The week of Thanksgiving is always a special time at the School. My thanks to the Junior School for decorating the Chapel with the fruits of creation gathered into the Chapel. The emphasis this week has been on the theme of thanksgiving as the logical extension of the idea of creation. Once you grasp that creation is a gift, the gift of life, it changes your attitude and approach to the world around you and to one another. The idea of creation as a gift moves in us in thanksgiving, a giving back to God what God has given to us. It is profoundly spiritual in the intellectual gathering back to God what has come from God. It is grace moving in us and in ways that belong to the truth and dignity of our humanity as made in the image of God.
The Junior Chapel service on Monday focused on the lovely and rich passage from the Book of Deuteronomy about the good land and its fruits given to us by God and yet grounds those material aspects of creation in the word of God. “Man cannot live by bread alone but from everything which proceeds from the mouth of God.” We enjoy the bounty of creation only through our working with the order of creation, honouring the word of God in creation through our labours. Gathering apples and zucchini into the Chapel remind us of our connection to the created order. They teach us that creation reveals God in his truth, and beauty and goodness to us. We learn even from zucchini! It is about thanksgiving not thanks getting. Such is our response and acknowledgement of creation as God’s gift.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is at once a national holiday and a celebration of the Harvest, a much more ancient concept that reminds us that we cannot take for granted the fruits of creation. By extension, as we have seen in our considerations of the pageants of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 along with Job and Wisdom, our reflection on the wisdom of God in creation teaches us our connection to everything else in the created order and to our relation to God as made in his image, the image of his ordering care for the world. This gives no warrant for our abuse and misuse of the natural world or of one another.
The Grade 10 Chapel service on Tuesday featured the classical Thanksgiving story of the healing of the ten lepers, one of whom turned back, glorifying God and giving him thanks. As Luke tells us he was a Samaritan, an outsider, a member of a sect despised within Judaism which Jesus sometimes uses to critique and correct Israel. Here Jesus calls the one who turned back a “stranger.” The point is that we learn from the stranger about the true nature of our humanity. It is in turning back and giving thanks that we are not merely healed but made whole. Our humanity is radically incomplete without God. Thanksgiving for creation in all of its splendour and riches is complemented by our thanksgiving for the healing and the redemption of our humanity in Christ. Thanksgiving is our turning to God who has turned to us.
The Grade 11 Chapel service on Thursday centered on the lovely reading from Isaiah which locates creation and thanksgiving in the going forth and return of God’s Word. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me empty.” Family and community gatherings at Thanksgiving teach us that we are together as companions. The word literally means, with bread, com panis. We are together with one another in the breaking of the bread, a theme which is profoundly sacramental. We learn the invisible things of God through the visible things of the created order and in company with one another. We are gathered in and by God’s Word which is the condition and meaning of our lives.
Thanksgiving is profoundly spiritual in the ways in which the material aspects of our lives are seen in the light of God’s Word, proceeding from God and returning to him. Our thanksgivings for the harvest equally include our thanksgiving for one another as part of the created order and as turned back to God. It is in turning back and giving thanks to God that we are truly and fully human. It is the freest thing that we can do. Thanksgiving is more than good manners; it is right thinking. It is the movement of God in us. The love of God in creation and redemption moves in us in thanksgiving. Such is the gathering back to God of all that has come from God. Such is the gift - grace - moving in us.
These reflections help to counter the fearfulness of our times and the divisions that sadly define our world. Such fears and divisions belong to our forgetfulness of creation as a gift. To recall this is to see one another and our world in an entirely new light. It means to see the world and one another as the gift of God and to take delight in the world and in one another. It is the very opposite of the divisions which pit one against the other in an endless and futile Darwinian struggle. The stranger is one with us in the awareness of our common humanity. We learn from the zucchini and the stranger because both belong to the Word of God in creation and redemption. Only so can “go out with joy” a joy which is the joy of the whole created order as grounded in God and in God’s delight in creation. As the poet George Herbert remarks, “man is nature’s high priest” called to be “the secretary of God’s praise.” Such is Thanksgiving. Be careful and be not fearful, but above all be thankful.
(Rev’d) David Curry
Chaplain, English & ToK Teacher
Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy