16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray continually. 18 Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21 but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-21, Common English Bible)
Yesterday was the day we need to thank God for what we have. As I thought about it, my mind went to the letter “F.” We all have many things for which we can be thankful but as I was thinking, much of what Thanksgiving Day is about. Those things are Food, Football, Fellowship, Friends, Family, and Faith (actually in reverse order). There is also a bonus “F” at the bottom.
Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without the food. I spent the last five weeks using the food from our traditional Thanksgiving tables as metaphors for at least part of the Christian life. In case you missed it, we talked first about the dressing, then cranberry sauce, followed by bread, turkey, and pecan pie. If you take a look at me, it is pretty obvious this first Thanksgiving “F” seem to get along quite well.
Most of us, even if unable to spend time with family yesterday were still able to enjoy some good food. It might not have been the traditional fare, but it never the less is food. May all of us who have be thankful for that and remember those who little BOTH pray for and generous with what we have so that one day, food insecurity might be a non-issue in years to come. I would love for that day to be sooner rather than later.
Growing up in Texas meant growing up a football fan. The game of choice in my family had nothing to do with the Houston Oilers of my childhood or the Houston Texans today or the Dallas Cowboys (both played yesterday but not against each other).
My Uncle Mike was the first college graduate in the family and was an alum of Texas A&M. He played in the Aggie Band and we were ALL Aggie fans through thick and thin. I have Thanksgiving memories of my grandparents listening the the Texas vs. Texas A&M football game for many, many years. Later, for television the game move to the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Then ESPN brought it back on Thanksgiving night.
That lasted until Thanksgiving 2011 when A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC. Most of the time I prefer A&M in the stronger SEC but at Thanksgiving I really wish we still had Texas and Texas A&M going at it. The Lions and Cowboys will never be on the same Thanksgiving playing field to me.
I know most people still love those Thanksgiving Day games and in many families, it is the family’s own Turkey Bowl. I am sure at least some will miss family bragging rights this seas.
The time and stories shared among family and friends is a priceless time. For many those will continue just in a different way. Zoom, Facebook Rooms and many others will still provide that Fellowship time. Is it the way many would like? Probably not. But, is it the way many people, due to employment situations and more, consider themselves fortunate when they did get to spend Thanksgiving together.
I must say, it has been a long time since I spent time with friends on Thanksgiving. For most of my life, Thanksgiving has been a family time. Even when we were unable to meet with our greater family it was usually a time for the four of us to be together. For many, however, friends are their family. Wednesday night I watched an episode of S.W.A.T. At the end of the episode one of the characters received a phone call from friends. She said, “Those are friends. This is family.” For them, friends are family and where they want to spend Thanksgiving.
Covid has changed the way we see friends. I find that as I meet new people which happens all the time in my work, after a lifetime of shaking hands with others, I am having to quickly withdraw my hand after habit has stepped in and present an elbow instead. It has changed our way of doing things in so many of our friendship situations.
And, now, for the one we all want most. Just about all of us have family and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas to come, are holidays we want to spend with our families. ALL of us want this. I confess, I am one who is spending this holiday with family away from my home. A trip like this was going to be necessary to check on family that need help that is difficult to deliver from 200 miles away. But for us, vacation schedules worked best tied to this holiday weekend.
What I would say to you is this, if you need to go, go. Just be careful. Take all necessary precautions. Do this if it is a holiday period or if it is a typical day. Wear your mask. It really does make a difference. Wash your hands, sanitize surfaces for yourself as an extra layer of protection. Put as much distance between you and others as possible. You can still have a conversation six feet apart.
When I did youth work I told the kids, “God gave you a brain. Please use it. If you think it might get you in trouble, it probably will. Don’t do it.” I say the same thing to you. God gave you a brain, please use it. In other words think hard about what you are doing before you do it. If you think it could put you or others at risk, please don’t do it.
I am also thankful for my faith. Faith, says Paul, is a gift of the Spirit. We grow faith and nurture faith. I am thankful God is a part of my life. I am blessed with food on the table, activities I enjoy (not so much football anymore for me), people I am able to share my life with, great friends, a loving family, and so much more that are all gifts from God. I am a blessed man.
Several weeks ago when I tested positive for Covid, I have a congregation that supported me through the whole time. I am blessed. We went online with our worship again. It was four Sundays, but then we were back.
Earlier this week my mother’s church, much larger than my own, announced that they were going back online for at least the next three weeks because of an outbreak in the church and community.
Friends, please know, pastors do not take these decisions lightly. We are trying to do what is in the best interest of the people we serve. The result could be activities none of us where none of us want to be part.
I decided to include face masks (Hey, it starts with “F”) because I am thankful for the single most important thing we can do to protect ourselves this Thanksgiving and every day.
“Oh, those masks don’t protect me, they are uncomfortable, and they are hot.” Perhaps, yes, and yes to each, in that order. Having something that blocks out the virus, even if not fully reliable is going to protect you more than nothing at all. But, beyond that, if you have the virus and don’t know it, you can protect the people around you, including your friends and family. Ignoring masks is not a sign of masculinity (I hear about being macho more than similar terms for women). It doesn’t make you look powerful, it makes you look selfish. Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, Common English Bible).
And, as I have said here before, just because you have the right, does not make it right.
Friends, I have had the virus. I am thankful mine was a relatively mild case. But, while I am no longer contagious I still have issues. It is something. It isn’t a mild form of something else. It is very real.
It is also not a hoax. Way too many of us can’t keep a secret where only a handful of people know. Somebody soon enough will break with the group and talk. If we humans have trouble with that do you really think we can pull of a hoax of this proportion?
My favorite quote from all this is, you don’t have to believe me if you don’t want. You don’t have to believe the authorities, talking heads on television, politicians, medical authorities or researchers. Take a moment and talk to your own doctor. Talk to the person you pay your hard-earned dollars for medical advice and see what they tell you. If you aren’t willing to listen to them about Covid, why do you give them your money about anything. Find a doctor you will listen to about this and other things. Again, God gave you a brain, please use it.
Be responsible. Let’s help each other and we will probably celebrate Thanksgiving again next year.
Finally, I pray you had a blessed Thanksgiving, limited though it may be. And remember, God is with us and where God is, there is always hope.
Seeking the Genuine,