kata. pa,nta euvcaristei/te\ dio,ti tou/to ei=nai
to. qe,lhma tou/ Qeou/ pro.j evsa/j evn Cristw/| VIhsou/Å

Em tudo, dai graças, porque esta é
a vontade de Deus em Cristo Jesus para convosco.

In every thing give thanks: for this is
the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5.18

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner, and I am on a see-saw of intercultural thoughts that poke my muse. In the United States, it is a national holiday that reminds of when  pilgrims celebrated a worship service of thanksgiving because, after having suffered two devastating winters that cut down many of their people, they now had an abundant harvest of what they had planted and would be stored for the coming winter months. Initially the New World colonists were Reformed Calvinists escaping religious persecution in their countries of origin. To this banquet they invited the Native Americans who had given them succor in their affliction, seeds for planting, teaching new fishing and hunting methods and harvesting the fruit of the land. These guests did not see themselves as having the liberty of stuffing themselves to death, but as honored and worthy co-laborers, they also brought their food to share with these light-skinned, dark-clothed, often clumsy colonists who prayed to one only God, spoke a complicated language and sported many weird customs.

Brazil, for ages copycat of everything American, did not easily adopt this day. Though there was no small effort by the Bradesco Bank in the Sixties to celebrate National Thanksgiving Day throughout Brazil, they did better at copying the commercial Black Friday of shopping malls. We are bombarded with “80% OFF” consumer objects we do not need, in a frenzy to buy, buy. sped, spend, I want, I need, I just couldn’t resist—and we forget to give thanks for the grat blessings and small victories in which we live and move.

True, many in North America also forget their history of faith and see this day as Turkey Day, watching football (American, not the Brazilian national sport which Americans call soccer), family that only communicates once a year get together to eat until they burst. Why turkey? Because Indians taught colonists how to hunt wild ones and send starvation far away.

I've bought my turkey and will share it wth about fifty young people of all ages from our church (IPP) who will be coming over to our farm on Saturday (because in our State of São Paulo this Thursday is no holiday) for a community feast. Hope the other forty nine also bring food and drink because one turkey, even an eighteen-pounder, is too little for so many people! Yes, the Lord Jesus will be present, but in our present era does not go around splurging the New Testament times miracle of multiplication of fish and loaves on postmodern believers--who should be learning to work hard for our daily bread and have enough to share, while simultaneously resting in the Lord of Life and Provider of All Things. Just one more of those thoughts and facts we must learn to weigh, balance, share and pass on to our neighbors and kin.

I remember a Thanksgiving a few years ago in Philadelphia, when we invited my uncle Philip Stowell to our table. I made a huge pumpkin stuffed with shrimp, Brazilian style, and he gave us the gift of the story about when he was in the Navy after the second world war and was assigned to help the chef prepare turkey stuffed with “oyster dressing”— for hundreds (or thousands?!) of gringo soldiers homesick for a real thanksgiving banquet. À propos, we also had a stuffed turkey for dinner in Philly: the bird was a gift from Nina, my boss and the pastor’s wife from the church we attended in exilio,) and the fixings of cranberry sauce, corn, creamed onions, other vegetables and cornbread. An international culinary mishmash!

I know our dinner did not quite match the banquet Uncle Phil described, but we were grateful for the mercies and providence of God during meager as well as feasting times He always gives. And we “weird foreigners with strange customs” were able to share with my “all-American New Englander” since Cotton Mather and Pocahontas’s times uncle, a little of the joy of Jesus. Like many senior citizens in North or South America, he was extremely lonely and we had  a profusely present family to liberally give away.

Presently we live in a city founded by bandeirantes of Portuguese origin that sunk their roots in Mogi das Cruzes more than  450 years ago. Lau is a descendant of, a bandeirante and the legendary Native Brazilian Bartira. I am remembering ancestors who crossed the Atlantic in tiny ships and once on dry land , built, with axe, shovels and rough tools, first a school and a church, before putting up their frugal one-room homes lacking “essential commodities”—but knew their Bibles, sharing what they knew with their children, neighbors and friends. I remember the relationship David Brainerd developed with the Indians less than a hundred years later from the budding English New World colony, and  see shadows loom tall, of people molded by faith in the God who had chosen them to be His people.

Now I fast-forward to this next-weekend’s video and try to balance my wandering thoughts about food, hospitality to friends, giving and receiving, giving thanks in everything and for everything, with tales of the first  Thanksgiving in the New World and the thanksgiving of the Hebrew people in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. In spite of the complaints characteristic of God’s people under Moses or under Obama or Dilma today, whether an abundance of quail instead of wild turkeys, manah instead of cornbread or Indian Pudding, water bursting from a rock in the desert instead of abundant streams and lakes of the “beautiful for spacious skies and amber waves of grain”, there have always been reasons to give thanks. Later, in the land of Israel conquered, inhabited, consolidated, invaded, sacked by consecutive kings and warriors, and many times re-built, Bread and Water of Life came down incarnate. After His death and resurrection, while Pedro and Company Ltd decided to go back to fishing and couldnt catch anything, Jesus waited for them on the rocky shore and prepared  a breakfast of grilled fish and pita bread, to talk with them about love and shepherding God’s flock  (John  21:3-24). Jesus had multiplied a boy’s lunch of fish  ad rolls for a hungry audience of over five thousand. Now He prepared the fish for frustrated fishermen and turned them into men who built His church, turned the world upside down and would indellibly mark history of Christianity for all times, to the ends of the earth. John the evangelist ends his narrative saying that  “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written”— This is the Good News for which disciples, apostles, rude fishemen and eminent theologians and thinkers of all shapes and colors, people of all kinds, from the birthplace of ancient civilization to the setting sun of modern civilization have reasons galore to give thanks. no longer need promote --local, national, traditional or borrowed from different cultures, neither descendants of English, Dutch, disinherited Portuguese, slaves brought over on ships from Africa, or landowning slaveholders  -- once-a-year days of thanksgiving –

a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues...  and all the angels ... the elders ... and beasts fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. Revelation 7:9-12

I am looking forward to our thanksgiving dinner, whether next Saturday, Thursday or any other day we get together to celebrate. Above all, I look forward to a Wedding banquet of the Lamb, in which the guests will be of all kinds, and the Host and Owner of the Party, the only Lord. You, and any who want to, are invited to join us!

Elizabeth Gomes

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