For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-24
Dear Friends in Christ,
I have said and heard these words from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth countless times, or at least a version thereof, as they form a part of the words of institution, uttered each week during our celebration of Holy Communion. This week, however, they take on added meaning for me, as I reflect on all that has taken place in our part of the world in recent days. On what might have been the most difficult night of his life, as he knew he was about to be betrayed, arrested, and eventually crucified, Jesus paused with his friends over a meal, and he found it within himself to give thanks.
It may be hard for many of us to feel very thankful this week, given the wide range of challenging experiences we have encountered. The recent verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case has broken open once again the deep divisions in our society and in our church, revealing that we have a lot of work to do as we seek to listen to each other, understand one another, and collaborate to create systems and relationships that support a just and equitable world. The horrific events in Waukesha on Sunday have traumatized countless families, and the feelings of pain, grief, anger, confusion and fear are all very real and very normal. These will likely continue for some time as we work to promote healing and to prevent anything like this from happening again.
And yet, Thanksgiving week is upon us, and we will be gathering around our tables, at home and at church, and we will be invited to give thanks. I pray that we can do this honestly, without glossing over the painful realities and sharp divisions, but acknowledging that God is present in the midst of it all, and God will continue to walk with us as we engage in the holy and hard work in front of us. I have learned that intentionally taking time to give thanks, even when it’s hard, can help me see things in a new way and break open new possibilities.
We are not alone; we have each other, all of us blessed and broken, bruised and beautiful, and we have our God, who meets us where we are, loves us as we are, and promises to help us become who we can be. I give thanks to God for all of you, and for all the ways we are in this together.
Bishop Paul Erickson