“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Saying grace on Thanksgiving Day is complicated. Because if you have half a heart you can’t do it without also recalling that many of the people who put this feast on your table work in awful conditions for little pay and never eat like you do.
And if you know history, you can’t admire the courageous conviction of the Pilgrims without also feeling shame about the violent aftermath of their arrival.
And if you’re in touch with the world, you can’t mention your post-prandial snooze or football orgy in your grace without also remembering street people who may or may not get served a good meal today, but who in either case will probably not get to relax like you do, or watch the game.
How do you count your blessings when many have come, and still do, at the expense of others? What do you do with your fellow-feeling and the claims of justice as you praise God for bounty and beauty, wealth and well-being, home and family? And can’t we just enjoy the holiday unbothered by our conscience?
I can’t answer those questions for you, but if you’re wrestling with any of them as you sit down to pray and eat, I want to tell you this: You’ve got even more to be thankful for than you thought, for it’s an immeasurable gift to say grace with one eye on your neighbor, to give thanks with joy complicated by concern, to count your blessings while repenting your sins, to know yourself in a muddle, trying to be good. It means you’re awake and not sleeping, alive and not dead. It means God is poking away at you, and you’ve let God in.
Poke away, Holy One, poke away. And thanks.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.