Thanksgiving/Advent Prayer

O merciful God, as we worship on this pivotal day between Thanksgiving and Advent give us faith to wrestle with the hard truth that so much of our American pursuit of happiness is based on one of the seven deadly sins, namely greed.  Nowhere is that tension between Jesus’ values and our culture’s more obvious than this time of year where we devote just one day to celebrating gratitude for what we have in the midst of the biggest season of consumerism that begins earlier every year. .

Jesus said it as plainly and clearly as possible in the Sermon on the Mount. “You can’t serve God and money.” It’s a simple either/or, and yet we are still trying our best to prove Jesus wrong.

Choices about our basic human and cultural values are hard because they are so important, and in this case Jesus is a prohibitive underdog. He is up against a multibillion dollar advertising industry telling us 24/7 that we are what we wear, drive, live in, and how we look. Our consumer goods are made to be obsolete sooner rather than later so we will fill the landfills with last year’s gadgets. 

The choice between your way, Holy God, and humanity’s foolish pursuits is what Joshua addressed the Hebrew people about centuries ago on their long journey to the Promised Land. When they were tempted to worship other gods Joshua said, “If  serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 

Gracious Lord, I confess, I love my Apple gadgets and the new car I bought a year ago as much as anyone else. And yes, I know my iPhone and Apple Watch were made by abused Chinese workers. And yes, I also know I am called to be the keeper of those very sisters and brothers who made these devices I take for granted every day. It pains me to be reminded of that injustice, but so far not enough to do anything about it.

Ever-loving One, we do know that greed has been the root cause of most of the injustices in human history. Every economic, government, or religious system that perpetuates the power of the haves over the have nots has greed for wealth, power, or control at its core.

O God, with heavy hearts we confess our own complicity in systemic greed because we know the first step to addressing any injustice is to admit we are part of the problem.

And so as we move from this Thanksgiving holiday into the season of Advent, our hope and prayer today is that the gratitude of Thanksgiving will inform everything we do this Advent season. And as we light each Advent candle may we remember to not let the true light of the world be hidden under a bushel. It’s time for love and hope to stand up to the forces of greed, to make this the year we don’t ask for everything we want, but give thanks for everything we have.  And so we humbly pray in Jesus’ name, saying together the words he taught us to pray…

Northwest UMC, Columbus, OH, November 27, 2022

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