Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving (aka National Day of Mourning)

by Rev. Laura Barclay

In 1970, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts asked Frank James, the leader of the Wampanoag tribe, to speak at their Thanksgiving festivities. As he looked at the spectators and out into the waters where a replica of the Mayflower was docked, he did not speak about the partnership between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. Instead, he spoke about the pain that followed. For European settlers, we trace the beginnings of our country and the idea of America as a melting pot to that meal. For Indians, they trace their genocide, loss of land, customs, languages, and way of life to that symbolic day. Not long after that meal, many Indians died or were enslaved in King Philip’s War. Within a few centuries, the United States would break treaty after treaty with the Indians, forcibly removing Indians off their land to reservations and forcing Indian children to reject their native traditions and be schooled in European culture.

The Gospel lectionary text for this Thanksgiving Sunday is Matthew 6:25-33, where Jesus instructs that we should be more concerned about the Kingdom of God than our clothing and food. I do not believe that he’s saying hunger and poverty are not of great concern. In fact, he states the exact opposite in Matthew 25, when he claims that the only criteria for judgment hinges on clothing and feeding the poor. I believe, in context with Jesus’ other statements, he is saying that what matters most is hospitality. Jesus’ whole ministry was about expanding the social norms for hospitality. He healed lepers, ate with vilified tax collectors, changed water into wine to extend the celebration at a wedding, and blurred the lines of the strict social environment in which he lived. Perhaps he’s saying that loving God and neighbor, with hospitality being the public outpouring of that love, is more important than priding ourselves on large tables of food and designer clothing.

In our displays of food around the Thanksgiving table this year, let us remember the entirety of the Thanksgiving story. Let’s remember that God calls us to hospitality and love. As God’s children, let us give thanks for God’s love and show others that love through our hospitality. Let us ask for forgiveness when we have failed to exhibit that love, and give thanks that tomorrow is a new day to work for reconciliation. Let us remember the Indians who will again gather at Coles Hill near Plymouth Rock and to observe the National Day of Mourning. Most importantly, let us pray and work toward the day when “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:4).”

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, drive safe, and I’ll see you next week!

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