This week on Thursday afternoon I’ll sit down for my 52nd Thanksgiving meal. That’s a lot of lifetime turkey! In my clan various foods always vie for epicurean loyalty year after year come the fourth Thursday in November. There’s Mom’s walnut pie with its caramelized sugar filling and a delicate flaky crust. My sister’s “magic” green bean casserole topped with crunchy onion rings. Yes there are taste bud tussles at our table. Should we go for the homemade “artisan” cranberry sauce? Or the canned stuff with its perfectly round gelatinous slices, totally processed and totally delicious? My favorite food is the potatoes, mashed and whipped and silky smooth, with a perfect indentation on top to pool fresh made gravy and melted butter. YUM!
I can’t wait. Not just for the food but more important for the people who will gather around the dining room table in my home, the folks I love the most in this world. My family and my good friends. Our cast of characters has changed over the years. My Dad who once ruled over the turkey, carving knife in hand, is no longer with us, nor my Uncle Frannie. We miss them. The little ones who once were pushed up to the table in their high chairs now may bring around their boyfriends for pie and coffee. Responsibilities for making the feast fall upon a new generation, Mom having cooked a brood of turkeys through the years.
But what is faithful and true and unchanging on Thanksgiving for us is the ideal that always we are summoned to come together again around a common table and to break bread. It’s a tug and a desire as old as Creation itself. It reflects two of the most basic human needs: food to fuel our physical bodies and love to fuel our hearts and souls. Having a trusted and familiar place to return one year later. Our lives have no doubt changed for the good and the not so good in the past 364 days. We’ve got a new job or a new beau. Or it was a hard year because of illness or unemployment or divorce. We share the stories of our lives. We tell corny family jokes. We are re-formed.
There is something sacred and precious about a table and folks gathered around it to eat and talk and laugh and cry and say grace over plates and bowls and platters of food. Consider just how many meals have you eaten around such a table in company of others. Hundreds, thousands even. In a world where too many folks can’t get to that table for lack of food or because of war or conflict or a family split or for whatever reason, we should never ever take for granted the miraculous gift of a shared meal.
Every major world religion reflects the sacredness of “the table” in their beliefs and rituals. The communion table for Christians. The Sabbath table for Jews. The fast breaking table for Muslims. The sacred vegetarian meal prepared and blessed by Sikhs in the Temple and then shared with others. For finally it is at the table, perhaps more so than at any other place in this human life, that we are finally shaped and formed and made and loved into who we are.
So once again this year…may we pass the turkey. Hand over the fresh rolls just out of the oven. Let’s lift up a glass of eggnog. But first: may we offer a prayer of real thanksgiving to God for our Thanksgiving meals and for the sacred tables where those feasts will take place. There is no other place quite like “the table” in all the world.