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January 25, 2021

Thanksgiving 2020: The commonplace, remarkable & lunatics

Memo from Rev. Mathews-Johnson

I’ve read that Mark Twain once categorized people into three groups: commonplace, remarkable and lunatics. I don’t know about you, but I can think of people who belong in all three groups.

Of course, that’s a put-down, so three compliments are in order. Hmmm, let’s see.  No. 1: Some may be commonplace but no matter what, we’re all children of God. In our church, we believe that all really does mean all. All are welcome that is. No. 2: Remarkable means special and that’s a good thing for everyone. No. 3: And lunatics—a lunatic the dictionary says, is someone who is either clinically insane or just acting really crazy. I pray this Thanksgiving that we’re clear-headed and mentally strong, no matter who we are or where we come from.

Scripture says: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24) What’s it going to take for us to rejoice and find peace this holiday?  It seems that circumstances are so dire, being grateful just doesn’t seem possible.

I believe that no matter how bad things are, God is with us. God is God for everyone. And at Watsonville First United Methodist, we follow Jesus and his radical love for others, because we believe he is our pathway to God’s peace, in this crazy, mixed-up world. 

Sure, you may say, we all want to find a pathway to peace. The question is, where do we start? By finding and naming our Thanksgiving blessings, that’s how. Or to put it another way, what’s it going to take to rejoice and find peace in difficult times like this? Personally, I’m having a hard time centering on God’s peaceful, inner strength. I’m missing my family already.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and many (including me) are feeling pretty stressed out. It’s hard to see the blessing in all that’s happening these days. In particular, Thanksgiving this year doesn’t look like anything it’s ever looked like before, because instead of a big family gathering, my family this year is all split up in order to prevent further spread of the virus. We really want to keep my parents alive.

Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it feels kind of lonely. Bottom line? Rejoicing isn’t always as easy as it looks. 

Case in point.  Many years ago, old-time preacher Dr. Arthur Caliandro was asked to visit a woman who was hospitalized after a devastating plane crash. She was angry, bitter and depressed. Dr. Caliandro tried to comfort her, but the woman rejected every positive thing he said. According to Caliandro, her philosophy seemed to be, “This is the day the devil has made, let us complain and be miserable in it.” Even after the woman recovered fully, her negative attitude remained.

On the other hand, Dr. Caliandro tells of another woman named Helen Baker.  Helen has spent her life in pain from a rare nerve disorder. But she thanks God every day for the chance to witness to others through her illness. She even thanks God for the strength she has gained from her troubles. 

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” 

The knowledge that God loves us really does make a difference, oh yes it does. I don’t care if you’re young or old, gay or straight, married or single, tall or short, big or little, white or brown or black or whatever in between, happy or sad, open or closed, whatever you are, as long as we understand that we’re in this together.   

I’m surrounded by people who often see more and do more than I can, but the way I figure it, as a pastor it’s my job to help you discover (or rediscover) your God-given gifts, and help you find ways to put them into action helping others.  That’s our chance for service and faith all rolled up into one.  God hardwired us to love one another, and the real question is whether we’re going to go God’s way or the highway. We all have a choice.

Here’s my Thanksgiving prayer for you today. O’ God, we thank you for the abundance you have provided, and we pray we don’t ever take it for granted. And please help all those who are hurting now, suffering, and lost. There are so many of us now in need. 

In your grace God we can move mountains, perform miracles, and leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Everything we do that is good, holy and just is from you God, and we don’t ever want to forget it, especially this year. 

We pray for God’s healing presence to fix us, move us, repair our broken relationships, rescue us, recover us, help us, hold us, and keep us safe.  I know we need God’s guidance to do what God would have us do, and we pray for the strength to do it, and do it now. 

This really is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Rev. Robin Mathews-Johnson has been the pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church since the last century. Weekly Online Gatherings are linked to their website: watsonville1stumc.org. Contact her at (831) 724-4434, or [email protected] 

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