As we all make preparations to celebrate the national day of Thanksgiving, I find myself pondering what it really means to be thankful. Some of the pondering is related to preparing to preach later this evening. But my thoughts are also of a more general sort. As I watch commercials begging me to come and spend for things I don’t have as soon as I’m done giving thanks for what I do have, I wonder if gratitude is really about the stuff we possess.
John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople in the late 4th and early 5th century, is always a challenging source in my pondering. I ran across this quotation:
“Go outside into a field. Ask yourself: “To whom does this field belong?” And you will reply to yourself: “It belongs to me” or “It belongs to so-and-so.” Then ask yourself: “To whom has this field belonged in the past?” If you know the history of that field, a list of names will appear in your mind. Then you will realize how little ownership means. That field has seen countless generations of people claiming ownership of it. Countless generations of feet have trod on it, have plowed its soil, and have sown and harvested grain. If the field were sentient, do you think it would feel owned by the person who claims ownership? Of course not. The field would feel that it owned itself and was welcoming the person who claimed ownership merely as a visitor. That is the way we should always think of ourselves on this earth: we are merely visitors, here for a short span to learn virtue; then after that span we shall continue our journey toward the kingdom that lasts forever.” ((2012-07-20). On Living Simply (Kindle Locations 311-314). Liguori Publications. Kindle Edition.)
Can we even imagine gratitude not tied to our “possessions” – which Chrysostom says are not really our possessions? Can I settle for giving thanks that I am on the journey and leave it at that? Just questions to ponder on this eve before our day of Thanksgiving.
A blessed Day of Thanksgiving to you in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. – Tim