Serving up irony at Thanksgiving

As I mentioned Sunday, the legend of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 paints a picture of a fledgling group of newcomers eking out a tenuous existence on the shores of North America. The Pilgrims were deeply beholden to their native hosts, who chose to make room in the neighborhood for these largely undesirable newcomers from distant worlds, and to help them, in spite of their reservations, to put bread on the table.

Alas, the story is laden with irony: a group of Separatists became, under duress, unseparated. Ex-patriots who had stiff-armed their native countries soon landed for all practical purposes in the embrace of Native Americans,
without whom they could not hope to survive. Ever since, our national identity has had to blend any notions of independence and self- determination with other realities of interdependence and shared determination.

This year we need to add another layer of irony: in a Covid year we have all become Separatists, keeping our distance from virtually everyone. Stiff-arming one another is how, this Thanksgiving, we will show the love. By now we have had a bit of practice—Zoom, snail-mail letters, porch visits, phone calls, drive-by birthday celebrations, yard trick-or-treating, watch parties, and on and on. I’ve yet to commission a sermon to be written in the sky with an airplane, but that may be next.

In such a context, you, Laurel Heights, have been exceptionally agile and innovative in finding your way to each other—biological family, church family, friends, neighbors, and strangers—across the barriers of physical distance and masks. Sans hand shakes and hugs, you have nonetheless expressed your love and care for each other and the community in thoughtful and creative ways. In some cases Zoom has encouraged us to open our kitchens and living rooms to one another more transparently than ever we did when we could freely invite others over.

Yet challenges remain. My deepest burden is for those within our congregational and community circles we cannot see and do not hear from, who in the course of time have lost connection with the church or other sources of community support. Beyond our necessary separation ours is the work of extending our reach by more and more innovative means to ensure everyone has a place at the table of thanksgiving. For the gift of having a part in that gospel work as your senior pastor, I am deeply grateful to you all this Thanksgiving.

Grace and peace.
Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor