Thanksgiving Day as embraced in the United States wonderfully asserts the place and power of love and gratitude within families—a wholesome national celebration that other nations may regard as exceptional. Ties of blood and friendship, openness to strangers and the poor, truly reflect the Bible passages for this day. You “shall celebrate with all the bounty” (Deut. 26:11), and Psalm 100 offers these comforting words: “We are [God’s]; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3).
In the Gospel reading for today, the crowd comes seeking the miracle-maker who has just fed five thousand people; they want more of the same. “I want it all, and I want it now” is a common twenty-first century cry. But Jesus says that we’ve got to move on from the food and drink celebration to receiving the bread of God that comes down from heaven. “Whoa! What’s this then? We like big parties and being well fed, but you’re talking about something much different. We don’t understand.”
Can our Thanksgiving Day take us into eating the bread of heaven? “Oh, Dad, don’t be so religious” is a common response from younger family members to suggestions for praying on the day. It requires great creativity and sensitivity to eat both bread and the bread of heaven. Paul, in Philippians, moves us through celebration, supplication, and thanksgiving to a continual mindfulness of the kind of thoughts that God deems “worthy”: truthful, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable. The daily actions that flow from these will bring us the peace we need for life. In response to God’s great gifts to us, we give God ourselves. We are the gift, the thanksgiving present that God desires.
Here we are, Lord God, to be yours—body, mind, and spirit. Amen.