A Different Kind of Thanksgiving: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
(November 21 & 22)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
november 21, 2020
What are the chances someone at your Thanksgiving Dinner Table will be a carrier of COVID? There’s a tool to help you access the risk: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/ - simply adjust the event size bar on the left to indicate the number of people attending. Then find the county in which the dinner will be held. Click on the county, and a percentage appears. For years, my family gathered in Seward County, Nebraska. There would be about 50 of us. According to today’s map, a gathering of 50 in Seward County brings a 91% risk someone at the dinner table is a COVID carrier. My cousin, Anne? Or, my Aunt Ruth? Maybe even my very own brother, Jeff? I can imagine the family suspicion. In a recent poll, the Pew Research Center said 62% of Americans will eat the festive meal with more than 10 people. Good luck, everyone. At the very least, blessing counting will be different this year. Have you thought about a COVID Thanksgiving Day Prayer? How do you give thanks behind a mask? What are your plans for Thanksgiving? How many will be present at the table?
Sometimes, it’s more difficult to be thankful. Life events can weigh heavy upon a thankful heart. Maybe this is one of those years. I remember nearly 30 years ago. I was young(er), fresh out of seminary, with a group from the then Valley View UMC. We were leading a “Thanksgiving Day Worship” at Indian Creek Nursing Center. I began the “sermon” asking residents to name something for which they were thankful. “Family” quickly became the dominant theme. One elderly resident, though, sat quietly in her wheelchair towards the front of the room. I walked close and asked her directly, speaking loudly, in case she didn’t hear well: “WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR TODAY?” She maintained her silence. I coaxed some: “Surely you can think of one thing?” Finally, she spoke, just as loud as me. “Well, I can,” she said. “One thing, and it’s not a ‘darn’ thing,” only she didn’t use the word ‘darn.’ It could be this is the year to use her word in reflecting upon our thanks, especially for 2020. Recall a life moment when being thankful didn’t come easy?
In the Old Testament, the prophets Ezekiel and Habakkuk both report on the same event: the deportation of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, to Babylon. For the Jewish People, the exile was harsh and punishing, and long. Ezekiel’s account is particularly gloomy. Only twice in the 48 chapters, does the prophet use the word hope. Ezekiel’s hope was hard to come by. I wonder if that meant thankfulness was hard to come by, too? Is there a connection between hope and thankfulness? Yet, the prophet Habakkuk gave a different look to the same event. Habakkuk doesn’t ignore the hard times: “though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls.” It is a time of “little and none” for the Hebrew People. “Yet,” says Habakkuk: “I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” If thankfulness is based upon plenty, this might be the year for ‘darn.’ Thankfully, Habakkuk shares a different perspective when it comes to thanksgiving. His is rooted in God. If you feel thankful this year, what is the source of your thanksgiving? Oh, by the way, God can handle your ‘darn,’ should that be the way you feel right now.
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Saturday, November 21 at 5:00 pm
"Make my heart thankful, O God."