This week of Thanksgiving is one based on traditions. Some traditions, like the Lions losing their afternoon game are from recent traditions (post-Barry Sanders era), but some of the other roots of this holiday are a bit hazy. The first Thanksgiving traditionally held was celebrated in the year 1621 when Pilgrims were in the American Indians' land and they didn't know how to survive. The Indians were great neighbors and helped these Pilgrims and taught them how to survive in America. And to celebrate how wonderful these Indians were to the Pilgrims, both communities shared a feast together. Thanksgiving is usually symbolized with this object called a cornucopia-that's also known as the horn of abundance. The cornucopia is a reminder that if we pay attention to the wisdom of our neighbors, and share our resources, God will provide more than we can imagine.
Each time our families celebrate Thanksgiving, we are remembering the sharing and good will that the American Indians showed to the Pilgrim immigrants. That part is easy to celebrate and to remember. It's a great kids' story of cooperation and hospitality.
But we must also remember that the Pilgrims, who we remember when we think of the cornucopia, betrayed the offering of abundance and trust in the Creator's goodness offered by their American Indian neighbors when-only a generation after their Thanksgiving-they fought and killed their neighbors in order to claim natural resources for themselves. We are the heirs (at least those of us who aren't descendants of Native Americans) of this legacy of betraying the ancestors of this land. We have deceived, sabotaged, fought, lied and down-right cheated our brothers and sisters who taught us what it means to live as a part of creation.
So, this brings me all back to the cornucopia, the horn of abundance. If it is the symbol we use for Thanksgiving then there's something about understanding abundance in our society that complicates our view of the cornucopia and all that it stands for. See, we live in an economic and political world that is based on the assumption that the world can't possibly have enough "things" to go around, and so we must struggle to get ours and keep enough so that we never run out. I know that my own hording tendencies come from that fear of being without, dominated by this myth of scarcity. But God's Creation is based on a good world that, if we trust in God's goodness and we make sure all people have access to their needs-both material and non-material-we come to recognize that we actually live in a world of abundance. That is the message of Jesus-God loves the world enough that if we learn to love one another and trust in God, we don't have to continue the violence and fear that we have created for ourselves.
All we normally focus on when we see depictions of cornucopias are those things at the base of the horn: the fruits and vegetables and other such goodies. But notice that the horn keeps continuing up, beyond what we can see, curving so much that if we were to look inside, we'd probably only see shadows. But in those shadow places we encounter that are beyond our view-and sometimes beyond our understanding-God is already preparing the world for more. More fruits, more vegetation, more love, more community... God's world is based upon abundance. But it is not abundance measured in the biggest turkey or in the most side dishes. It is not measured in having the biggest flat-screen to watch the game on before and after a lavish feast. God's abundance comes from making sure that all experience the radical inclusion and compassion of God's creation-and in trusting that when we peer into the depths of the horn and all we can see are the shadows, that God has more in store for this world than we could ever hope to grasp. But in order to reach those wonders beyond us, we must align ourselves with God's demand that love our neighbors. We have covenanted to be Creation's caretakers and God has called us Christians to live the hospitality and compassion of Christ. May we remember this Thanksgiving (and beyond) the joy at our responsibilities, not hiding from our past failures, but asking God to empower us to live in a way that is at harmony with God and our neighbors.