Friday, 22 November 2013

God provides for his people

American Thanksgiving
Year C
Psalm 46 
Luke 23:33-43

Combining a service for American Thanksgiving with readings for Christ the King is no easy task. Our little chapel in Royat will be decorated with the fruits of the earth - gourds and pumpkins - all the rich brown and green things which speak of the good earth and the integrity of the natural order. Present as well will be the non-perishable food items we’ve brought along to church and which our children will bring up during the Offertory - canned goods and packaged foods - which will be later taken down to the Banque Alimentaire and distributed to those in need according to the Banque’s normal practices. These gifts around the altar are representative of the fact that we ourselves are sufficiently nourished and employed so as to be able to provide a feast for others.

Not only is the earth good but we are strong and capable ourselves. We should be thankful for both of these things and may give thanks “...with hearts and hands and voices.” But would we still be thankful if all of this were to change? Enter the readings for this Sunday which speak of something quite different as a cause for thanksgiving - something stemming less from the natural order of things and completely unlinked to the natural faculties of youngish adults to care for themselves and their communities. Amidst the struggles and clashes of great nations, in Psalm 46, there is a subtle river which nourishes the city of God - neither human strength nor clement and trustworthy weather but a unique and God-given source of strength, inspiration and nourishment. At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Christ is presented as our King in his weakness. He speaks kingly promises from the cross to the penitent thief next to him. He knows (and now we know) what the world at that time did not yet know - that in the economy of God the weak are sometimes very strong and the poor very rich.

God gives strength and life - he gives it in the dependable world - where we are capable and the earth is productive. He gives it as well in the chaotic world as - the world in which our strength fails us and we feel ourselves to have been denied a share. In all things, and in all circumstances, God provides for his people.