Thanksgiving Day comes on the heels of Christ the King Sunday, and so some congregations will incorporate themes of gratitude and thankfulness into their worship services. At first glance that might seem incompatible with the magisterial emphasis of Christ the King Sunday -- but in the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Chris Keating points out that the two observances actually point us in the same direction.
The Thanksgiving lectionary readings all accentuate God’s abundant generosity in his provision for us, the gratitude we should feel for our blessings, and the deep indebtedness we have to our sovereign. The Deuteronomy passage spells out how God led his people out of slavery and sustained them in the desert, and reminds us not to think that “my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” In the Corinthians pericope, Paul indicates what should be our response: “God loves a cheerful giver... you will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.”
While that seems like common sense, the uncomfortable truth is that we are often more interested in protecting (and increasing) what we have rather than sharing the wealth. In the Matthew text for Christ the King Sunday, Jesus invokes the image of a king sitting in judgment to shame us into acting on our gratitude. Chris suggests that Jesus is telling us that it’s not enough to express a vague sense of thankfulness for good fortune in our lives -- instead we are being challenged to demonstrate the depth of our devotion to our monarch by how we actually behave in all sorts of seemingly mundane situations. If we are truly thankful, it is incumbent upon us to go out and pass the blessings we have been given on to others -- and not merely those who we’re comfortable with, but to “the least of these who are members of my family.” Our King expects no less. Here’s a preview:
A Feast Fit for a King?
by Chris Keating
Deuteronomy 8:7-18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Matthew 25:31-46
There will be no want for food, family, or football this Thanksgiving. And don’t forget about those crowded pre-Black Friday shopping excursions. It’s feasting time in America.
Before too long our Thanksgiving tables will be set and the feast will be served. But Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Freedom from Want” Thanksgiving scene might need a bit of tweaking to bring it up to today’s standards. A modern version of the image created in 1943 for the Saturday Evening Post might include someone tweeting from a smartphone, another watching the NFL on a 50" flat screen, and perhaps a third eyeing a Walmart sales ad. Grandma would be carrying the turkey from a deep fryer, while Grandpa prepares to upload a photo to Facebook.
On this weekend before Thanksgiving, many congregations will hear the Thanksgiving Day texts, recalling that the “one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6) and that “you shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land” (Deuteronomy 8:10). But it is also the festival of Christ the King, the culmination of the liturgical year -- a day to celebrate Christ’s reign over all creation, nations, and peoples.
On this day, Christ directs our eyes not just to tables groaning with food, but to the hungry whose stomachs are groaning for food, the thirsty longing for clean water, the strangers yearning to be welcomed, and the naked shivering in the cold. In other words, Christ’s festival must surely include those whose wants are most basic and critical to survival.
Christ calls us to the table and beckons us to look at each other, and not just at the goodies we’ve accumulated. If this is a feast fit for a king, we might do well to ponder just what sort of kingdom Christ envisions.
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