanksgiving is focused in the past and the present. Anxiety produces tension and apprehension, whereas thanksgiving results in trust, calm and peace. Anxiety longs for what it doesn’t have and is filled with need, whereas thanksgiving accepts what it has and is filled with joy and celebration in the now.

Matthew locates this passage in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has just challenged his listeners to give alms and to pray in secret, not seeking the approbation of others. Further, he cautions against storing up treasures on earth saying: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Jesus is making it abundantly clear that our challenge is to trust God in all things.

We are called to thank God for all that we have and have had…the material things of food, clothing, shelter, education as well as for family, friends and co-workers. However, thanksgiving to God must be larger than this. None of the above can define our total existence. No people or things can fill us completely. People let us down, and material things can disappear. In the end we are challenged to confront ourselves, our aloneness, for we are born alone and we die alone. But…in that aloneness…there is God…loving us abundantly and banishing anxiety and fear. That love was with us before our birth and will abide with us after our death. That love was made flesh, visible and tangible, in the gift of Jesus Christ and guarantees God’s heavenly presence with us during our most difficult times.
If we focus on that love, if we feel it and let it fill us up and feed us, our anxieties will be driven away, and we can delight in the ability to offer genuine thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is at the heart of the Christian faith…a giving of thanks not only in words and silent prayer, but also in our generosity and love for others.
Shortly we shall celebrate the Holy Eucharist, named for “eucharista” that means “thanksgiving.” The heart of the Eucharist is the Great Thanksgiving when we lift up our hearts to God.
Let us offer our thanksgivings today to the God who created us, loves us and gives us to one another. Let us be newly bound in relationship in this most Holy Meal and find that we are newly energized to care for the people in the world around us. AMEN