“Our family, our life, our school, our country — all that we are showered with from conception in the womb of our mother until a natural death is a gift to us from God.”
Father Robert Fields, administrator of the Canton, Ewing, Kahoka and St. Patrick parishes and the LaGrange mission in northeastern Missouri, addressed an interfaith assembly at the Clark County Ministerial Alliance’s Thanksgiving service Nov. 19 in St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Kahoka.
Local communities organize the services each year to unite Christians of numerous faith traditions in prayer, gratitude and charity in the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day.
These events are a long-standing tradition in parts of the diocese and offer a rare opportunity to gather and pray in unity with people of other Christian faith traditions.
Member congregations typically rotate the hosting of the service, and local ministers take turns preaching the message.
Fr. Fields said it’s appropriate to celebrate the mystery of Thanksgiving right after the harvest, since the growth of crops throughout the year is one of the ways God shows His people that He is with them.
The priest asserted that although Thanksgiving Day is gradually becoming obscured amidst commerce and materialism, the lesson of the pilgrim settlers and their Native American friends remains as relevant as ever:
“When we work together we are strong. We can be the hope for others if we live in the Mystery of God’s life. In doing so we so show the ultimate act of love to God which is Thanksgiving.”
Every glory in the cross
Every day is a good day to give thanks, Father Louis Dorn told the people at the Thanksgiving service in Laddonia.
“The cause of our thankfulness is always the cross of Jesus Christ and the salvation He won for us there,” stated Fr. Dorn, a retired priest of the diocese and volunteer chaplain at the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green and the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia.
Congregants chuckled when he mentioned how grateful he is that the midterm elections and their ubiquitous TV commercials are over.
He said his own recent retirement as a pastor and move to a new home gave him “occasion to discover things I had forgotten I had, which gave great joy.”
He talked about the spirit of ecumenical cooperation that has flourished in this country since the mid-20th century and the great things cooperating Christians had accomplished together while he was stationed in nearby Louisiana.
He noted that despite natural disasters and acts of senseless violence that have occurred this year, “we are surrounded by so much good every day.”
Blessings, obvious and hidden
Deacon Lloyd Collins, who assists the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Macon and the Mission of the Sacred Heart in Bevier, preached at the Thanksgiving service in First Baptist Church in Bevier.
He reiterated emphatically that God can draw something good out of even the worst of situations.
“So, be thankful always ... even in bad times!” he said.
He spoke of the Rev. Martin Rinkart, the Lutheran clergyman who wrote the hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” in 1637, in the midst of the Thirty Years War and the plague that accompanied it.
The hymn proclaims: “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”
Deacon Collins said there’s nothing wrong with asking God for something that is needed or wanted for oneself or other people.
“God wants to hear from us. He wants to hear about our needs,” he said. “He wants to hear about our sorrows and disappointments. He wants us to tell Him about what distresses us. He also wants to hear about our joys and our successes!”
God also wants to hear people give Him thanks for His blessings — “not because He needs the praise, but so that we understand who we are and Who He is.”
Being truly thankful starts with recognizing God’s blessings — the obvious ones such as healing from sickness, a needed new job, reconciliation with a long-estranged loved one, or a good harvest — and the ones that are more hidden.
“Often, God sees to our needs through others,” the deacon noted. “Sometimes, those others have, themselves, had great difficulties which He uses to bring great good.”
He shared reflections from the late Chuck Colson about how God used a Native American man named Tisquantum (Squanto) as an instrument of His providence.
Historians recount how around 1608, English traders captured Squanto with a group of fellow Wampanoag in present-day Massachusetts and sold them into slavery in Spain.
A Spanish monk befriended young Squanto and taught him the Christian faith.
He eventually made his way to England, where a man named John Slaney promised to send him home on the first vessel bound for America.
By the time Squanto returned to this continent in 1619, a plague had wiped out his entire village.
A year later, a shipload of English families arrived and settled where Squanto’s people had lived.
Their ship was called the Mayflower.
With his knowledge of the English language, he taught his new friends how to plant corn and helped them become familiar with the area.
Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote that Squanto at the time of his death “desired the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.”
Noting that God works mysteriously, even in times of darkness and tragedy, Deacon Collins advised everyone to thank God for all of His blessings but for the people He uses to bring those blessings about.
“Let’s thank Him with our words and thoughts,” he said. “Let’s also thank Him for sending His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to open the doors of heaven for us.”
That is the greatest gift of all — “the gift of Himself.”
“We can thank Him by following His commandment to love God with all our heart and soul, and loving each other as we love ourselves,” he said.
Thanks in advance
Deacon Ed Stroesser, who assists the pastor of St. Andrew parish in Holts Summit, gave the invocation on Nov. 21 at the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce Prayer Breakfast.
“Father in heaven, we give you thanks during this wonderful time of Thanksgiving,” he prayed.
He thanked God for friends new and old, for the successes that bring prosperity and for the failures that bring growth and wisdom.
“Thank You, Heavenly Father, for all You do for us, because we could not do it without You,” he prayed.
“And thank You for all that You will accomplish through us because we know that doing Your will will lead us to eternal life!”