As we make plans to be in the company of family and friends, or perhaps taking a day to volunteer so that others may know the blessings of this holiday more fully, I am reminded of a little tidbit from John Calvin’s Institutes that I read recently at the “Lunch with Calvin” study I frequent at the TU Chapel for a little bit of “Brain stimulation.” In a section on prayer, Calvin delves into the question, “Is prayer at times dependent upon our passing mood?”
First of all, I’m glad for a holiday devoted to giving thanks–even if it does simply boil down to stuffing ourselves with turkey, watching football with family, and maybe gearing up for a big day of shopping. The name itself does something–SOMEthing, to cue us into what is perhaps the most frequent theme in the scriptures. It was apparent to me by Calvin’s long answer to this question that he reluctantly acknowledged the reality that often times, prayer does only occur to us when the mood strikes us. But a nugget within that answer stood out to me:
For however much after our heart’s desire affairs may prosperously flow and occasion for happiness surround us on all sides, still there is no point of time when our need does not urge us to pray. A certain man has abundant wine and grain. Since he cannot enjoy a single morsel of bread apart from God’s continuing favor, his wine cellars and granaries will not hinder him from praying for his daily bread.
Jeff Francis, the chaplain of TU, mentioned a saying that he’d heard related to this that “we pray not only in thanks for the food, but also in thanks for the appetite to enjoy it.” Something about that thought hit me as I thought about all of those chemotherapy patients, people suffering from depression for whom taste has seemed to become bland and deadened, and those in such strenuous circumstances that they cannot properly enjoy the food that sustains them–it makes my craving for turkey and cranberry sauce into something I might take in a little more deeply. I thank God not only for the life of fellow creature which was extinguished to bring me meat, I thank God not only for the skillful hands and wisdom of the cooks who prepared it, I thank God not only for the warm relationships of family and friends–I thank God for the very appetite to enjoy all that is before me–not just food, but all of it. God is the source of all good things–including our ability to enjoy those good things. For me, it was a more expansive thankfulness, and I hope to share it with you on this Thanksgiving eve. Enjoy whatever is before you–may it strengthen and nourish you, and may your appetite to “soak it in” be enriched and part of the thankfulness that you feel on this day.