Today is the day we celebrate American Thanksgiving. There are many reasons this holiday came about, and it’s worth the time to read the history stories. Whatever the history stories say, we have decided to continually commemorate this day with food. Not just any food; it is a feast. A bounty of hot dishes, roast meat, pie, stuffing, all set at a table where we invite family and friends to come, bring what they have, so everyone can enjoy the cornucopia of glad tidings and blessings.
Around a Thanksgiving table we gather, to tell of the gratitude we have uncovered in our hearts this year, to tell and re-tell stories that have passed into mythology with time. We gather as a community, doing the stuff of life together.
I don’t think it was by chance that Jesus had a last supper. The meal of Passover was instituted by God as a perpetual reminder to the people of Israel, a reminder about what made them the people of God: the promise and salvation of God. At this last dinner, Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, and breaks it, calling his disciples to come and eat. “This bread is like my body: broken for you. This is the substance of your days; I am the bread of life. The bread you eat is a pale shadow compared to me. Take and eat; do this in remembrance of me.” Then he blesses the communal goblet of wine. “Drink this,” he says. ‘This is the cup that I am partaking of, the cup of a new covenant I am making with you: you will be my people and I will be your God. I am the vine, you are the branches. Your life, your spirit, your hopes and dreams all come from being rooted in me. Drink this cup, and proclaim my death to every generation and people group, in every time and place. Do this in remembrance of me.”
This table full of food, prepared in a ritualistic way, the way our forefathers and our grandmothers cooked the potatoes and the bitter herbs, the turkey and the lamb… The stories passed down from Abraham, Moses, and Uncle Steve, with children asking, “what does it mean” as they graduate from the kids table… The richness of an entire day centered around one meal, one table, one faith, one baptism… The pie.
This is what we are doing on Thanksgiving; it’s what we should do every week. This is being the Church. This is remembering the people in the shadows, in the margins. Inviting them to a place left empty so they can be warm, be filled, and be part of the family. This is sharing life, drink, story, food, and song. Thanksgiving is an American tradition, and in this tradition we get the echos of Jesus invitation to the table of God. In this tradition of men, we begin to get a taste of the new creation.
So gather around the Thanksgiving tables today. Share laughter, stories, stress, and pie. But remember: this table before you has been set by Jesus. It is a shadow of the wedding feast that awaits us when all the universe is made well and right. This table is for all, no one is to be left out, no one is to be denied a double portion of potatoes. Today, we give thanks because every good and perfect Gift comes from God, and we are the invitation for others to come to the feast.
“Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this in remembrance of me”