This week...as we prepare for Thanksgiving on Thursday...a few random thoughts. I preached this sermon below at an Interfaith Service in our community last week.
As a pastor within the United Church of Christ, we celebrate and claim a historical tie to the Pilgrims. If you drive around New England, almost every town will have a white clapboard church sitting in the center some of which date back to the Pilgrims arriving in this country. Many of the church signs out front of those buildings will be say, "First Congregational UCC"; "Mayflower UCC"; "Pilgrim" or "Plymouth UCC". You could say that Thanksgiving is a very Congregational holiday. You are welcome. But it is important to acknowledge that our Congregational forefathers and mothers had a complicated relationship with the Native Americans. Beyond the moment of breaking bread together, which we symbolically we recall on Thanksgiving Thursday, there were moments we, as Congregationalist, did not always live out the values of our faith. The treatment of the First Nation people did not reflect the loving kindness, doing justice, and walking humbly that the prophet Micah has called people of faith of every age to embody. Like so much in life, there is both blessing and brokenness when we open our history books.
That is why interfaith services with people from a variety and no faith tradition are so vital today. Beyond words or lip service, being together; listening and learning from each other is an important witness in a world that is too divided and where harsh hard words are spoken too frequently. This interfaith service is a visible way that as people of faith we need to stand up against violence in our sacred spaces; whether that be in a Mosque or Synagogue or Church; whether the pain and harm happens with weapons or words that spread hate. When we gather across religious lines that too often divide, we hold on to the truth that when one of us hurts, we are all wounded and hurt. To worship alongside each other and respect each other’s traditions is an affirm that we are all prayerfully searching to be guided and grounded in the holy.
When asked what I am most grateful for it is the freedom to worship with my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. It is a spirit I hear in the music being sung by diverse voices. It is this sacred ground and sharing food together. It is the fact that the sun shone forth today with a refreshing breeze and that I don’t have to shovel snow this winter. It is to be with a wider faith family who recognize that while there is much work to do to bring about justice for all, these moments do matter and make a difference. What we are doing tonight is a blessing. You can bless one another by seeing each other, by being present, and by singing out together. This Thanksgiving I invite you to not just count your blessings, but to actually bless another person. How do you bless another person? I am reminded of a poem I came across where the poet offers a blessing on an ordinary day in the park to every one she sees. Hear these words.
Bless the slow walkers of old, gray-muzzled dogs
and the quick ones with their sleek young dogs
and the patient ones with rambunctious pups
they allow to take a dip in the lake.
Bless the new mothers pushing strollers,
cooing nonsense to their babies, tucking in
blankets as the breeze rises.
Bless the teen in stars-and-stripes shorts
who rides his skateboard
hat on backwards, not meeting anyone’s gaze.
Bless the weathered woman in a wheelchair
and the young woman who pushes her along.
Bless the haloed girl riding on her daddy’s shoulders
and bless that man who raises her up
to a place where she can see the world.
Bless the whistlers, the hummers and the ones
who choose to walk in silence.
Bless the loud, animated conversations between friends.
Bless the chirps of the last crickets, the surprise
of wind chimes someone hung in a tree.
So may the spirit that infuses and inspires us here tonight cause us to bless each other and let those blessings flow forth from this space, this week, this month, and filling the year to come. God bless each of you. Amen.