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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giving Thanks

Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Last Wednesday night, in the Fellowship Hall, we had a magnificent
Thanksgiving dinner. Cooked up by the Communities Committee, and
executively cheffed by Michael Gant, "The Turkenator." Pilgrims wish
they had a dinner like ours.

This coming week, many of you will be traveling for Thanksgiving meals
with family or, perhaps, loved ones. If you're flying, the TSA has
announced that for a small fee, they'll do special "Before" and
"After" body scans, so you can see exactly where all the pumpkin pie
went. They're expecting the pat-downs to take a little longer on the
return trip (more ground to cover).

If you don't have Thanksgiving plans, or if you're looking for a new
way to celebrate, the folks at the Knox Area Rescue Ministries and the
Volunteer Ministry Center would love to have you come spend the day
with them. Go to www.karm.org and look under "Tent of Hope" to sign up
online. Volunteer Ministry Center is vmcinc.org. There's absolutely no
better way to realize how much you have to give thanks for than by
spending time with those who'll give thanks for your time and

Sandwiched (no pun intended) between the rich abundance of last
Wednesday's meal and this Thursday's, we have this feast, the one
we're sharing today. It's a little different. For one thing, the main
course is bread, which on our menus is usually a side item. Bread is
what they bring you at Calhoun's when you're waiting for the real meal
to show up. Bread's kind of an afterthought, a nice touch, though. But
something you could live without, and probably do better by avoiding
because of the extra carbs. Leave it to Jesus to turn things upside
down. The last shall be first, the rich shall be poor, and the side
shall be the entree. There are people in the world who would kill -
literally, kill - for a loaf of fresh-baked bread, that is, if they
had the strength to stand up and do it. Jesus takes the part of the
meal we often overlook, and makes it the centerpiece. He probably
wants us to realize how lucky we are, and how thankful we can be.

And then, there's the grape juice. Not wine. Because there are a lot
of people who shouldn't drink anything alcoholic. And because we've
got enough Puritan left in us to make us shudder at the idea of
alcohol on church grounds. Mr. Welch invented unfermented grape juice
for his congregation, and the idea stuck, which is fine. The kind of
fruit of the vine isn't as important as drinking it in the name of the
one who said, "I am the vine, and you are the branches." And even
then, there are variations on the theme.

One Sunday, at a church I know, the elder forgot to fill the trays
with cups. Time came for the minister to serve communion. He lifted
the lid, and had a moment of frozen panic. Not to worry, said the
elder in charge, who leapt from his pew and ran downstairs to the
kitchen to get the grape juice. Unfortunately, the elder had also
forgotten to buy grape juice, to fill the cups. But there was orange
juice. Communion took a little longer that day, and was accompanied by
some Florida sunshine. Jesus shakes his head: "I am the branches, and
you are the nuts."

If you reunite with family this week, remember, the only normal people
are the ones you don't know very well. And even they think you're a
little odd. We all have our quirks. It's just that some eccentricities
are more acceptable. Some of us are more skilled at camouflage.

In between the big meals where we're eying the helping sizes of the
people around us, where we're taking mental notes of table manners,
where we're worried about who's going to stick around to clean up and
what we're going to do with all the leftovers -- in between these
wonderfully abundant meals is the bread and the cup of this day, this
daily bread, this cup of blessing. Jesus reminds us that he comes to
us most often in between the big events. Jesus reminds us that he
comes to us in small bits, easily digestible, and quickly past. Jesus
comes to us as "just enough," to give us a taste.

Scripture says to us, "May you be made strong with all the strength
that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure
everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the
Father...." A bite of bread and a swallow of juice aren't huge
servings, but they contain just enough to make you strong with all the
strength that comes from his glorious power. It's just enough to
prepare us to endure everything with patience, while joyfully having
thanksgiving in the Father. We don't need our communion with God to be
huge; we just need it to be lasting.

Somewhere, this Thursday, there are going to be soldiers, huddling
under a tarp, opening up MREs of cold turkey and frozen green beans.
Somewhere, this Thursday, there are going to be people pulling
single-serving turkey dinners from the microwave. Somewhere, there
will be mothers in homeless shelters trying to keep their kids from
eating too fast. Somewhere, there will be Norman Rockwellian fathers
carving Butterball turkeys while distant relatives clink glasses and
toast their occasional nearness. But the golden thread that ties them
all together will be the spirit of Thanksgiving, the spirit of giving
thanks, for however much or however little they might have.

Thanksgiving doesn't depend on the size of the turkey, or the numbers
around the table. The elements of Thanksgiving are right there in its
name: thanks and giving. If you are thankful, and if you give, you've
got the concept. It's really pretty simple. Kind of like a piece of
bread, and a cup of juice. Simple. But enough. The meal at the Lord's
Table is simple enough to be enough. It's enough to get us through to
the next big event. It's enough to get us through, with patience,
knowing that Christ who is in all and through all, bringing home all
things to God the Father.

James McTyre
Pastor, Lake Hills PCUSA
Stated Clerk, Presbytery of East TN
Office: 865-577-8510
Cell & SMS: 865-268-9628
Skype: jamesmctyre