Thanksgiving 2008

Wishing Wimminwise Readers
to be thankful for
this Thanksgiving

Gathering of the Manna, Annebert and Marianne Yoors

Gathering of the Manna, Annebert and Marianne Yoors

“As it is written,
The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.

2 Cor. 8:15

” . . . when they measured it [the manna] with an omer,
those who gathered much had nothing over,
and those who gathered little had no shortage;
they gathered as much as each of them needed.”
Exodus 16:18


Holiday Prayers

Cooking for Thanksgiving

Cooking for Thanksgiving

In the cultural milieu in which many women travel, at least part of the time — the one governed by school schedules, shopping, preparation for family events, and the need to drive places — “the holidays” have already begun.

Our local grocery store was busy last night (well, we were there, too) with people stocking supplies for a day or more of familial feeding and lodging. When family members from out of town stay over, as will be happening in many households in the next few days, albeit fewer this year due to the economic situation, there’s more than a single on-stage meal involved, as many people know. There are the all other meals. Along with the dishes. The laundry ahead of time, and afterwards. The cleaning, dusting, vaccuming, straightening up in preparation. The cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and straightening up afterwards, in recuperation.

“The holidays” strikes me as a complex phenomenon.

In the dominant American “imaginary” — I think of the pictures we see on television, especially in commercials, as a guide to the contents of the mental images here — Thanksgiving is a rosy warm time, of family togetherness, counting our blessings, enjoying Mom’s perennial favorite dishes, and basking in the glow of domestic tranquility.

For some, that picture will be fulfilled, or nearly enough to feel approximately accurate. Enough to make it realistic to name Thanksgiving as “the most wonderful time of the year.” And as much as this picture has “gender” written all over it — from the assumption (often accurate) that a woman or women will be doing all that shopping and cooking and cleaning and entertaining and stage-managing and family-maintaining, to the assumption (often accurate) that whatever men are involved in the scenario will be doing other manly things, like making last-minute trips to the grocery store or watching football on television, but in any event avoiding the “woman’s work”, to the imaginary shape of that “ordinary family” — despite all that, the alluring glow of that holiday ideal affects me.

[And why not? It is, after all, an image of peace, abundance, joy, and the realization of hopes and dreams. It contains a kernel of that eschatological expectation that makes all such images possible metaphors for the entire satisfaction towards which we all presumably hope, and pray, and work, and wait. Who doesn’t want peace, abundance, joy, and the realization of hopes and dreams?]

The imaginary picture excludes lots of people, though. Not everyone has a domestic space. For others, there is space, but no family. For others, there is family, but it is far from peaceful or pleasant. For others, Thanksgiving itself is more a time of mourning than of celebration, whether public or private. And maybe that is just another way to say that real life does not yet measure up to the ideal — whether or not the imaginary American Thanksgiving is even the ideal one wants to pursue.

So as it brings to mind both ideals and our distance from them, the beginning of “the holidays” seems, most accurately, a time for prayer . . .

for travelers, safety on the way, and welcome upon arrival;
for those in need, the meeting of those needs;
for those with abundance, memory and generosity in sharing;
for those who mourn, comfort;
for those who suffer, relief;
for those held captive, in whatever way, release;
for those who have much to be thankful for, gratitude;
for all, the grace and power to imagine peace, abundance, joy, and the realization of hope,
and the faith to continue to pray for it, and to work in light of it.

[Image source: Syracuse metro voices 2007]


 The last two days have been so full of marvels, blessings, gifts, pearls KGC 2008 program coverand gems of insight, brilliant creativity, radiant hope, anticipation and inspiration, that it’s difficult to know where to begin, or how to begin to collect and reflect on it all.

By now, we at the Women’s Center should probably be prepared for the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture and related events to turn us inside out and blow us away, since this is the third time we’ve sponsored this lecture.  (If I had an APPLAUSE sign, I’d hold it up now, for THIRD – since if doing it once was sign, and twice a wonder, we are by now well and truly on the terrain of the miraculous, considering the size of our budget and staff, and considering that the Women’s Center is the sole sponsor of the event.)

But when have we ever been prepared, really, for the inexplicable unrepeatable impact of the actual, concrete reality of the live human event when it takes place?  When have we ever really remembered what a difference it is going to make when suddenly uniquely incarnate life arrives at the moment, the placeandtime, for which all our palely abstract anticipation and routine preparation was serving as a place-holder – a reservation, an appointment?  I never have, anyway.

So, the third annual, the 2008, Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture turned us inside out and blew us away, several times over, over the past couple of days.  I hope I will shortly be able to say a little more about:

Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas’s dramatic lecture, her admixture of hellish reality and resurrection possibility, and her direct appeal to a rising generation;

what will surely be one of the all-time memorable worship services, a cool-blues womanist prophetic poetry through which Rev. Dr. Teresa Snorton transformed the visual and vocal image of preaching with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, and Angela Smith-Peeples gave us a newly musical paradigm-template for “calling for justice”;

lunch Chez Women’s Center, and the crowded, effervescent, spirited, altogether joyous and altogether serious spontaneous outpouring of practical theology, ethical reflection, pastoral praxis, interfaith dialogue, transformational conversation – with a breathtaking, visionary service of worship at the end that proved profound is all about wisdom, not time;

the remarkable consultation on globalization and cultural diversity that is just beginning;

Dr. Maura Toro-Morn’s illumination of migration patterns, revealing the gendered contexts, the ethical dimensions, the complexity and the rich humanity that inhabit the lived reality of what have become abstract headlines for too many of us;

the meaning of grace, as preached in the graciousness of the ministry of pitching in and getting the job done, undertaken by so many, to such welcome and happy effect.

But for now, our deep and heartfelt thanks go out to our guests, Dr. Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas, Rev. Dr. Teresa Snorton, and Dr. Maura Toro-Morn, wise women from far away who brought us the precious gifts of their experience, words, and presence, and to all the members of the Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture committee, whose months of patient planning and labor, meeting and meditating, struggling and schedule-juggling, bore, over these past two days, such beautiful and delicious fruit.  

On Sending the Rich Away Empty

looking at an empty plateReflecting a little more on Mary’s exultant claim that God “has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 2:53): 

This text has been one of those (don’t most of us have these?) that bothers me a little every time I hear it.  Since it is a reading for Advent, that’s regularly.  It’s very nice to fill the hungry with good things, but it never seems very nice to send the rich away empty.  Not that God is constrained to be nice.  Still. 


[Maybe my discomfort comes from applying WWJD logic to that passage.  If I were passing out goodies, and made a point of giving them to poor people, and not to rich ones, wouldn’t I be being unfair by not treating everyone the same?  Of course, maybe it would depend on what the goodies are, and why I’m passing them out . . .  And then, everyone is not the same . . .  And then, I remember that the point here isn’t niceness, it’s justice.  But I have to go back through that reasoning again and again, as if it’s one of those words I always have to look up in the dictionary to know how to spell properly.]



But on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, which is by popular cultural paradigm a day when Americans celebrate their freedom to overindulge, sending the rich away empty takes on a whole new meaning.


Maybe it is a good thing to be sent away empty – for the rich themselves.  Maybe it is a bad thing always to be full of whatever it is one is full of when one is rich, or even too rich.  Maybe sending the rich away empty means sending the arrogant away emptied of pride, or the greedy away emptied of acquisitiveness and materialism, or the pushy away emptied of selfishness.  That would be the kind of transformation that leaves everyone better off.


That would be nice.  To say nothing of being just.