Monday, November 28, 2005

Theology of Thanksgiving Dinner

Before Thanksgiving is too far past, I wanted to share the final page of a sermon I wrote for my homiletics class in seminary. I was up pretty late than night, and it shows. It devolved into a sacrilicious theological analysis of food. (Watch for the veiled reference to the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Ghost.)

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. . . We give thanks by celebrating in God’s goodness; we give thanks by feasting. Today you will go home to a table that is filled with the most delightful and appealing food you have come across all year. Feel free to indulge yourself; relish in God’s provisions.

In your feasting, see the signs of God’s goodness, the signs of spiritual blessing. That juicy, delicious ham—it represents the freedom of the Gospel; all things have been made clean and holy in God’s new creation. Put some corn on that plate, don’t be shy. That signifies the seed of the Kingdom. God plants grain in the mission field, and he is the Lord of the harvest.

Don’t forget the butter—it symbolizes the nourishment that sustains us and makes us grow like a mothers milk for her suckling child. Put some extra butter on there, don’t be afraid. Taste of the ghostly succor God offers us day by day.

Dish up a few pea pods. You’ll find that they symbolize the Word of God. When the Word is preached, and the Bible is studied, it’s just like opening up that pod and finding so many delicious peas.

Pass the bread, please. By all means take a roll. The bread shows us the fruit of human labor. And like the grains gathered from the hills, baked into one loaf, the bread symbolizes God’s people, brought together into one Body. This is also our daily bread, and it calls to mind the sacred host.

Get a big scoop of stuffing on your plate; you can’t leave that out. It symbolizes the Holy Ghost, who fills us and makes us grow. And, of course, don’t forget a slice of the Turkey that gave you
the stuffing which proceeded from it. The Turkey laid down its life for us all, to nourish us and offer itself as a thanksgiving sacrifice to God. It calls to mind the offering of Christ.

None of this really makes any sense, of course, without a big helping of gravy poured all over the top of the food. The gravy is like God’s gift of grace—poured freely and abundantly over our lives, making them pleasing and satisfying to our heavenly Father. Grace perfects nature, and if anything on your plate isn't fully pleasing, a good outpouring of gravy will make it more than so.

Have a glass of wine with your meal. Don’t be shy. It was Jesus who turned water into wine for a wedding banquet. This too is a festive occasion, and a foretaste of heaven. The Scripture says, “wine maketh glad the heart of man.”

And as if I even needed to mention, don’t forget to save room for dessert. Nothing could be more American than apple pie, and nothing could be more tinged with the supernatural. It’s sweetness reminds us of our garden paradise and a taste of the paradise hereafter. Those apples remind us of our sin in the garden, and that Christ, the new Adam, has redeemed us, and made the whole creation new. Those apples are delicious. “Do they hint of a fortunate fall?” you ask. Have another bite, and let us reason together.

Taste of all the goodness that is set out before you this day, and when you savor it’s goodness, remember the source, and render thanks.

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