Whenever Thanksgiving rolls around I find my heart turning towards home and family. For many years we were able to all gather around a common table – usually my mother’s or grandmother’s. More recently, we get together in clumps – some of us in Iowa – some in Indiana or Ohio. But it doesn’t really matter where we meet, because “home” is always wherever we happen to be.
I have always described the people in the churches where I have belonged as being part of my church family. Whenever we come together, we are at home. Whether it’s in the sanctuary, or in the fellowship hall, or anywhere else, when we’re together we have the freedom to let go of our grasping and reaching for a little while and simply enjoy and give thanks for what we have — for each other.
“Home” is not a place. Home is relationships. And that is what I think Thanksgiving is all about – stopping for awhile and being thankful for what we have, and who we’re with. And I believe that there’s no better place to do that than the church.
I found a short essay in a journal I think expresses this feeling of being “at home” very well. The author writes: “Some words are like fine crystal or a good bell. Strike them, and they ring for a long while at the back of your mind. So with home. There are echoes. Home is what you long for. It is where we imagine ourselves being when our urgent searching has burnt itself out and there is nowhere else we are driven to go. “Lord,” says Peter, after the crowds have lost interest and drifted away, “where else shall we go; you have the words of eternal life. We believe you are the Messiah.” Peter is home. So home is not a matter of place. Home is a matter of being with. “Son,” said Jesus from the agony of the cross, “see your mother. Mother, see your son.” John and Mary were not safe; they were not protected, but they were with each other. And they were home. The first and last promise of the Bible is that God will be with us. The Holy One shall be our God, and we shall be God’s people. When we are with God, we are already at home, even while en route.”
How true that is. In God we have a home, no matter where we might wander, or where life might take us. True thanksgiving always represents a turning towards home – not only to the warmth and security of our biological or adopted families, but to the home we find in the presence of God through his son Jesus Christ. In him, we all take a place in the family of God. And in him, we all look forward to our final and eternal home.
During this Thanksgiving holiday, may we turn our hearts towards home – toward the treasures in our lives we sometimes overlook, toward the family of love and forgiveness we find in the church, and finally toward our relationship with God and the home we find in him, both now and in the life to come. Then, let us lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving, to the God that created us – for we are indeed his people and the sheep of his pasture.