A “Thanksgiving” Sermon

“It is commonly said that the domesticated turkey is the dumbest animal on the planet. This unofficial designation has resulted not only from the turkey’s widely spaced eyes and clumsy walking style that suggest it is dim-witted but from its supposed propensity for behavior that can be fatal. This refers to its propensity to stare at the sky for more than half a minute at a time, even when it is pouring, an act that could, potentially, lead to drowning. As it turns out, that is an inherited condition, not an act of stupidity, and no, turkeys don’t really drown from it.”

ncXkEBRcBSt. Paul says followers of our Savior are, “fools for Christ.” So, who’s the turkey this family day, is it the main course or is it us, its faithful people? We say “Virgin Birth” as though we say, “Please pass the salt.” Virgin Birth! How about serving the best wine last instead of the cheap stuff at the end of a party? How about giving your youngest half of the inheritance which he was never entitled to in the first place? Talk about “widely space eyes.” Or how about that runt with a slingshot who writes over 200 songs and has his best friend killed so he can marry the dead man’s wife! (That’s a hard act to follow, folks.)

In fact, the Discovery Channel defends the turkey in this passage: “Due to an inherited condition” that I can’t pronounce, “they are spasms – turkeys often stare at the sky for 30 seconds or more, even if it’s raining giving the impression that they are “dumb.” Also, turkeys often tilt their heads because they have monocular vision. Their eyes are placed far apart so they cannot focus both eyes on one image like humans can. To compensate, they tilt their heads to the side to get a better view. Turkeys are not dumb — instead, they’re very social with each other and with humans.”ncXkEBRcB

That is unless a human welds an ax the Monday before Thanksgiving.

How about picturing the Son of God as a German as most of our homes boast of instead of the Jew portrayal that he was, along with the nose. And what about his dizzy dozen followers he tells a dozen times that he’s about to be killed and rise from the dead in three days and then they’re all amazed when it really happens? (He told them it was going to happen!)

Animal Planet isn’t so kind, calling turkeys “confused,” but Benjamin Franklin called them “birds of courage” and thought the wild turkey should be the official animal of the United States. Turkey enthusiasts say that all turkeys are curious animals with individual personalities.

What about our Bible’s famous three’s? The guy tells his friend that he loves him three times after being tested three times by his friend and later on denies that he knows his friend. Guess how many times? Yep, three times. And now the pope sits a chair named after the guy, and we even call the Vatican basilica after the guy. And what about our faith contradictions, “An eye for an eye” to kill someone we don’t like, like in 33 U.S. states, instead of the potent phrase “turn the other cheek” from the same Hebrew scripture book.

Thanksgiving is obviously about what the word means assembling that cousin who doesn’t like your conservative politics, that aunt who can’t seem to get enough wine into her body, the in-law who thinks he’s too smart for the ten jobs he’s had in ten years, the spouse who retells his one heroic story twice a year (now and Christmas); and there’s always that quiet nephew who sits in the corner. I choose to visit the nephew each time, hands down. But we love them all, as best we can.

“There is a broad and growing field of study — animal cognition — that researches all aspects of animal cognition from different disciplines, including behavior, cognitive sciences. In what Scientific American called “a new frontier” in animal intelligence, researchers are finding some evidence that “some animals are capable of ‘mental time travel,’” suggesting that “they have a deeper understanding of the world around them” than humans give them credit for.”ncXkEBRcB

“…suggesting that ‘they have a deeper understanding
of the world around them’”

How about the Hebrew Scriptures 80-year-old woman who gives birth and the Christian Scripture presents the exact, same story to a woman? Or, how about living inside a whale for three days (without cable or internet), or becoming mute because you want to name your son after yourself? There are more stories I can give you, but I think you get the idea.

Is it magic, myth or mystery? Or is it all three?

Fanciful or faith, we are entirely captured by stories handed down to us that influence and inform our lives. Our Christian faith has our total attention. Fact or fiction, we have absolutely no idea. “Fact or fiction” is what the mind keeps asking again and again without any satisfaction when it is our heart and soul that calls it to life and lives it in faith; not for its validity but for its message for each of us at each interval, at every corner of our lives.

Are we “fools for Christ,” as St. Paul claims or are we, “turkeys for Christ” with a single vision and a desire to humbly stand in the rain and drown ourselves in God’s forgiveness and mercy? The final lyrics from the song, “The Fruits of This Creation” sing it best for us on this turkey day.

But first I share with you what I told the Christ King grade school children during our Tuesday prayer service.

“You combine all the ingredients of your life and mix it in a bowl that is you, your life. Cook it for 450 degrees for five hours and then see if your peaceful, content-full feeling is the same as God’s mercy and grace. To us today, I can say as adults, if that first taste is not God-worthy, then continue to bake, it’s probably the stuffing that’s stuffed us with abit too much of ourselves. Keep baking until you can truly offer a “Thanksgiving” worthy of God’s appetite.”

The song’s lyrics conclude, “for the wonders that surround us, for the truths that will find us, most of all, {it’s} that love has found us.” Do you know how that song ends? It ends with, “Thanks be to God.”

Key
Mary, Wedding at Cana, Prodigal Son, David, Apostles, Peter, Sarah, Elizabeth, Jonah and Zechariah

(red means excerpts from The Washington Post, please don’t sue me.)

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons
of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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