Dear South Georgia Conference,
Last Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing our first grandchild, John Philip Bryan, Jr. It was a thrilling experience. Sherrill and I are so grateful for our wonderful son and daughter-in-law, Philip and Brittany. They are good parents and I am happy this child will be raised in a home where the parents are actively involved in the Christian faith and in a local church.
Since it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving my sermon focused on the lectionary Old Testament lesson for Thanksgiving, Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 7-18. Moses calls upon the Israelites to “…remember the long way the Lord your God led you through the wilderness these forty years.”
As you prepare for Thanksgiving this week, I encourage us all to do just that: remember the long way the Lord has led you over the years of your life. That is exactly what happens to the main character in Wendell Berry’s book, “Jayber Crow.” He is a barber in a very small Kentucky town near the start of the 20th century. It would be a good idea, says Jayber Crow, to live your live in a straight line—“starting say in the dark wood of error, and proceeding through logical steps through hell and purgatory and into heaven.” But then he admits that he has not done it that way.
I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimmage has been wandering and unmarked. Often
what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back.
I have been in the dark wood of error any number of times. I have known
something of hell, purgatory, and heaven but not always in that order.
My life has come to me or I have come to it mainly by way of mistakes and
surprises. I am ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley.
And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the
feeling that I have been led ...
What powerful and hopeful words: I have been led. This Thanksgiving, please take time to remember the long way the Lord has led you. This is your story. You have been led. That is cause for Thanksgiving.
One of my rabbi friends was explaining to me why so many Jewish observances involve food. What they are all saying is, “They tried to kill us; we survived; let’s eat!” Look back over the long way the Lord has led you. There are plenty of things that could have done you in. But you survived. God has led you through many dangers, toils, and snares.
We cannot shake the feeling that we have been led. Let’s eat!