Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: A holy day for Grace's Vision of Another World Possible, Here, Now, Coming

Words from our Thanksgiving Service at The Welcome Table: Community In Mission To Show God's Love...​:
Rev. Ron Robinson

We are inheritors, for good and ill, of the very 1620 religious community who fled Empire but brought it with them, survived, celebrated thanks in New England, but we also know the evil that comes from thinking we are doing good without mutual community, and so Thanksgiving is now for us mostly a holiday of celebrating Grace. 

Grace, that abundance and the sacred are found where and when we least expect it. Grace, which traces its word history back to the Greek charis, used in Homer's Odyssey for that moment when Ulysses shipwrecked washes up naked and helpless on the island's shore but in his vulnerability receives a gift from the Gods of a covering over his body so at his weakest he is at his strongest. 

Thanksgiving reminds us that Grace comes from anywhere, anytime, through anyone, particularly the ones without power and privilege. In the book of Genesis, Jacob discovers this when alone, exiled, weakened, sleeping on a stone and yet it is right then that he has his dream of God's vision and wakes to realize the sacredness was right there all along and he did not know it, as a place like ours abandoned is also the place of sacredness.

As Kathleen Norris writes, about Grace through the eyes of a baby:
"One morning this past spring I noticed a young couple with an infant at an airport departure gate.  The baby was staring intently at other people, and as soon as he recognized a human face, no matter whose it was, no matte if it was young or old, pretty or ugly, bored or happy or worried-looking he would respond with absolute delight.  It was beautiful to see. Our drab departure gate had become the gate to heaven.
"And as I watrched the baby play with any adult who would allow it, I felt as awe-struck as Jacob because I realized that this is how God looks at us, staring into our faces in order to be delighted, to see the creature he made and called good, along with the rest of creation. And as Psalm 139 puts it, darkness is as nothing to God.who can look right through whatever evil we've done in our lives to the creature made in the divine image.
"...And maybe that's one reason we worship--to respond to grace. We praise God not to celebrate our own faith but to give thanks for the faith God has in us."

We see grace in the story from the bible that is being read all over the world by churches today, of when Jesus is arrested by the Roman Empire; at that moment of helplessness and vulnerability, his response is one of grace, to embody the God who reacts not in fear and violence and retribution, even in and out of his innocence, but responds by reminding all that his power was not like the Empire's power, and that it might be able to control his body but not his soul, and when Peter responds as the Empire would respond, striking out in violence against violence, Jesus bestows the gift of grace upon his captor and restores the severed ear, a moment of grace embodying the kind of real power that changes the world and captures our hearts still, an important moment in how one who follows him is to live and respond--as if another world is possible, is here right now, and is coming, and calling us to participate in it. A world of grace. 

Even centuries later, communities who follow Jesus are continuing to be guided by his Gethsamane Garden vision. We lift up this week the community of resistance to the Nazis, the Bruderhof, the radical reformers, who refused to blend church and state together and were persecuted and in November of 1933 were virtually destroyed by the Nazis and their leader Eberhard Arnold died soon after. Before he died, he wrote: "Life in community is no less necessary for us--it is an inescapable must that determines everything we do and think...We must live in community because all life created by God exists in a communal order and works toward community." Grace continues to lift up the truth of those who were silenced in their time by Empire. In community we experience such Grace. 

Our final word before communion, before eucharist, that Greek word for thanksgiving that we participate in each time we gather, comes from Frederick Buechner on Grace. Our Thanksgiving benediction:

"Grace is something you can never get but only be given. The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach and take it is a gift too." 

And now for the gift we pass to one another, the gift of the bread of life, broken as all is broken, and the cup of hope which makes all whole.