Add a seat to your table this Thanksgiving

Almost six months have passed since my last post. I’ve warned readers that my writing schedule would be irregular, and so it is. I could say that I’ve been busy, which is true, but there is more to it. I’ve taken a break not just from blogging, but from social media in general. Maybe, I needed some time to reflect. Nevertheless, I’ve posted on Thanksgiving day the past two years, and I want to continue this emerging tradition.

The first post was a poem written by Rev. Megan Lynes and shared at the Thanksgiving service at First Parish in Bedford on Nov. 24, 2013. I feel a personal connection to Megan because I was a member of the search committee that recommended that she be asked to join our congregation. Her poem captures Thanksgiving’s essence, and is as relevant today as it was two years ago.

The second post was a poem written by Wendell Berry, and read in honor of Ivan Robinson, who died on Aug. 4, 2014. Ivan was my brother-in-law. He survived my sister Joyce, who died in 2006. Ivan and Joyce were proud Atheists who practiced tolerance and hope. As part of their legacy, they left 42 acres of land in a conservation trust. I was the executor of their estate, which is a task that I will complete this year.

I want to again share a message of hope from a personal connection. This year I offer a video featuring Josh Leach, who is the new student minister at First Parish. Josh spoke at the service on Nov. 8, 2015, “Barring the Golden Door” (beginning at time 24:17 on the replay). I recently started my third year on the First Parish Internship Committee, and Josh is the second student that I have worked with. Josh is a young man who, like my own children, has grown up in difficult times. I have witnessed the stressors that are causing rising anxiety levels in this generation. Josh’s words give me hope that our children will overcome the challenges that they will face.

When I listen to a student’s sermon, I am listening for ideas that will give people hope and help them find meaning in their lives. When I visit a traditional Christian church, I know that the minister will achieve this by talking about the idea of God. In my church, where many view God only through a historical lens, the minister must speak to hope and meaning in more creative ways. We experience highly complex issues that cause suffering as part of the human condition. These issues are begging for solutions. The minister is not a scientist, policy analyst, activist or politician. Therefore, I neither expect nor want the minister to articulate comprehensive solutions to problems. What I do expect is that the minister will understand the complexity, acknowledge the difficulty in finding practical solutions, and most importantly shine a light in the direction of hope and justice.

On this Thanksgiving day, I am sharing Josh’s sermon because his wisdom inspires me. He begins with a poem by Warsaw Shire, about the reasons people leave their homes. He then reflects on the struggles of refugees around the world. Listening to him helped me set aside my fears of terrorism, most recently exacerbated by the Paris attacks, and be more understanding of the plight of people in Syria, Central America, and other places besieged with violence. Josh has increased my awareness, and I will strive to view refugees with compassion. Each year we take part in the UUSC Guest at Your Table Program, but this year I will do more. While complete solutions to problems associated to refugees remain elusive, I know the direction to go. I will “welcome others to freedom” and be more free myself.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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