A Thanksgiving Message from Bishop Mathes
Yesterday, we celebrated the feast of Christ the King. On that day, we remember that whatever earthly citizenship we bear is rendered as secondary claims to Jesus’ as our true and eternal sovereign. And so in the collect of the day, we prayed “that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule.”
In the seventeenth century, pilgrims came to the coast of Massachusetts Bay in hopes of more perfectly building that “gracious rule” in a new world. Even at the advent of that experiment, after disease and misfortune, those early European settlers gave thanks to God. We echo their posture of thanksgiving this week.
The student of history will note well that the earliest thanksgiving did not lead to the reign of God in the new world. To be sure the seeds of the American experiment in democracy were planted and would bear incredible fruit. But this week as we mirror the pilgrim feast of thanksgiving, we should also remember that the Plymouth landing, earlier and subsequent European settlement caused devastation to the first nations of this land. Indeed, it is a devastation and marginalization that continues on the reservations where these native peoples live today.
One week before Thanksgiving, the president of the United States announced an executive action that would permit as many as five million undocumented persons living in this country to live more normal, and less fearful, lives. Without parsing the questions of legality or political consequences of this act, I would offer that it is hard for citizens of the kingdom to do anything short of offering thanks for an act which has the potential to improve the lives of so many people.
For us, borders are relative. Earthly citizenship is secondary. Jesus made it abundantly clear to those who claim to be a part of his realm that the only thing that matters is how we treat the least of those who are his children.
And so this week, while we call to mind all that we have to be thankful for, let us remember those who have been living in the shadows and rejoice in any moments of grace and kindness — whether they come from the White House or your house — that might lift the burden of fear from the lives of so many of our sisters and brothers in Christ.
The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes