It would seem that in so many ways this day and age is thankless. This day and age seems so filled with greed and avarice. People too often seem to have lost any sense of civility. Our government is in turmoil and that in turn leads to a deep sense of disorientation. What is up is down and what was down is up. Perhaps we have found ourselves in Wonderland.
But there is always reason for reflection and when we reflect hopefully some of that reflection is about what we have, not about what we do not have or have lost. What we have is an important feature in our lives. We too often measure ourselves by what we do not have or what we lack. Yet, as we said in a recent worship service:
You stand on the shoulders of your ancestors.
Age to age your ancestors lived just for you.
Upon their shoulders you stand and
you are greater than they could possibly dream.
You are stronger than they could imagine.
You are the fulfillment of all of those that have gone
their ways so that you might Be.
Yes, you, who are broken or well; whole or in parts; seekers, sinners, devout, agnostic, atheist, or mystic. You are more than the previous generations, your ancestors, could possibly imagine. If you carry shame, let it go. If you carry guilt, let it go. If you carry “baggage”, let it go. You are the sum and substance going back eons; further back than memory can conjure. You are a legacy of survival against all odds. You are the progeny of the universe and her wisdom.
The Universe conspires to create mystical unions unimagined and yet spoken into existence. Think of a traditional church in union with Winter Wonderland, The Bourbon Pub, The Golden Lantern, and The Phoenix. Yes, it is mystical and holy because each of these businesses are people and they each represent a cohort and each cohort is working to help children not of their ken and not of their sort but rather so often very different than they/we are.
Yet, these children, or perhaps these hungry people, are all seen as deserving of our attention and reflection. Parties for donations of Christmas presents along with fundraisers to help keep the community outreach going. Mystical, that is the word or perhaps holy. In those singular acts of cocktails and characters, love seeps out of the space we occupy into the spaces that others dwell in.
Yes, this world can seem thankless in all of its fear, self-centeredness and apathy. Yet, here we are providing spaces and our commitment in this time to simply give. So, perhaps we can be thankful for a community that gathers on a winter’s day or night and brings a toy or donation that will leave the room and enter a heart. We stand as a family called humanity. Sometimes that family may be in drag or show flash or simply stand quietly in a corner waiting for someone to notice. But we stand on a firm foundation.
That foundation, in our faith tradition, is sometimes called “a great cloud of witnesses” and sometimes “the communion of saints.” Whatever we call our ancestors, we are now more than could have been imagined. Biologically what I say is truth. According to the best science, all of our species comes from a single woman, likely living in Africa, and scientists have named her Eve. We stand on her shoulders.
Soon, so many households will join and eat and drink and spend time together. Sometimes some folks will force themselves to join with family that they do not care for. Sometimes, some will be alone and feel left out of the communal gathering. Some will rejoice and feel warm and eat good things. Yet, for all of you/us, we are more than our ancestors could have imagined and for that we should be thankful.
There is a small lovely church in Chattanooga, TN. It sits at the base of “Lookout Mountain” on “the backside of town.” That part of town used to be the black part of town. Not so much anymore, but it once was.
That little church found a fellowship of those who carried the weight of Jim Crow and yet prayed and sang. That little piece of ground was an outreach and reached out to a community beset by the worst of what we can be. Yet, they prayed and they sang. In a long list of pastors whose photos are in the small Parish Hall, there is Black priest after priest each gathering and praying and singing.
Yet despite the challenges of the Jim Crow South, they named their church “Thankful.” What a delightful name for a place to gather and to pray, to visit and to sing–Thankful. It stands today with priests who, despite the misogyny of the church, are women of elegance, of good craft, who, with their fellow seekers pray, sing, and share the day together.
Cosmically therefore, there is hope and that hope is found in you and you and you. That hope is a mystical conspiracy that joins the oddest of us together. Together we become a whole. Not a perfect union of humanity by any means, but a humanity that struggles to survive and here we are.
Yup, perched on a bar stool, sipping a cocktail or swilling a beer. Yup, here we are sometimes ignoring the ugly and embracing the love.
Here we stand in awe, in distress, in peace, and in turmoil. Here we stand in lust and love, in hope and despair, in need and almost complete. Here we stand as a fractured piece of creation, yet here we stand as the crown in the jewel of creation; the apple of God’s eye; the hope and legacy of Eve.
For all of this, at some point give thanks in a thankless world. When you do, thanklessness shrinks away and the universe is filled with the possibilities of you.