Year C Thanksgiving Ephesians 5
In All Things Be Thankful
Ephesians 5:20

Back during the dark days of 1929, a group of ministers in the Northeast, all graduates of the Boston School of Theology, gathered to discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services. Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief. The bread lines were depressingly long, the stock market had plummeted, and the term Great Depression seemed an apt description for the mood of the country. The ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the subject Thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them. After all, there was to be thankful for. But it was Dr. William L. Stiger, pastor of a large congregation in the city that rallied the group. This was not the time, he suggested, to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving, just the opposite. This was the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for blessings always present, but perhaps suppressed due to intense hardship.

I suggest to you the ministers struck upon something. The most intense moments of thankfulness are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound. Think of the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving. Half their number dead, men without a country, but still there was thanksgiving to God. Their gratitude was not for something but in something. It was that same sense of gratitude that lead Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the butcher's list of casualties seemed to have no end and the very nation struggled for survival.

Perhaps in your own life, right now, intense hardship. You are experiencing your own personal Great Depression. Why should you be thankful this day? May I suggest three things

  1. We must learn to be thankful or we become bitter.
  2. We must learn to be thankful or we will become discouraged.
  3. We must learn to be thankful or we will grow arrogant and self-satisfied.

More Than A Kumbaya King
Luke 23:33-43

Anytime the phone rings at 4 a.m. it's always unnerving. Very rarely is it good news. Two years ago Peggielene Bartels got just such a phone call.

The call she got was from her uncle back in her homeland of Ghana in West Africa. He informed her that her other uncle, who had ruled as king of the small fishing village of Otuam, had died. But the call Peggy ultimately answered wasn't just some sad family news. It was life changing. The village elders had anointed her as the successor to her uncle. Peggy had been chosen to be the village's new King.

Peggie Bartels had moved to the U.S. in the 1970's, and had become a naturalized US citizen. She lived just outside Washington, D.C., where she worked as a secretary at Ghana's embassy. This is hardly the usual training ground for royalty. But she was convinced by the conviction she heard in the voices who chose her to rule. During the selection process the village elders had been astonished when, after Peggy's name was mentioned, the ritual libations being poured out began to smoke and vaporize. They did the ritual three times. Three times they got the same answer: The village's new ruler was to be "King Peggy."

Sovereignty didn't come with a lot of perks. "King Peggy" wasn't whisked away to some diamond-studded palace. Instead she had to save and scrimp and scrounge for enough funds to get herself back to Ghana and to pay for the expected grand send-off required for her deceased uncle, the former king. It took her two years before she could return to her village and provide the proper royal burial. She also was faced with renovating a very run-down royal palace.

King Peggy also confronted opposition because she was a woman, and because she was an outsider. This was not the way "things had always been done." When defending the legitimacy of her election, King Peggy held up her communities own rules to her dissenters: "I'm in the State, I'm a woman, and in the rituals with the ancestors you chose me in the name of God, so shut up and sit down."

"King Peggy" was not what most of the Otuam villagers expected as their new, duly-anointed, king.

She didn't come from the established elite power circle.
She was a she.
She was an outsider—even though she came from their village.

Some of her first acts were unpopular — like dismantling a "good-old boys" inner circle that had mishandled the appropriations of fishing fees. She is now actively raising funds to construct the first high school in the village and is making sure that for the first time the school welcomes girls as well as boys who want to continue their education beyond the ninth grade.

There is no doubt that in our sophisticated twenty-first century culture, "King Peggy" is an odd duck, a rara avis (rare bird), an amusing anachronism. Here is an American woman chosen to be the "king" of an African village. Undeniably odd.

This is "Christ the King" Sunday in the Church calendar. It is the day when Christians celebrate and commemorate the once-and-for-all uniqueness of OUR "king," Jesus the Christ, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer -- the one who was rejected, tried and convicted, crucified as a criminal, refusing to even save himself... presents Leonard Sweet