The current surge in the pandemic — it was predicted! we were warned! — is throwing a spanner in the works. The holiday works.
If your family is like ours, hard conversations are underway about the plans made just a month ago, for the first of the really big “holidays,” Thanksgiving. “But we made reservations — and they aren’t refundable.” “No, it’s too risky.” “What about my parents?” “It is about them.”
Or plans have been reviewed and revised — or even cancelled altogether. Thanksgiving was to be this and now it is . . . just the two of us, just the one . . . The grief, the disappointment, are real.
Here in the State of Washington (the “other Washington” as we like to call it), a new month-long stretch of restrictions began at midnight on Monday night, by order of Governor, Jay Inslee. The gym, I had been enjoying using, is closed again. Restaurants are back to “take out” only. And “social gathering” are not to exceed five people — and that’s out of doors. For gatherings larger in number, a 14 day quarantine, by all participants, is the recommended run-up.
The map of America that just two weeks ago was so starkly divided between red and blue, now suddenly looks unified. Red all over. Not Republican red; COVID crimson. This time the non-partisan pandemic is surging everywhere. If your state isn’t red, it is at least orange. As the weather cools, the map heats up.
Thanksgiving is next week. Is that most American of all holidays effectively cancelled?
Allow me to introduce a word from the biblical prophet Habakkuk, one of the twelve “minor” prophets of the Old Testament/ Hebrew Bible.
Habakkuk may be minor as in relatively short, but in content his book is — in my book — major. Old Hab’ asks faith’s toughest questions. “Why,” cries the prophet to God, “do you not see wrong-doing and look at trouble?” (Habakkuk 1: 3) An early “WTF?”
Habakkuk (pronounced ha – ba – cook) concludes with a passage that I’ve always thought would be a wonderful, if decidedly challenging, text for a Thanksgiving day sermon. Listen:
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;
though no produce of the olive tree fails and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3: 17 – 19)
In other words, though there is not a blessed (or damn) thing to be thankful for, yet I will be thankful to God! Thanksgiving as an act of defiance.
To paraphase —
“Though there are no apples in Wenatchee, no hops in the Yakima Valley, and the frig is all but empty,
though I’ve lost my job and am standing in the unemployment line (again), and my industry is on life-support,
though there be but crumbs in my 401k and the stock market has been mauled by giant grizzlies ,
yet will I praise God and throw a wild party.”
Well, you get the idea.
Gratitude to God does not depend wholly on the tangibles nor completely on the deliverables. It is not, finally, determined by the current state of affairs. We sing praise to God in good times and in bad times, in health and in pandemic.
We sing praise and give thanks to God because God is God and we are God’s people. Thanks be to God.
And Happy Thanksgiving!