Deuteronomy 26: 1-11
Thanksgiving Eve, 2007
Last month, I was listening to the radio, and they were doing a story on an inner city ministry, called Homeboy Industries, in Los Angeles. (To listen to the story I refer, to, go in about 25 minutes).
It was a ministry that finds jobs for former gang members, and helps them get their tattoos removed. In the story, the priest who runs the mission, Father Greg Boyle, received a call one morning between Christmas and New Years’ from one of the guys who had left the gang life. His name was Robert. It was a very normal, how are you doing-merry-Christmas-happy-New-year-conversation, until Fr. Boyle got to what Robert did for Christmas. I should say here that Robert, because he had left his gang, had been separated from his family, too.
“So, what did you do for Christmas?”
“I cooked a turkey!”
(surprised) “You cooked a turkey? Wow! How did you do it?”
“Ghetto style; butter, salt, pepper, 2 limones squeezed over it, and then popped it into the oven”
“Wow! Did you eat it by yourself?”
“No, I had other guys from work come over.”
(Boyle often has former enemies working together, and he knew that some of Robert’s former enemies who were also now Homeboy Industries employees were there)
“Well, what else did you have?”
“That’s it, just the turkey.”
Boyle speaks of being struck by the image of 6 former enemies, cut off from their families, standing around in an apartment kitchen, staring at the oven, and then absolutely destroying the turkey when it came out.
With no sides.
Some of us are going to be traveling tomorrow to sit down to eat food with our families. Some of us, frankly, aren’t here because they have already left. Some of us will have people coming to us, and may already be here. Some of us will not be with anyone, because we have to work, or choices we’ve made, or circumstances. But nevertheless, we remember on this day the hardships that we have come through to get to where we are.
Those six “vatos” remembered where they had come from. That silence around the stove was probably filed with memories.
The Pilgrims sat down with food provided by the Wampanoags to give thanks for what they had come through.
Thanksgiving as an observance originated with Abraham Lincoln at the end of the Civil War to ask remembrance for what the country had just gone through.
And our Deuteronomy text also gives the sense that when the harvest has come n, the Israelites are to give a portion to God not to reseed the fields, but to remember that the land they are feeding from is not theirs, but was given to them by God.
We have many things to be thankful for. This little spot between the Susquehanna, Bowman’s Creek, along 292 is a gorgeous spot in the world. We live in a country that many other people want to live in. When we feel that the country has lost its way, we can still voice our dissent, though sometimes with difficulty.
Thanksgiving is that day where we can give thanks to God, or Allah, or Jehovah, or Vishnu, if we are religious, give thanks to the country, if patriotism is our religion, and give thanks to our friends and family for their presence in our lives. It is not a Christian holiday, but we, as Christians, gather tonight to give thanks in the way we know—praise in song, thanksgiving in communion. We give thanks for all that we have in our lives. Our faith, our lives, our loves. And perhaps we rededicate ourselves to acting out of that thanks, that love, to make the world better. We have known good, we have it within our power to help others to know good. Thanksgiving is that day when we all stand around the oven, like those “vatos”, those former enemies who are now compadres, and remember what is good. And be thankful for it.