Thursday, November 24, 2016

Franklin Interfaith Council - Thanksgiving Service - Message

My wife and I were joined by about 200 hundred folks who gathered at the First Universalist Society where the Temple Etz Chaim hosted the Interfaith Council Thanksgiving Service on Sunday, November 20. The Interfaith Council Choir led the gathering in song.

The Rev. Deborah M. Woodward, Interim Priest at St John's Episcopal Church was honored to deliver the Thanksgiving message. I approached her afterward to see if she would share her talk with us and she gladly did so.

I do not normally do something like this but these are not normal times. You can read, share, and discuss Rev Woodward's message.

To you and your family, may your Thanksgiving be a good one!

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The Title of this Message is “Modim Anachnu Lach” - (which from the Hebrew means, “We Thank You.”)

Modim Anachnu Lach”  from Hebrew means, “We Thank You.”
Modim Anachnu Lach”  from Hebrew means, “We Thank You.”

"As I begin, First, I wish you to know that I was deeply touched when I was invited, “thank you”, to offer this message.

I mean “touched” as in TOUCHED in bold capital letters, by the honor of being considered, as I am “the new kid on the block.”
And I also wondered a bit, because, this is not something I have ever done before, spoken at an interfaith gathering. Amazing, after 30 years in the job!

So, I am thankful and grateful for this opportunity, and I pray that I might do a worthy job.

As I prayed and named for myself this deep sense that “this is no ordinary opportunity,” I began to ponder,

• Why does it seem so very important?
• Why does this night seem different from other nights?

• I pause.
• I pray.
• I wait.

And then the blessed penny dropped… Ah the Spirit…

I thought...

Given the divisiveness and incivility of our recent public discourse -

Is it not a remarkable grace that we are gathered here?
Especially now!
This is a gathering that might not always be possible, allowed, safe, or surrendered unto,
in a world so often broken and divided?

Our shared communion here;
That that we choose to gather here;
That we congregate, way beyond mere civility;

That we gather in shared thankfulness,

• In song and psalm
• In wisdom and prayer
• That we gather across separateness and in communion
• That we are free to do so

This is actually a reality of Grace beyond thanksgiving. It is a wonder.

Look about this worship space. See each other.

I recall a dated aphorism…
“The medium is the message.”
This is important.

Modim, anachu lach.

For this moment in time we should indeed be awesomely grateful, and this truth calls me to consider that, tonight, perhaps, we should be seeking a deeper gratitude.

Touched as I was…

I needed to consider how, for me, for us, tonight's thankfulness might have its own unique particularity...

Perhaps a more pointed, additional thankfulness?
Is there something here, to be said, that is unique to the times?
I mean, in 2016 in Franklin, perhaps, something else that needs to be considered?

I recall our responsive reading...

Indeed we are thankful for...

Galaxies, humanity, freedom, ….

Here, I have a confession to make. I had considered that we might offer thanksgiving for Brussels sprouts on Thursday's thanksgiving table, but it occurred to me that Brussels sprouts might not be something for which we are all universally thankful.

We are thankful for...
Galaxies, humanity, freedom, ….

Food, nourishment...

Family, children, grandchildren...

For the tenacity of the human soul to strive to the limit for what is right,

For those who have sacrificed and those who have saved us into liberty.

Yet I find in our responsive reading, as I wondered, some words that do make this night different from others. I was touched by this particular thanksgiving.

“The Right to Choose.”

And this line guides me on.

• We have said that we are grateful for the right to choose.
• We have chosen to be here.
• We have self-selected.
• And therefore, we are called to take that right to choose with transcendent seriousness.
• We are thankful for the right and the freedom to choose how to behave.
• How to be godly and righteous.
• Modim Anachnu lach.

Here is my particular closing thought, for us in the here and now…

We are called to be grateful for the right
Indeed the obligation...
To choose, when we leave here, to offer ourselves back to this world in thanksgiving.

You see, I believe that all of us here are “touched people.”
I don't think we are accidentally present here across our differences.
We are blessed, touched, called to be here, to claim thanksgiving for our common blessedness, and to leave as agents of that thanksgiving across all that divides.

• Perhaps tonight we might to attend to that particular gratitude.
• The right to choose, to choose to be people of civility.
• And far more, to be people whose lives are grounded, beyond civility,
• grounded in thanksgiving,
• sustained in faithfulness,
• and united in a common intention, not only to be thankful, but to do thankful.

I believe that being here calls us to action.
I believe we are all here because, in the mysterious ways that wonder works we are all “touched” people.

I remember the demeaning use of that word from my youth. Someone who was “touched” was a little bit crazy. Well that's okay. Maybe we, the gratefully blessed, need to be willing to look foolish for that which is right!

I believe we evidence, by our very presence here, a particular calling, a responsibility to be thankful for our commissioning as those who demand that the world be a place of thanksgiving for all.

Let us be touched by this sacred responsibility to leave here to do thankfulness.

Let us leave here consciously, intentionally thankful, not just for material well being, not just for the spiritual grace, and the wisdom blessing our lives, but for the tasks of our lives, and I believe that task is to redeem the world to a place of thankfulness for all.

Thus we concluded our responsive reading with these words…"

“We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes, not by our words but by our deeds.”

  • Rev. Deborah M. Woodward, Interim Priest at St John's Episcopal Church

The cover of the program for the serivce
The cover of the program for the service

The full program for the service can be found here in individual files

  • Page 1

  • Page 2

  • Page 3

  • Page 4

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