Reigning Compassion Matthew 25:31-46 (I was hungry and you fed me)

Thanksgiving Sunday and United Black Christians Anniversary

We gather together to ask for God’s blessing, to live in community, seeking God’s will…*

So begins a hymn that many of us will sing during the Thanksgiving season, whether we worship on Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving Eve or a Sunday before or after. We Gather Together, as the name suggests, is a hymn beloved by those of us who call ourselves congregational because it’s all about, well, congregating. Written in the 16th century in the Netherlands as a hymn of celebration of freedom from Spanish rule, it is perhaps surprising that we so often sing this in thanksgiving when it is intended as an anthem to national pride.

On Thanksgiving, many will gather around the table at a feast with families and friends. These gatherings, with their familiar food and faces can be comforting affairs. Yet, too often, our Thanksgiving celebrations turn inward. Although we can take satisfaction in gathering around an intimate table with our beloveds, when we face each other, our backs are turned to the world.

Too often in congregations we do this, too. Comforted by the familiar intimacy of our private feast and celebrations, our gatherings can become too comfortable, too insular.

The scripture reading from Matthew reminds us that when we feed, clothe and embrace the lost and alone, we are embracing Christ. This scripture in effect encourages us to turn our Thanksgiving table chairs the other way around. If your family and friends are not accustomed to facing that way, it may be uncomfortable to face out into the world and to respond to the needs we see.

So, turn around, face the world, so that we can freely and joyfully sing not just the first, but the last words of that beloved hymn.

Empowering all by the hope you engender. Grant wisdom and courage to follow your way.*

*Bayler, Lavon. We Gather Together, #421. The New Century Hymnal. Word adaptations Copyright 1992 The Pilgrim Press.

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