My Thanksgiving letter to the congregation of KCKF:
In the name of Jesus Christ, warm greetings to you, members and friends of Knox Crescent Kensington and First Presbyterian Church, as we approach the celebration of Harvest Thanksgiving.
I confess that I have mixed emotions each year as this special holiday approaches. There are feelings of delight in the gifts of the land – in the beautiful, fresh squash and apples and potatoes and carrots that are graciously given by God and brought in by farmers and workers. There is joy in those familiar hymns that announce our Creator’s blessing:
For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God;
for the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God;
for the ploughing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future’s needs in earth’s safe-keeping, thanks be to God.
On the other hand, however, there are feelings of regret over our society’s detachment from the land and from the rhythm of the seasons. The smell and feel of rich soil is for most of us only a distant memory. The produce in our grocery stores flies across continents and time zones in defiance of the earth’s rhythms. Our turkeys are never a family bird, tended and fed and then brought to table as an answer to careful and loving labour. Otherwise put, our delight in the harvest is often, today, merely delight at a distance.
I don’t highlight these mixed emotions, these tensions, in order to find a quick fix, but simply to remind us how things are. And, perhaps, to ignite a longing for a simpler way of life that would bring us, body and soul, closer to God’s creation – recognizing, as Norman Wirzba has said, that “the more we appreciate and engage creation in its depth and variety, the greater, and the more spontaneous and natural, will be our gratitude and praise.”
As those who walk in the way of the ancient Hebrew people, and who walk in the way of the risen Jesus Christ, Thanksgiving pushes our thinking beyond creation and harvest. It moves us, through a general attitude of thankfulness, to giving. The hymn-writer, again, gets it right:
In the just reward of labour, God’s will is done;
in the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done;
in our world-wide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing, God’s will be done.
Enclosed with this Thanksgiving letter, you will find a special offering envelope. As you give something extra this season, your gift will support the work of Presbyterian World Service and Development – the relief and development agency of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Your gift will help typhoon victims in Taiwan, victims of famine in Zimbabwe, and displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Every blessing to you this Thanksgiving as you offer praise and thanks to God, through word and deed.
Roland De Vries