Monday, November 22, 2010

Wild Turkey

"Wild Turkey" can lead to some spirited conversation. You can begin the conversation with your ABC's or at least at the store with the same name. But I'm not talking about "brown water" that comes in a bottle. I more or less have in mind the wild turkeys I've seen lately out and about. They are the ones who you will not see on our tables at Thanksgiving. They know nothing of the holiday and would be in mourning for their tame relatives if they got wind of such a thing.

For me Thanksgiving makes me pause and remember. Somehow every thanksgiving I fall down a rabbit hole and pass Alice and the Mad Hatter as I turn left down a winding pathway of memories.

I remember going to Betsy's Lutheran church the night before Thanksgiving and singing, "Let All Things Now Living." I loved that song for some reason. It was not in the Methodist hymnal so when I "grew up" I would steal it and print the words so my congregation could sing it. It is now in the Methodist Hymnal supplement for which I am of course "thankful."

The next day we would all cram ourselves into probably the smallest house of all the extending family dwellings. Reason was not the operative norm. This is where "the family" gathered and that was it. Maw Maw Lee's house was in the country next to the Christmas tree farm where we always hiked after lunch in the hopeless effort to "walk off" what we had just consumed.

And of course gluttony was the sin of the day. I can still taste some of the casseroles and the desserts. There was one uncle who would always disappear for a while and come back from his car a little happier than when he went out. He evidently found another kind of "wild turkey" to help him get through the holiday season.

I can't find those casseroles anymore. The house belongs to someone else. A good number of the people I remember are gone to the place not made with hands eternal in the heavens. We are trying to create new traditions but you can't go back home least in some ways...I suppose we are not supposed to.

Our youngest child was born on one of those Thanksgiving mornings. She messed everything up that day. I never got a taste of one of those casseroles. At 11:17 we had a 10lb 2oz turkey named Amanda. I've always kidded her about that. She now laughs. She did not use to.

On another Thanksgiving evening my mother did her usual second feast for us in the evening. We had a grand old time. She read an essay written by our oldest daughter who was then a "I'm not paying attention to most anyone but me...and no longer want to go to grannies house cause my friends are everything...type of teenager." The essay was about "the person who influenced me the most in life." The words were about my mother. They told of "Grannie breakfasts" and times of singing "Fly Little Blue Bird." The message was of a woman who made that little girl feel like a queen and who saved pantie hose "eggs" to put toys in for her even when my mother did not need any more pantie hose."

My mother cried...said, "I thought you had forgotten"...hugged that not so distant adolescent...and then later that night while reading a book simply bowed her head and died. When I got the phone call from my father saying that, "She was gone," I looked over at Betsy and said, "Well I'm thankful that at least we had a going away party without knowing we were having it." She was only 67. I had other questions for her. I think of her often, especially on Thanksgiving.

So Thanksgiving is "loaded" with memories. I'm thankful for most of them. What about you? Close your eyes this Thanksgiving and smile. Pull out from your flock of wild turkeys a special memory then turn toward the present and create one for the future.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Killing off the King to Have a Baby

The Christian year ends in a rather strange way. On the last Sunday of what is called "ordinary time" time takes a not so ordinary twist. All of the scripture readings have to do with Jesus dying. The one I picked this year has Jesus standing all beaten up and bleeding before Pilate. Pilate asks Jesus if he is in fact a king.

Jesus says something like, "Well that's what you must think." Pilate has no use for this guy who is making him work on a holiday and replies, "Look idiot I'm not a Jew...I kill Jews for a living and you better start showing some respect for your superiors."

Jesus' reply, which you have to read between the lines is, "Whatever." He then offers Pilate something that Pilate would never quite get. "Look Mr. King of Rome, my kingdom is something you would not understand anyway. My kingdom will be around when you are dust."

Pilate then finds some hand sanitizer and washes his hands of this poor soul thus showing Jesus once and for all who is really king. Of course we now know that there is no First Church of Pontius Pilate but there seem to be plenty of places around that have King Jesus at least on their signs out front.

But as soon as we kill of Jesus at the end of the year it is time to have the first day of the year that begins the Christian New Year. We call it Advent. We have the death and the birth right up next to each other. What gives?

It seems that for the Christian we need to be reminded about what kind of king that God sends in a manger. Actually the manger is not as far removed from the cross as one might at first think. There was the death of a dream that night that Mary was told there was "no room." After all she was promised by none other than an angel that she would be the mother of the new king of the world. What kind of king would be forced to be born in a barn.

So we face the death of expectations as we start the New Year. Advent is a season to be told, "ready...set....stop." This is no countdown for the shopping days left until the credit card statements come. For the Christian there is the speed-bump that jars us to a stop if we take it too fast. have a king that gets crucified by the world. are to be servants of a servant king. Stop...the world can be different if you serve a different kind of king...the kind of king who rules with a shepherd's staff and who wears a crown of thorns.

This Sunday, as I have done in many years before, I will place a chair in the chancel area of my church, place the processional cross behind the chair, put a crown of thorns over the cross beam of that cross, lean a shepherd's staff on the cross....and invite my people to come kneel and say "thank you" to this servant king.

We face the death before we hear the soft cry of the baby. It is the reason we can say "thank you" to a God who is willing to come suffer with us and promise us a new day beyond our suffering. Shades of Christmas are present even as a wounded Jesus looks at another king and says, "My kingdom is not of this world.....but it will make a world of difference."

Before Mary has her baby we are reminded that things in the new kingdom will be upside down in order to set things right side up....Happy soon to be New Year...