Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

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.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Ivan Robinson

Ivan Robinson

On September 6, 2014, Lynn Robinson read this poem, “The Peace of Wild Things,” at a family gathering to celebrate the life of Ivan Robinson, who died on August 4, 2014. On this Thanksgiving day, Ivan will be missed, but we will all remember the meaningful life he led.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Attribution: “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998.

Thanksgiving

For the dusting of frost and the early nightfall,
For the crunch of leaves and the barn owl’s call.
For the patient hills and the furious winds,
For the torrent of anger that time can rescind…
We give thanks for quiet, and rustle and rain,
We give thanks for forests, the sun and the plains.
For the kindness of strangers whose gifts come for free,
And how in just noticing that, we can be –
More open to others, both living and gone,
More grateful to everyone hither and yon.

The times we are living in can be so stark,
We stumble around in the cold and the dark.
The bills pile up, the chores need to get done,
The news of the world makes all of us numb.
Yet we cannot pretend it’s not happening now,
In Ghaza, the Philippines, here in our town,
The ones who suffer feel empty and small,
Their voices are whispers behind a thick wall,
And we who are able to listen or act,
Must vow to reach out when faced with the fact –
That time does not stop for Love nor for Grief;
It rambles along like a mischievous thief.

’Til one day our “story-in-story” unfolds,
The truth is that humans are frail and bold.
We may be the one behind the thick wall,
or stuck in a marriage or ready to fall,
Yet courage can bloom when we meet eye to eye,
In sisterhood, brotherhood, someone says “why? –
are you thinking that you need to fix this alone?
Your life is a blessing, your presence is home –
to so many around you, who see who you are.
You’re known, and you’re treasured… so don’t you go far.”
Your membership here, is only a start,
Of the great world we live in, humanity’s heart.

All humans and creatures live under one sky;
We live in the beauty of this world so fine.
So though days are short and nights are so long,
And though time is fleeting like notes in a song,
The thing to remember this month of the year,
Is to sidle right up to the ones you hold dear.
Think long on the things that give you great stir,
Perfecting these thanks, then telling that sir, –
or madame or youth, all you want to convey.
Wait not for tomorrow, when subtle thoughts fade.
Tell them specifics, how it felt when you knew,
That they could be trusted; you could tell them the truth.
Tell them you love them, say you won’t shy away,
From caring or solving our fears of the day.
Speak of your love with your whimsey and wit.
Speak of it softly or tell it in bits,
Round a fireplace, cuddled up, in a child’s ear,
Out on a walk, or maybe right here.

We are grateful together this Thanksgiving time,
For the kindness of strangers, and old friends divine.
For spiced apples, and muffins and tea in a cup,
And the windy cold weather that makes us zip up.
We give thanks this morning for all that will come,
Since time stops for no one, not mother or son.
We turn to each other through thick and through thin,
Thanks be for this life, this “Great Room” that we’re in.

Wendell Berry stands before the solar panels on his farm in Henry County, KY. Photo by Guy Mendes

Wendell Berry stands before the solar panels on his farm in Henry County, KY. Photo by Guy Mendes

“Thanksgiving” was written by Rev. Megan Lynes, and she read it on Nov. 24, 2013 at First Parish in Bedford MA as part of the 9:00 AM Thanksgiving Service & Welcoming of New Members. The service, which was a team effort with Revs. John Gibbons, included inspiration and readings from Wendell Berry. Selected sermons are posted here.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.