There was a great plan to have some cool photos just for this message. Butt... Well for the last 3 days we have had arctic winds. And not just the kind of wind that muffs your furs. These are the kind of winds that blow you right off your paws and you end up in a tree somewhere. In fact the roof of my shed blew off and a window in the living room blew out. So I thought I'd just pepper this message with some photo that you may not have seen before.
Do your peeps have story time with you? Mine does. You get too put aside stuff, snuggle together, and listen to an unfolding story about someone and somewhere else. Story time invites all of us to enter into the worlds of others, to involve ourselves in their trials and triumphs, to encounter new cultures and challenges through others. Fairy tales give us stories that included dragons and giants, noble knights, heroic platypus' and not-so-noble connivers and conspirators.
But for those raised in the church, there was another time, another “story time” that described the ongoing relationship between God and God’s creation, between God and all God’s children. The church had a different kind of “story time.” This “story time” was called “testimony time.” It was the open-ended, ongoing “story” of God’s First Story (Old “Testament”) and Second Story (New “Testament”) as it unfolded within our story, the Third Testament of God’s Never-ending Story. “Testimony time” was the church’s “story time.”
Before worship hour became a carefully scripted "performance", before Sunday morning became an obligation instead of an opportunity, worship was the playground of the Spirit, a time for heartfelt expressions of God’s Spirit in the lives of the faithful. The worship “hour” itself was not confined by the minutes on a clock face, but was an undefined time determined by the stirrings of the Spirit.
Here’s the most striking thing about “testimony” stories: they have no conclusion. Unlike fairy tales or Hallmark-channel movies, there is no automatic happy ending. “Testimony stories” are never a done deal. The curtain never falls. They are always plays in progress.
One Christian couple who watched and waited as their twenty-something daughter became employed as a server at a “Hooters” bar and grill, where asked how their girl was doing. They simply replied, “She is working on her testimony!
We are all “working on our testimony.” Every day of our lives, every moment of our lives, we are “working on our testimony.” How many times, now that you look back on your life, were “working on your testimony?”
None of us have straight lines in our life stories. Instead we have complex plot-lines, with paths not taken, wrong turns made, and double-backs to new beginnings. Our roundabout, ox-bow lives make up our “testimonies,” our personal story of God’s persistent presence and perseverance in our lives. We are all “scattered sheep” looking for the guiding and good shepherd to take us home
On Thursday we will celebrate what might be the only holiday that has resisted grand scale commercialization. Christmas decorations have been up in some places since September, and twenty-eight percent of brands started their holiday campaigns on or before October 1st. Halloween is no more than a gigantic candy-gram, but is coming to rival Christmas as North America’s favorite holiday.
Easter is another reason to enhance tooth decay — but it has the additional ambiance of selling new spring clothing.
Thanksgiving, however, does not lend itself to big commercial enterprises — expect perhaps for grocery stores. Thanksgiving doesn’t have any accessories except friends, family, turkey feathers and tables. No fashion designers hawk “Thanksgiving wear.” There is nothing you are supposed to buy for Thanksgiving — except turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin lattes. Thanksgiving is still pretty much just about getting as many people who love each other together and saying “thank you” — for their presence in your life and for the presence of God in their lives.
Just like we sign our letters “Sincerely yours,” Thanksgiving is when we sign our lives “eucharistically yours.” “Eucharist” simply means “thank you” in Greek. When we gather around the fatted bird at the table, we are saying to God, each one of us, “Eucharistically Yours.” We are signing our life story “Eucharistically yours.”
In Judaism, at the other end of this year’s seasonal cycle, there is the spring celebration of saving activity and a new redemptive relationship known as Passover, or Pesach. It is the festival that celebrates God’s actions that liberated the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. An astonishing number of miracles marked the events that led to the Egyptian rulers letting the Hebrew slave population “leave the premises” without bloodshed. A Passover Hymn that celebrates all these miracles, all these saving redeeming moments is “Dayenu” — a title that mean literally “it would have been enough for us.” The hymn extols the miraculous work of God, act upon act, stage upon stage, any one of which would have been “enough for us.” You can check out the words and HERE.
Redemption is the act of being saved. The scattered sheep being brought back into a safe and guarded flock. But the “Dayenu” hymn at Passover recognizes that God did so much more. Each one of us could write our own “Dayenu” litany this Thanksgiving . . . . In fact, we could go around the Thanksgiving table with each offering a eucharistic “thank you” to the God who brought us through another year, and end with the phrase “Dayenu” — it would have been enough for us.
Thanksgiving is the time we take a “time out.” A time we don’t buy stuff, or decorate, or hold concerts or do anything in particular, except be “eucharistically yours” with those we love. Thanksgiving is saying “eucharistically yours” for God’s continuing story in our lives — past and present and future. And Thanksgiving is our “Testimony Time,” our “Story Time,” for acknowledging the powerful and persistent presence of God’s enveloping love in our lives.