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Thanksgiving Prepares Us For Hope

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on November 25, 2020

“Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

When I worked at the Cathedral, Dean Candler had many wisdom sayings that still echo in my mind. One of his favorites was “pay attention to what you are paying attention to.” He used the example of a Godly Play teacher who holds her gaze on the materials in front of her to encourage the young children to do the same. But it is also a very helpful spiritual practice. When we focus on the negative, discouraging, upsetting aspects of our lives (and 2020 has provided a bountiful harvest), we become more negative, discouraged, and upset. We may even lose sight of hope and enter into despair. The most resilient people I know, somehow find ways to give thanks, laugh, and celebrate even in the midst of dark times. The only way to impact darkness is to bring light to it.

Now, this is not meant to be some “don’t worry be happy” kind of treatise. When I imagine light bearers in my own life and in this community, they are often people who have been to the bottom of the abyss and back. The gritty spiritual practice of finding ways to seek hope and light amidst despair and darkness is a core way we enact our faith. Some days I do better with this than others, and knowing that those days are better when I seek out hope and light, it helps. It also allows me to be compassionate with myself and others on the bad days. There is a deep invitation to celebrate on the better ones.

This Thanksgiving is certainly different than what we could have imagined at the early part of the year. We have gone through so many iterations of worship and planning in our community, I think it’s easy to feel off kilter. We have some wonderful plans for the season of Advent and Christmas and yet we know some of them may change. Regardless of that, we can give thanks for St. Mark’s. I’m looking to the season of Advent to help me reframe what has felt like an endless time of waiting. I want to wait with hopeful expectation. And to do that we should start with thanks. Blessings to all of you this Thanksgiving and may Advent be a time of expectation for us as we await the birth of Christ and his return

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