Has anyone noticed? It feels like we’re a little off-center! And it’s our off-centeredness that’s being reflected in the faces of the people… that’s why it’s dark and we’re all bundled up tight, bracing ourselves against the coldness all around us.
I’m talking about our planet being tilted on it’s axis and facing away from the sun. Our tilt – our off-centered-ness is, of course, the reason we have seasons. It’s why we have more darkness. Why this time is a time of coldness.
But you might have also thought I was talking about our political climate, rather than our seasonal, northern hemisphere climate. Because, if we were honest, we’d admit it’s true – we’re a little off-centered with one another too. A little tilted, facing away from each other. The anger and pain and hunger of the world is a lot to bear. We’re abound in a mystery and know not how to respond. It’s a mystery that leaves us questioning one another’s intentions… questioning our own… wondering what we could do. Unsure if we have what’s really needed… or enough.
There is a story written by the Director of Religious Education (Dawn-Star Sarahs-Borchelt) of Mainline UU in Devon, PA. that was shared with me this week. I thought it well worth passing on.
Once upon a time there was a family. Maybe this family had not quite enough to eat. Or maybe they had just about enough. Or … perhaps they had MORE than enough.
You might not have been able to tell. THEY might not have been able to tell. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have enough or not. It’s hard not to want more or different things than you have.
In any case, this family came together one autumn day for a celebration. A feast. A time of gratitude.
They gathered, as we have done, around a table. There was food. There was drink. There were flowers to remind them of beauty.
And then there was a call from the gate outside their door.
“Hello! We’re hungry and thirsty and we see you have a feast. May we come in?”
Well, the family didn’t know at first how to answer.
Who were these people at the gate? Was it safe to let them in? ‘Do we have enough?’ they asked. ‘Was there room?’
But they remembered. They remembered that most of them had come to this family, to this celebration, from someplace else.
They remembered that even they, who were there at that table, had not always been kind to each other. There had been times when they hurt each other. When they turned away, sad or angry or afraid. There is no way to make life completely safe.
They remembered times when others had shared with them, even when the others might not have had quite enough of their own.
They remembered when each new member of the family had been born, or come to stay, or married in. They remembered that they had always found a way to make room.
And they remembered an old, old saying: when you have more than you need, it is better to find a longer table than to build a higher fence.
We have enough, they said. We might have more than enough. We are many, and strong, and we can hold a safe space here in our home for all who come.
And so they went out of their door and to the gate. They opened it wide. They invited the people who were there in. Inside, they pulled out another table and made the space for newcomers. They covered it with a cloth. And the newcomers set upon it a dish full of something fragrant and delicious which was strange and wonderful to the family. Everybody shared. And there was enough.
I want us to notice that we only heard one part of that story. We heard the story of the people who were in the family in the house, ready to feast. We didn’t hear the story of the people at the gate, wanting to come in. We don’t know who they are or why they are there or what they bring to the table other than the strange and wonderful food! So when you hear other stories this Thanksgiving season, I want you to think about whose stories they are. And whose stories they aren’t. And what those other stories might have been.
This season of darkness is only upon us because we are tilted away from the light. And in our off-centeredness, the abounding mystery of such a season feels foreboding instead of ripe with possibility. When we respond from a place of fear, it’s hard to recognize what is inevitably true: we do, indeed, have room. In fact, if we just squeezed together a little, we might be close enough to hear the choir of angels singing. Reminding us that even a tyrant’s cold and callous hand cannot suppress the light of people called together.
To the Glory of Life.