It's hard to be thankful today. All this day represents is an ideal and we fall so short. Even our first reading from Deuteronomy steers us in the direction of North Dakota where we are playing out once again our history with native peoples, by using force to put in a pipeline on their sacred spot. Part of this litany in Deuteronomy was to remember, remember where you came from. Slaves in Egypt, mistreated, owning nothing isn't there something in there about doing better? Maybe it's in sharing what you give as offering with even the alien in your land. Between election, pipeline, protests, anger, uncertainty it certainly seems like we don't have much to be thankful for.
Yet, yet if we stand for awhile lost in the swirl of emotions, we will find a hard core growing if we do not become thankful. Grace has so much to do with it. See the crowds aren't thankful for the bread in John's story. No, they come after Jesus wantinf this miracle repeated. Wanting free food, wanting the miracle to be reproduced, wanting more and thankfulness isn't involved in their want. If we come to this day wanting our wishes only to be fulfilled we are stuck. Thankfulness unsticks us. Being thankful makes us realize even in the bad, there is good. The importance in this is how we reflect and treat others. When we hold onto hurt and fear and pain we end up hurting those we love, those who are closest to us. Then we only want to protect the me and mine, in the end we lose it all.
Believe, belief is such a simplistic thing Jesus offers. Once we actively list our thankfulness belief becomes simple. I'm thankful for family, I'm thankful for the beauty of the earth...try it. With each listing we can drop the fears which hold us. With listing each grace we find ourselves forgiving others misunderstanding. With this list we realize we are not our own, it all belongs to God.
A few years ago the movie "The Polar Express" came out. In it a young boy is struggling with his belief in Santa and he is invited on the train to ride to the North Pole. He can't quite believe and almost doesn't go. He travels with new friends, a black girl and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who says Christmas never really works out for him. Finally they make it to the big event, he can't see Santa because of the crowd, finally he lets go of his anger, his fear of being wrong and connects with being thankful for all the season brings and he claims, "I believe". Santa is now in back of him and asks, "what did you say" he responds again that he believes and so he receives the first gift of Christmas.
Sometimes thankfulness is our only way forward. It cracks ooen our hearts because to be thankful means we have to be vulnerable. Vulnerable to grace, which comes to us on a cross; the symbol of dying, the symbol of servanthood, the symbol of ultimate vulnerability. I am thankful...such small words, such wonderful possibilities in the cracks of grace.