A Thanksgiving Dream

The point of this past week’s sermon is that the main ingredient at the first Thanksgiving dinner was the sharing. The vision of Pilgrims and the native peoples eating together is the dream of America. A place where people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs may live in peace and understanding. This is a vision of which we often fall short. The idyllic Thanksgiving scene even contains within it a foreshadowing of things to come. As the natives came to dinner the pilgrims made sure to give a demonstration of their rifles as part of the festivities. Fifty-four years later their children fought King Phillip’s War that effectively eliminated native people’s from New England. The vision of cooperation and peace present in the first days of the Plymouth plantation vanished in the greed of ego of future generations. A dream of peace is always difficult to achieve and harder to maintain.

thanksgiving dinner picThe peace at that first table remains the most important, and hardest dream to achieve.Even though this is not only a civic ideal, but is a Biblical vision as well–from Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom to Jesus call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

This week has been a sad reminder of how far we all have to go to realize the dream of a place where all Americans may sit together in peace and harmony. The scenes in Ferguson are stark reminders that there is deep seated fear and resentment in our nation that erupts all too often in large-scale violence, but more often, and more dangerous, shapes daily encounters that reinforce prejudice and fear. The shooting and the reactions, regardless of your political perspective, bring great sadness for the fear and divisions they expose. The violence of this week should be condemned, but the anger and sadness needs to be remembered. The initial reactions to public events is often heated and, often, misleading. The more important reaction is to come. Will this cause us to engage in the deeper conversations about race, economic justice, the use of deadly force, and the breakdown of communities? Too often after a tragedy (school shootings are a good example) there is an initial outcry, but little happens for long-term change. May we work now for calm, not to quiet dissent, but to allow space for true change to begin.

My prayer at Thanksgiving this year is gratitude for the goodness that we have, inspiration for the possibilities present at the first Thanksgiving, and the courage to engage in meaningful conversations and actions that truly lead to more just and safer communities for all.

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