Thanksgiving Day

The Reverend Torey Lightcap, Canon to the Ordinary for the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas

One year at Thanksgiving, at Grandma Morris’ house, there was an old, wooden, country kitchen table that seated about twelve. When all the boards were put into it and all the chairs were filled with people, there wasn’t room for much of anything else in that little kitchen. Grandma and my mom and my aunts loaded down that table with all the things you’d expect to find for the typical Thanksgiving dinner, plus a few oddities, such as the fact that for some reason Grandma Morris put yellow food coloring in her gravy.

The point is, the table was full. So full, it actually groaned. And in retrospect, that should have told us something; But we were hungry, and the food looked great, and smelled great, And anyway the football wasn’t going to watch itself, or the naps take themselves, so without a lot of reflection, other than the grace, we tucked in to our turkey.

Halfway through the first go-round, the table creaked again. And an eyebrow or two may have gone up, but that was all. And then that table made a kind of splitting noise, and the dowel pins gave up the ghost, and the whole thing started to cave in the middle, and time seemed to suddenly slow d o w n . . . And things started happening in hi-def, super-slow motion.

I recall a stream of yellow gravy, like Old Faithful, reverberating up and off of the crash site, the sound of dishes that clattered, and then some shattering. Sweet tea spattered over many surfaces. Chunks of white china in the turkey. Potatoes everywhere. Cranberries on a water glass that was laying on its side. The sound of the crash reverberating past us and out of the room and up the street. And deviled eggs, still in place in their serving dish, but sort of sliding back and forth.

Well, what would you do? That’s what we did, too: Sat there in our chairs, stunned for a minute; Salvaged what we could; cleaned it all up; got out the card tables. Carefully picked through the food to make sure it was safe. (All the desserts had been placed on the washing machine, So, by the grace of God, we still had pie.)

And we started all over again. Started over again, in that way you do when something strange happens: Full of laughs, but still a bit shaken, and raw, suddenly paying more attention to things. Already telling the story to each other, sure that it would become an instant Morris family holiday classic, which it did – The Year The Table Broke.

Now, that’s a story about an awful lot of things, isn’t it?
It’s about what you do, how you adjust, when circumstances rapidly shift before your eyes.
It’s about old support systems that don’t work anymore.
It’s about having enough clear space to do something new.
It’s about sorting through what no longer works in order to salvage what still works.
It’s about finding safety and telling stories.
It’s about families, and how they come together, and what they do.
It’s about the way we get to treat each other with such sudden, unexpected kindness.

Today Jesus says, When things go wrong – or even before things go wrong – remember to look up at the birds; They don’t sweat it, and they do just fine. Or think about flowers: they don’t spin, they don’t toil – And they’re prettier than King Solomon by a far sight.

He says, Righteousness – seeking after God – teaches us contentment of the spirit. We no longer need to look for perfection to satisfy us, but instead whatever God gives us in itself will be entirely sufficient, And in its own way, perfect. He says, in fact, nothing will satisfy us until we are satisfied in God.

Saint Augustine said it better. He said that God moves us to delight in praise; that we were made for God; And that “our hearts are restless until they find rest” in God. Hear that? “Our hearts are restless until they find rest” in God … And here’s the really beautiful part: This rest – it’s free, it’s available, it doesn’t discriminate: There’s no magic formula, no special hidden gateway, no specific knowledge, no password. Resting in God is as simple as that: Breathing in and out, letting go, resting, secure, in the love of our Creator.

So powerful. So simple.
Our human lives are complicated, sophisticated things. For some reason, we get to thinking that our spiritual lives have to be just as complicated If they are to have any chance of being perfect. Jesus says, give up that game. Give up the performance game; Because precisely who and what you are at this very moment is entirely sufficient.

There’s no greater chance for happiness anywhere else outside this room at this moment Than there is at this very moment, right now, inside this room. In other words, wherever you are can be a place of rest if you’re open. Whoever you are, whoever I am, with all our imperfections, can be a place of rest. Whenever you are can be a time of rest. Whatever circumstance you’re in, no matter how restless or complicated, can be a place of rest and simplicity. Beneath the bustle and din and hum of ordinary life, There is a most extraordinary reality always embracing us – the love of the Creator. All we can do is to be open to it. No authorization code. No key to remember, no lock to get through. Just an open door. An always-open door.

My dear friends in Christ, my deepest prayer for each of us this day Is that we may be unsettled in some way, to be picked up and turned around and shaken by some circumstance beyond our control, if only to be shown the deeper underlying pattern – That Jesus’ words then are still true today: The birds of the air, the lilies of the field: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Amen.

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