Our story (The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor) reflects the kind of gratitude we all wish for – not just to be grateful in a resigned way but to be grateful in a proud way. The family in our story doesn’t have a lot of material goods, but they are rich in all the things that matter.
If this were a different year or there had been a different electoral outcome, I would be preaching a lighter, loving sermon. I would focus a bit on greed and what it means to have enough, and then remind you all to count the blessings you have and see how each of you, with all you have that can’t be counted in coin are still rich.
But there’s more at stake now. And because of that, it’s hard to be grateful. For many of us, getting over the shock of the election results means we are now beginning to count the ways in which the things we believe will be under attack.
Every day, we will be fighting for the inherent worth and dignity of every person, no matter their skin color, sexual identity, gender, religion, place of origin, ability, class.
Every day, we will be fighting for justice, equity, compassion, peace, and liberty.
Every day, we will be fighting for religious freedom.
Every day, we will be fighting to preserve the right of conscience and the democratic process.
Every day, we will be fighting for the survival of this planet that we call home.
It’s hard to be grateful when everything we hold dear may be at risk.
How can we celebrate what we have when it may be stripped away from us?
I’m not gonna lie – this will be a hard thanksgiving. For many of us, we’ll be celebrating with family members who voted differently, who see the world through surprisingly different lenses. How do we navigate relationships with people who voted against everything we stand for? This isn’t just our being fringe religionists in a conservative Christian household – this is about people we love saying ‘who you are and what you are doesn’t matter.” And that hurts. How can we be grateful?
And yet, there is a lot to be grateful for. Let me share what I see – maybe you share some of these blessings.
I am grateful for Unitarian forbearer Theodore Parker, who said the moral arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice.
I am grateful for the democratic process and those in positions of authority and power who won’t let it be demolished.
I am grateful for the masks being exposed – we now know who the racists and misogynists and homophobes and xenophobes are, so we can address the systems of oppression more openly.
I am grateful for the activism that is already springing up – I already know a dozen people who are committed to running for office, more who are organizing marches, protests, email and phone campaigns, and supporting the work of organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and others who already engage in the good work of justice.
I am grateful for the call to be prophetic witness – not just ministers from the pulpit, like me, but as James Luther Adams described, the prophethood of all believers. We are all called to speak up and speak out. Thousands of Unitarian Universalists across the world have been standing on the side of love, and now the call of love is even stronger.
I am grateful that our denomination is answering the call of love, putting more and more focus on justice, not only through words but through real money and real action.
I am grateful for the ability to learn more about those I don’t understand – whether it be a person of color, or a trans person, or someone with a disability, or a straight white man, or even someone considered working class whose understanding of dignity is tied to a different paradigm than the one I operate in.
I am grateful for the space to be wrong and still be loved.
I am grateful that I am part of a religious community that hears the call of love, supports one another and holds one another through the bad times – that here there is space to express ourselves, explore ideas, learn from each other, do good work together, and lean on each other. That’s important. We need what songwriter Reggie Harris calls the Shelter of Each Other.
I am grateful that this congregation finds a way to feed and support others on Thanksgiving day even without a building of your own, sharing love and abundance in the community.
And yes, I am grateful that I have shelter, food, clothing, access to health care and transportation, a loving family, friends, and more. But more, I am grateful to be in a position to fight for others who do not have those things and to help them meet their needs, and to call out injustice when I see it, and to support those who need an ally, even as others support me when I need an ally.
Despite all of the despair, frustration, anger, fear, and anxiety I have felt in the last couple of weeks, I have found myself singing a tune that reminds me that, as Meister Eckhart says, if the only prayer we say is “thank you” it is enough: