So much of what is written in Scripture is a celebration of God’s abundance. It’s a theme that goes all the back to the beginning of Genesis where God blesses the world into being with God’s generosity. With each act of creation, the divine refrain echoes, “It is good.” And we can hear God saying, “be fruitful and multiply.”
Many of the Psalms, including the one I read a moment ago, survey the creation God made creation and catalogue God’s abundance in loving detail. Always with an added measure of joyful thanksgiving.
Throughout the Biblical narrative, human beings always have enough. In fact, you and I have more than enough. We may not always be aware of what we have. Yet were any of us to add them up, the sheer number of blessings in our lives would keep us from getting very far in our counting.
Unfortunately, the narrative you and I are tempted to live by, at least in this country, is a different story altogether. It’s a story based on scarcity where it doesn’t matter how much any of us actually have. Namely because in the end, there is never enough. It’s a narrative that constantly encourages us to define what is sufficient as “something more than I have right at this moment.”
Does the narrative of “not enough” sound as familiar to you as it does to me? I don’t want to gloss over the reality that we live in a land where there is not enough for too many of God’s people. And part of our task in this season of Thanksgiving and throughout the year is to share what we have on an individual level and simultaneously work for justice on a systemic level so that all God’s people have what they need to live full and abundant lives.
At the same time, we do ourselves and our nation a disservice if we buy into the scarcity narrative. Especially in light of the fact that we continue to live in one of the most prosperous countries in the history of the world.
In a society where human beings think they don’t have enough, no one ever feels satisfied. We start to believe that the blessings we need in order to live a good life are not only finite but somehow shrinking and we have to compete against those around us to gain what is ours. As a result, instead of stopping to give thanks for what we have, we yearn for that which we can never attain. And we doom ourselves to frustration and a sense of vulnerability and fear and failure.
Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is one day in the year when we do well to look at this country and its people through the eyes of God. Instead of listing what we don’t have, many of us take time on Thanksgiving Day to name what we do have. Instead of complaining about what we perceive to be unfair or some kind of conspiracy where the deck is stacked against us, Thanksgiving reminds us there is something larger and deeper and more valuable at stake. The love of family. The companionship of good friends. The fellowship of a good meal. The powerful unity we feel when people come together around a table to laugh and dream and cry and remember and express gratitude…
I circled back this past week to a children’s book that I haven’t read for years. It’s called Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’. Have any of you ever read it?
The Tappletons are a family of wolves who gather for a traditional Thanksgiving feast and each member of the family is assigned responsibility for some part of the family meal.
It’s a great plan, but each member of the Tappleton family has a major mishap that keeps them from fulfilling their responsibility. Mrs. Tappleton, who carries a whole turkey in her arms, opens the door to her house to greet the mailman and watches the turkey slip from her grasp, down the icy walkway and into a nearby pond. Glub, glub.
Mr. Tappleton goes to the bakery to buy pies for the meal but the bakery is all sold out so he asks the woman behind the counter to tie up two empty pie shaped boxes so it would look like he fulfilled his assignment. And to top it off. Jenny’s mashed potatoes go flying out of the bowl and around the kitchen when she turns the mixer on too high a speed.
So the Tappleton family sits down for their Thanksgiving meal and there’s nothing on the table. No one can find the turkey because the turkey is in the bottom of the pond. When he realizes what happened to the main course, Uncle Fritz’s stomach growls because he’s so hungry. Next, the family hears about the mashed potatoes strewn all over the walls so they can’t be eaten. And Uncle Fritz’s stomach growls some more.
At this point, the family decides to skip the meal and go right to dessert, but the pie boxes are empty and Uncle Fritz is beside himself with hunger. Whereupon little Kenny sighs and chimes in sadly. “There’s nothing to say a prayer for.”
“Nonsense,” responds Grandmother Tappleton, “there’s always something to say a prayer for.” And here is her prayer.
“Turkeys come and turkeys go
And trimmings can be lost, we know.
But we’re together; that’s what matters
Not what’s served upon the platters.”
When the prayer is over, the Tappleton family opens the cupboard and pulls out liverwurst for sandwiches, pickles and canned applesauce. Even more, they feast on the bounty of family and laughter and life itself. It is a most amazing banquet…
Whether you have turkey and pumpkin pie and all the trimmings on Thursday. Or liverwurst sandwiches and pickles and applesauce. Or whatever meal is part of your Thanksgiving tradition. I hope all of you will also feast on the bounty of family and friends and laughter and life itself.
And remember two things. In God’s world, there is enough. And just like Grandmother Tappleton said, “There’s always something to say a prayer for.” Amen.