How do we give thanks in sad and uncertain times?
Written by Dale Bishop
It is customary at this time of the year to give thanks for the abundance in our lives. We thank God that we live in a society relatively free from the crushing poverty experienced by so many people around the world.
Many table graces over our Thanksgiving meals will properly exhort us to remember those who do not have enough to eat, even as we contemplate our heavily laden tables and make plans for our post-prandial diets.
But, of course, this year our thanks will be tempered by our mourning for those we lost on September 11 and for the subsequent loss of our own sense of security and confidence in the future.
How, indeed, do we give thanks in a time of such sadness and uncertainty?
And there's an additional troubling matter. Much of the abundance that we customarily give thanks for comes at the expense of those very people we pray for around the world.
Most of us have more than we need while millions starve. Theirs is a daily, grinding confrontation with terror, with an insecurity not about some unforeseen act of violence, but about the next meal, or about tonight's shelter.
In the wake of the disasters of September 11, we received a steady stream of communications from our partner churches around the world.
Among the condolences and expressions of solidarity were two additional sentiments.
One was the hope that our country would not resort to a retaliation that would only widen the circle of violence. The other was the hope that our churches would find in our common faith the resources both to deal with our own wounds and to address the inequities in our world that contribute to violence and fanaticism.
Perhaps we need to consider carefully what it is that we will be thankful for during this Thanksgiving season.
I will be thankful, certainly, for the gifts of God's bounty that I have come to assume will be there for me to enjoy, but I will also be grateful to be a part of a church that cares about others around the world, even in angry Afghanistan, for a church that continually challenges me to care.
But, even more, I will be thankful for the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that, quite frankly, withers the more secure I feel because of my privileged status in this world, but that deepens and strengthens me during times of sadness and uncertainty.
It is this faith that sustains our partners around the world, and will, if we let it, sustain us during this time of trial.
Dale Bishop is executive minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries