Thanksgiving has been one of my favourite holidays now for almost 30 years. My first year in the US, Michelle invited me to stay with her family. We drove a day from Virginia, through Maryland and Pennsylvania, to upstate New York. What struck me – and strikes me still – was the vastness of the land. Particularly in central Pennsylvania, trees stretched in every direction over the unfolding mountains to the far horizon. The natural beauty – and emptiness – of the country took my breath away. And we ended up that day in a small clapboard village church in the hills where Michelle’s family had been worshipping for three generations. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to give God thanks.
Today there seems so much to be gloomy about. British politics, American politics, now German politics. People are unhappy, insecure, worried about their children’s future. Scarcity seems all around us. And yet … those trees still stretch to the far horizon. We conquer disease in ways unimaginable fifty years ago. We feed numbers of people inconceivable to earlier generations. Is that scarcity?
My favourite thing about Thanksgiving (including family, the first turkey of the season, and pumpkin pie) is the laser-like precision with which it focuses us on God’s abundance here and now. I love Christmas with its focus on a birth, and Easter with its focus on death and rebirth. But if those focus on the past and the future, Thanksgiving focuses on the present. Here, God, is the abundance you have given us today – for which we give thanks.
And, as many of you know, part of that abundance is the life and service of two remarkable priests: Sam Wells who celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination this summer, and Richard Carter who celebrates his this weekend. How generous is our God? How can we not give thanks!
Revd Will Morris