Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving is Remembering

When Israel entered the Promised Land God warned them:  "Do not forget."

Do not forget!  When your wealth increases, and your power increases, and your satisfaction with life increase, do not forget where it all came from.  Do not forget the provision of God in the wilderness, for the abundance of the Promised Land comes from the same generous hands.  Gratitude is the fruit of a good memory.

It behooves us, therefore, to remember where our bounty comes from.  Take, for example, what is going to weigh our tables down this afternoon.  Let's start with the centerpiece of it all, the turkey.

Contrary to popular belief, turkey is not manufactured in the back rooms of the HEB store.  Turkey actually comes from a farm.  The farm got the turkey from a breeder.  The breeder got the turkey eggs from breeder hens and toms, who ultimately got their original turkeys from a Native American who had the turkeys as domesticated birds.  The Native Americans got the turkeys from the woods, which is ultimately where all our turkeys come from.  When you sit down to carve the great bird remember that it is a fruit of this North American continent on which we live.

Let's go to the dressing.  Now, there are two kinds of dressing, and they take us two different places.  There is bread dressing, which is wheat based.  The wheat comes from farms in the northwest, cultivated by huge machines they used to call tractors, but now look more like monstrous transformer toys.  They plant sections and sections of wheat that produce enough to feed the world.  But wheat was originally domesticated in the Fertile Crescent 11,000 years ago or so.  When you spoon out your dressing remember that it is the fruit of the cradle of civilization, come to us from half a world away.

Then there is cornmeal dressing.  Corn is also one of those early grains, it is the most widely produced cereal grain in the western hemisphere.  It was domesticated in central America, probably about the same time as wheat.  Remember that when you shovel in that wonderful cornmeal dressing you are receiving a gift from southern Mexico.

And then there are the spices.  Spices span the globe.  Literally thousands of herbs and spices go into our foods from every corner of the earth.  Most of the spices we use in dressing come from Italy and around the northern Mediterranean.  When you taste their subtle flavors remember to give thanks in Italian!

Mashed potatoes come from us not from either Idaho or Ireland.  They come to us from Peru.  When Landon and I were in Lima last summer we went to an open air market.  I asked one lady in a stall to tell me about all the potato varieties she had for sale.  She quickly ran through at least a dozen and apologized because there were so many more she did not have for sale!  When you drown your mashed potatoes in gravy remember the high mountain air of the Andes and give thanks to the Incas.

I could go on.  Green beans were first bred by Calvin Keeney in Le Roy, New York in 1894.  Pumpkin is a product of Native American horticulture of the eastern seaboard.  Pumpkin Pie originated when colonists cut off the top of pumpkins, scooped out the seeds, filled them with milk, spices and honey and roasted them over hot coals.  And the full feeling—it  comes when the sugar in your blood reaches thresholds that tell your glandular system to stimulate you to stop eating!

Our Thanksgiving bounty comes to us from literally everywhere.   It comes from places of origin around the globe, it comes from the dawn of civilization to just a hundred years ago.  In a sense, when your "remembering" goes back this far, it catches up all of creation, and places it beautifully on your table, thanks to the incredible bounty of the One who created it all in the first place.

There is another time when we do the same thing.  When we gather around the table of the Lord each Sunday we recognize the bounty of the Lord in our creation and redemption, and we make "Eucharist," we give thanks.  Every meal in your house is a shadow of the Great Meal we celebrate here.

Let us eat, then, and be thankful!

1 comment:

ceshaw said...

I loved this perspective!