Greetings to all in the Love of Jesus Christ:
Many of us just celebrated the day of Thanksgiving, or as the holiday is called in Spanish: el Día de Acción de Gracias. Thanksgiving is both a myth and a concept, both an American holiday and a Christian practice. Join with me in some Thanksgiving reflections.
Like many of you, I grew up with the myth of Thanksgiving – that 400 years ago the pilgrims and “Indians” came together in perfect harmony to share a feast and give thanks to God for their survival. Every year in school, some of us would dress up like pilgrims, some like “Indians,” and we would sit in the classroom and re-enact the blissful scene of peaceful unity. The Church enriched my appreciation of Thanksgiving, emphasizing how gratitude and “counting our blessings” puts us in right relationship both with God and with each other. I loved the day, loved the concept, and loved the vision of all God’s children dwelling in unity.
Education continues throughout life, however, and of course I eventually learned that the reality behind the myth was less idyllic. While our schoolteachers painted a picture of peace and harmony, words like “domination” and “enslavement” and “genocide” are more accurate descriptions of the relations between European colonizers and native and imported peoples. Celebrating Thanksgiving is more complicated for me now. I still find gratitude to be a path to peace, and I still love the vision of God’s children dwelling together in unity. But I don’t want to celebrate a myth and pretend that all was well when it wasn’t. I don’t want to spread a thin veneer of happiness over the injustice and atrocities that native peoples and enslaved Africans experienced.
Recently our Mission Focus team discussed the word “unity” – a prominent word in Disciples history. Talking about “unity” can sometimes feel like the myth of Thanksgiving, like we are trying to promote a superficial happiness, ignoring the realities of life’s difficulties. But sometimes “unity” feels more like “prophetic unity” – challenging the divisions of our world, bringing us together in honesty, our eyes open to reality but our hearts open to change. “Prophetic unity” challenges us to be awake, to listen to and see the struggles others are facing, to make what changes we can to bring about a more just world.
On January 15, the Saturday of MLK weekend, I hope you will join us for a Regional event that is intended to be one of prophetic unity. We are calling it a “Regional Gathering,” or Juntos, which is the Spanish word for “together.” We will gather for worship, a meal, and a world-café-style series of substantial conversations with fellow Disciples across the state. In ways, as you sit around a table with people from different churches and people of different skin colors, it might feel like a re-enactment of the myth of Thanksgiving, where all people come together and share in harmony. But our goal is not to promote superficial niceness. Our goal is to begin to build and deepen authentic relationships between all of us. I hope you will join us as we seek to practice prophetic unity – you’ll find the registration at www.azdisciples.org.
And in the meantime … Dios les bendiga!
Regional Minister and President, Christian Church in Arizona
We invite you to pray for the following congregations in the coming months. Visit our Regional Calendar of Weekly Prayers for our annual list.
5 Sun City Christian Church (Sun City) led by Pastor Gary Luallin
12 First Christian Church (Mesa) led by Pastor Liz DeWeese
19 Community Christian Church (Tempe) led by Pastor Bob Howard
26 The worldwide church