November 24, 2021 | by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
In this season of thanksgiving, I am praying with a grateful heart for all of you; for your faithful servant discipleship, your sacrificial efforts in sharing Christ’s love with the world, and your joyous spirit! You are a blessing to me and so many others. Thanks be to God for each and every one of you!
I will confess to you, however, that over the years I have become disillusioned by the celebration of Thanksgiving Day in this country; its growing commercialization and its gluttony – at least for those of us who have more than we can or should consume. There are exceptions. I give God thanks for those among us who are spending the day making sure that others are fed and cared for before they sit at their own Thanksgiving table.
I miss the traditional Thanksgiving Day morning worship service of the church where I grew up. It seemed right for us to gather first to thank God, the source of all our blessings, before the festivities of the day. When I served in the Phoenix Episcopal Area, I found such a worship time in the Pan-Methodist family of faith which I attended. In Los Angeles the Black Methodists for Church Renewal gathered for worship on this day to give God thanks for divine blessings of love and care, sustaining grace and mercy. I joined them. I haven’t found a Thanksgiving Day worship service in our California-Nevada Conference, or I would be planning to be there.
I am left feeling lonely, yearning for the fellowship of God’s people on such a day. But, with you I will be in prayer as Thanksgiving Day arrives this year. Yesterday morning I did have the opportunity to participate in the Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. I found encouragement in this gathering.
It was a deeply meaningful service as people of many living faiths gathered at Congregation Emanu-EL in San Francisco to thank God for life with special gratitude for the life of Rita R. Semel the founder and past Chair of the SFIC who turned 100 years of age this month. It was a joyous reunion that reminded all of us of how important it is to live in peace with one another and strive to work together to bring healing and wholeness to a broken and suffering world. It was a very grounding service that did encourage my heart as we remembered the real reason and purpose of Thanksgiving Day.
At the end of the service, President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation that established Thanksgiving Day was read. The proclamation was made on the 3rd of October 1863 in the middle of this country’s bloody Civil War. Lincoln spares no words in describing the impact of the Civil War upon the land and its people. He also speaks eloquently of “the watchful providence of Almighty God.” I commend the Proclamation to you as you prepare for tomorrow’s observance of Thanksgiving Day while I share a small portion of it with you now. Hear Lincoln’s words of invitation.
I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
Lincoln’s words are relevant, timely and necessary for us to hear this year. Clearly, we are still in a state of civil war in this country perpetuated by our deep-rooted sin of racism, our devaluing of sacred human life for material gain, and our refusal to see that justice must come to every child of God if we are to ever hope to live in peace.
Thanksgiving Day is so much more than a day to enjoy a big meal, take a nap, watch a football game, or be with our families. It was always intended to be a day of giving God thanks for the many ways that God shows us that we are not alone; God who is eternally and faithfully with us, caring for us, sometimes with a broken heart, is with us. But it is also a day of committing anew to caring for one another without exception, with compassion, mercy, and justice.
May it be so.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño is Resident Bishop of the San Francisco area and the California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church.