‘Thanksgiving when there is nothing left’

Published 8:52 am Thursday, November 15, 2018

Clang. The bucket goes down in the well. It doesn’t go splash. There is no water. It doesn’t go splat, hitting mud. It goes clang. What is down there is dry. And hard. And the bucket offers no hope, even if we just dig a little deeper.

With all our recent rains, it may seem strange to think of a drought. In our season of harvest, and with Thanksgiving approaching, it may feel odd then to consider a time without food. But for many, regardless of seasonal plenty, the pantry remains bare. For many, whatever the water table, the well of the soul can be dry and without hope.

The heart of giving thanks does not grow from the experience of abundance. Rather, it germinates from wisdom learned in time of emptiness. It comes after a season of knowing desperate hunger, of seeing famine stalk the camp. It is a posture of undying gratitude for being sustained and delivered.

Psalm 118:1 declares, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Such a profession is for every season, not just when the table is full, steaming hot and rich with flavor. Somehow it belongs to the one whose voice is parched and dry, whose belly is so empty it doesn’t remember food. It belongs to the one who sits, bruised and bloody, forgotten in prison. To the one who feels trapped, even enslaved in a situation — by a job, by debt, by an abuser, by an addiction.

It was not just Pilgrims in Massachusetts who observed a Thanksgiving after a time of starving. I am reminded that for every nationality represented among our citizens, there has been a time of desperation, of hunger – not just for success or a better life, but for basic need, sustenance and safety. Collections of people have made their way here, some by choice, some driven from their homes and others completely against their will. At some point, each has found their bucket bouncing against the bottom of the well, dry and desperate.

For both the one at the banquet and the one at the bottom of the barrel, wisdom frames the moment: “This too shall pass.” In our fullness, in our emptiness, let us remember the one thing that endures — the steadfast love of God.

REV. MICHAEL KENDALL is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. HIs email address is mkendall@farmvilleumc.org.