Friday, November 26, 2004

Eco-Justice Notes from Peter Sawtell - Thanksgiving

want to share these thoughts from the latest edition of Eco-Justice Notes from Peter Sawtell, which you can find online here.

He writes,
"Yesterday, I preached at an ecumenical Thanksgiving service. As I was searching for a text that would ground my sermon, I kept being pulled back to a passage that portrays a person in prayer lifting up heartfelt thanksgiving. "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector." (Luke 18:11)
That's not a typical Thanksgiving Day passage -- but it may be quite revealing about how we often deal with thanks.
We give thanks for what we are not. I'm thankful that I'm not like some other people: poor and hungry, sick or suffering, homeless, or living in a war zone.
We figure out thankfulness by looking at others who are worse off than we are, and being grateful that we're not inflicted with their problems. Our thanks are comparative, and depend on our relative advantage over others.
Implicitly or explicitly, did our Thanksgiving Day prayers sound like the Pharisee of Jesus' story? "I thank you, God, that I'm not like those other folk who have the audacity to be poor."
As citizens of the richest nation on Earth, as members of a society that uses a wildly disproportionate and unsustainable share of the world's resources, do our prayers of thanksgiving really say, "I thank you, God, that I have wealth, advantages and privileges that most people in this world can never hope to have?"
When we catalogue our wealth, are we saying, "I thank you, God, that I have had the opportunity to benefit from the unconscionable plunder and destruction of your creation?"


I see in his writing my own attitudes toward thanksgiving - 'thank God i have so much.' Sounds a lot like that Pharisee, eh? It may be the day after Thanksgiving, but it is not too late to consider Sawtell's words...
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