"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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord." - Habakkuk 3: 17 - 18
Thanksgiving is coming up later this week.
It's one thing to be celebrate Thanksgiving when our home is warm and comfortable, our table is laden, everyone is enjoying more or less decent health, and your leaders aren't threatening nuclear war.
It is something else again — as will be true this year for folks in Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida and Sonoma County — when home has vanished, the table is meager, and people are sick and tired.
Who gives thanks to God when life is tough, when things aren't great, when instead of a lot what you have is a little?
The closing verses of the book of the prophet Habakkuk, some of which you can read above, would make for an interesting Thanksgiving sermon.
The prophet says the fig trees are barren, the olive harvest bad, and the cows and sheep have up and died.
And yet, "I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength."
At least sometimes, faith in God is an act of protest. At least some days, giving thanks and rejoicing in God are an assertion of faith against the evidence.
Faith as defiance.
I remember, as a young pastor, being struck by the family who, as with one voice, sang "Now Thank We All Our God," full and strong through their tears at the funeral of their beloved wife, sister and mother.
I didn't understand it. But I was moved by it.
Sometimes faith is an act of defiance. Sometimes rejoicing is through tears.
Sometimes you gotta say — or sing — Hallelujah Anyhow.
Whatever our circumstances this Thanksgiving, Lord, make our spirits bold, our hearts generous and our faith defiant. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church." You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.