An Interfaith Thanksgiving Blessing

By Wayne Martin, Chair, Interfaith Task Force, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia

THANKSGIVING, 2015

Nearly every day—somebody—somewhere in America…is honoring some historic day…

Observing a particular occasion or celebrating a noble tradition…whether

The “Fire Ant Festival” in Ashburn, GA, during the last full week in March…

The National “Hollering Day” on the third Saturday in June in Spivey’s Corner, NC…

The “Georgia Peach Festival” on June 6th in Byron, GA…

National holidays like July 4th…Labor Day…or certain days considered ‘Holy’. 

Today—this very day—a group of people…somewhere in our country…

Is celebrating a favorite cause…a cultural tradition…or a sacred moment long passed! 

 

The cause for the ‘celebration’ of a chosen day often becomes as much

About the ‘festivities’ of the gathering as about the ‘reasons’ for the celebration.

What is so special about Ashburn, Georgia?   Visiting the Fire Ant Festival, of course.

What is so attractive about Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina?   To go to a Hollering contest.

Why drive a 100 miles to a small town in central Georgia?  To see a Peach Festival parade.

Is it really July 4th without fireworks?  Can we celebrate Labor Day without a picnic?

How can it be Thanksgiving if we don’t have ‘turkey’ and pumpkin pie for dinner?  

Isn’t something missing in our religious holidays, if the most important things are

The  gifts of Christmas….the ‘latkes’ of Chanukah…or the ‘breaking of the fast’ of Ramadan?

 

As the years go by, we face the growing temptation to make

Patriotic holidays…sacred days of remembrance…traditional cultural gatherings

Times of fun and frolic more than occasions of contemplation and meditation!

 So, whatever our faiths…however different our traditions or diverse our cultures…

In the depths of our hearts, may we feel God’s loving care…

In the resources of our spirits, may we sense the Lord’s tender mercy and

In the corners of our souls, may we feel His guiding presence as we face these times!

 

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving…

We thank Thee—O God—for Thy presence with us in these days of fear…

We are grateful for the friendship we have with our brothers and sisters of other faiths…

Bless us, we pray, with ‘people of peace’…those individuals of different persuasions but…

Who live by the principle of ‘tolerance’…who realize the importance of ‘respect’…

Who know the power of  ‘acceptance’ and who constantly seek ways to work together       

In the building of a greater community and in creating peace among Thy people. 

In Thy great community of faith where each and every one is called to love one another…

May we rejoice in our friendship with those of other traditions and different customs…

In that friendship, may we, O Lord, discover the sacredness of ‘thy community’…

And in that friendship may we learn what it means to be part of the Family of God…Amen”

 

Rev. D. Wayne Martin on behalf of  The Interfaith Task Force of the CBF of Georgia

Advent is a time to expect the unexpected

Advent is a season of anticipation and longing.

If I made a dime for every time someone said that our government should be Bible-based, I could open up a full college fund for my children.

This kind of rhetoric always makes me wonder: If we were to govern with the Bible in mind, which part of the Bible would we choose? Would we follow the part where we get to stone our kids when they disobey? Or maybe we can revisit the part when men could marry more than one woman.

“No!,” you might say, “Not the Old Testament, but the New Testament.” Alright; perhaps we can have a government like the one portrayed in the Gospels. That means we will have to change a few things around here.

For one, we would have to engage in endless civil wars within our region. Right before Jesus was born, there were a variety of aristocrats who fought to be king. So happens that Herod was the favored thug at the time.

Herod was so well-like, he earned the title, “the Great,” because he kept the unemployment rate low by funding building projects. Sounds socialist to me, but that’s what they did back then. He also did away with political rivals, even going so far as killing his wife and five sons in order to keep civil war at bay.

Second, we won’t be able to vote. We would riot whenever we wanted to have our say. Big riots, with lots of pitch forks.

Third, we would re-establish an honor-and-shame system rampant in those days. You know, the type of honor that was only as good as the company you kept. When God comes back to reclaim His temple throne, you will want to be on the side of the Pharisees and scribes, I assure you.

Or would we?

If we wanted–truly wanted–to be biblical, we would not follow any of these prescriptions for government. We would implement something entirely different. Instead of raising an army or backing a Jewish aristocrat, we would have to side with a family that God sided with: a peasant family, one in which the girl was pregnant out of wedlock with no place other than a stable to have her child. We would be on the run, saving our first-born sons from the murderous threats of a modern-day Herod. We would hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes, sinners and cheats.

If we were truly biblical, this would be a time of great anticipation and longing, not for some pie-in-the-sky government, but for the coming of a type of God whose reign transcends all governments. That is Advent in a nutshell. It is the season in the Christian liturgical calendar when we remember that God showed favor to humanity in the least expected way, in a politically fragile environment.

In light of Advent, when we go “back to the Bible,” we find a God who became a carpenter’s son from an obscure village west of the Sea of Galilee. God did not become any politician or aristocrat; he didn’t even come in the form of a priest. In fact, He saved his harshest criticisms for the religious establishment.

Advent is a time, ultimately, when we do read the Bible and discover what it was like when Jesus was born. We do not read it to imitate that system, which died so long ago; rather, we revisit the Scriptures to resurrect the emotions and anticipation of what it was like to expect God’s visitation to humanity in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. We light a purple candle and bring light into darkness, and we sing, “Come Thou Almighty King!”