It might be easily argued that our current culture is not one predisposed to giving thanks. The Bible records almost 200 uses of some variant of the word “thanks” with additional entries for its synonyms, but believers of all faiths may benefit from the wisdom of our local clergy.
Our Faith asked for one serious and one whimsical insight for which the clergy are thankful this season.
Rev. Jude Ekenedilichukwu Ezuma, pastor of Galveston’s Holy Family Parish, said he was thankful for his “nmo na npo,” that is, his mother and father as he addresses them in a native, Nigerian tongue.
“On this Thanksgiving, I give God thanks for my parents, Michael and Philomena Ezuma, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year,” Ezuma said. “They have taught me – and continue to teach us – the virtues of resilience, hard work, dedication, and of the importance of a lively faith. Although they became orphaned at different stages in their lives – mom before she turned seven and dad much later, as a young man – they remained undaunted and always sought to make the best of life’s vicissitudes.”
The Rev. Richard A. Rhoades, pastor of Galveston’s First Lutheran Church said that for him, each Thanksgiving holds many sweet memories.
“Just the mention of the day causes my mind to whirl with images and smells,” he said. “Everyone in our household being home for the day, my grandmother visiting from out of town, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on the TV and the smell of the turkey roasting in the antique roaster for hours filling the house with its specific, appetizing fragrance. So, my first layer of thanks to God is for the memories – as most of those who gathered around that table have died. Yet, there is so much more, as I have grown in years and my faith has matured I find my heart warmed with thanksgiving, not in the big and brash, but rather in the simple.”
Rhoades went further to present a dramatically different holiday memory.
“Recently an encounter with a young homeless neighbor on the street caused my heart to give thanks,” he recalled. “God allowed me to be in the right place at the right moment to meet my new friend and to see hope kindled in his eyes as I simply listened to his story and walked with him for part of his journey. This stirred my heart to thanksgiving to God – not for what I have or what I have done, but rather for the opportunity of hopefully reflecting the love of God.”
And his lighter thoughts?
“As Turkey Day approaches, I am grateful to God for so much — and, I will admit, that I am grateful for the awesome pumpkin pie my wife Corinne will be baking — no pressure dear.”
The Rev. Marc James of Galveston’s Jerusalem Baptist Church said that he’ll never forget the moment when his grandfather’s dentures “lost the battle with a turkey leg” during dinner and were revealed to the entire family at their Thanksgiving feast.
“The whole table laughed, including paw paw, because all he could do was just look and pop them back in,” James said.
And on a more serious note, “I am truly thankful because daily I get to see the goodness of God in the land of the living, and I wake every morning with the awesome privilege of serving others. To me thankfulness is a daily reminder of God’s goodness and grace towards humanity, so we all should endeavor to have a heart and mind of thanksgiving.”
We’ll give the final words this week to two of our local rabbis.
Rabbi Matthew Cohen of Galveston’s Congregation B’nai Israel said that he’s thankful for this time of year because it has ended (for now) this year’s almost biblical plague of mosquitoes.
“I am perfectly comfortable and content with Thanksgiving weather,” he said. “I was born and raised in Ohio, so overcast and cold reminds me of home and why I never want to return to the north, though I have never experienced anything so oppressive as the mosquitoes this year. Still, the lesson in this is to recognize a blessing in everything (although I am having trouble finding the blessing in mosquitoes). A Jewish teaching from our prayer book says, ‘We walk sightless amongst miracles.’”
He added that he believes that each new day may be the wonder closest to home.
“Perhaps the most sacred miracle is that God restores our souls every morning when we rise, entrusting us to the blessing of our families, friends, acquaintances, fellow Galvestonians and the world around us. For this, I am eternally grateful.”
Up in Clear Lake, fellow Rabbi Stuart Federow leads Congregation Shaar Hashalom. He encouraged everyone to have a heart of thanksgiving.
“Gratitude is key to happiness, to recognize all the good things that we have going for us in life,” Federow said. “In the beginning of the cold winter months, we set aside time to be with family and friends, and just be aware of all the people whom we love and who love us, and to feel gratitude for them. What other holiday do we have where, no matter your background, your religion or lack thereof, your race, ethnic or cultural background, we can all join with each other and express our thankfulness for all the good in our lives?”
Happy Thanksgiving from Our Faith.
Next week in Our Faith: What to do when the holidays bring the blues instead of the expected joy.