(Note: This blog entry is based on the text for Paul Hornung, A Colander, and This Thanksgiving, originally shared on November 26, 2020. It was the sixty-eighth video for our YouTube Channel, Streams of Living Water (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB7KnYS1bpHKaL2OseQWCnw), co-produced with my wife, Rev. Sally Welch.)
There are things to be thankful for all around us during this pandemic. Sometimes they’re kind of weird. We just have to look. Today, we’ll help you see them.
Paul Horning, the Hall of Fame running back for the Green Bay Packers during the Vince Lombardi years, “the Golden Boy”, died recently at age 84. I am thankful for that, because I almost killed him in 1965.
I was driving home, late at night, traveling north on 8th street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, my hometown, just past fellow Green Bay Packer Fuzzy Thurston’s steak house, The Left End, in slushy snow that was starting to freeze. It was a time when a cool outfit for men was black everything, and, suddenly, from the corner of my left eye, I saw a man with blond hair, dressed in black, step out between two parked cars right in front of me and then lurch back with a surprised expression on his unmistakable face.
I was also stunned. I thought, “That was Paul Horning. I almost hit Paul Horning. I could have killed Paul Horning, but even if I had only injured him there would be no safe place for me. I would have to move. My family would probably have to move. I would not have to move out of town, or out-of-state. I would have had to move off the face of the earth. There would be no safe place for me.” That’s why the first thing I want to say that I am thankful for is that Paul Hornung live a long life.
The second thing I want to say that I am thankful for is for the liturgical year. Yes, that IS an odd thing to be thankful for, until you think about it.
I saw a picture of a liturgical colander a few weeks ago. Do you know what a colander is? It strains out what you don’t want and leaves what is good for you.
The liturgical calendar is what infuses time with meaning. It is observed in some form in most churches, and a new liturgical year starts this coming Sunday.
The liturgical has two cycles, the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle, and a long “season” (technically it’s not a season) of reflection on what it means to be the Body of Christ, the Church, in the world. Each cycle has three parts: a season of reflection and preparation, a season of the event itself, and a season of reflection and application.
The Christmas Cycle begins with Advent, which means “coming”, that prepares us for Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ, God made flesh, and a season of reflection and application called Epiphany, which means a sudden inbreaking.
It is followed by the Easter Cycle, which begins with Lent, a time of self-denial or additional acts of service, that prepares us for Holy Week and Easter, the torture and death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of all humanity and resurrection, his taking his life back again, of Easter.
That is followed by the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian Church, and a time of reflection and application of what it means to be a Christian. That takes us back to Advent, with a few special festivals sprinkled throughout the liturgical year. Half the liturgical year is the Christmas and Easter cycles, and half the liturgical year is the time after the Day of Pentecost or what some churches call “ordinary time”.
The liturgical colander reminds us to let our living relationship with the one true living God, our faith, to feed us and to strain out all the evil that this past year has brought.
The liturgical calendar reminds us that time is a creation of God, it is in God’s hands, and that it has meaning that has been made known to us in Jesus Christ. This year, the year 2020, I am especially thankful for that.
Our current surge in new coronavirus cases comes just as we celebrate Thanksgiving. over 50 million Americans will be traveling to holiday destinations. In addition, the flu season and the colder and wetter weather that will place a damper on outdoor activities are beginning. Some are predicting a “twindemic of the flu and the coronavirus this season.
Our previous indifference to the simple things that could keep people alive and jump-start our economy have ignored has resulted in stay-at-home orders similar to those we experienced months ago.
It will probably be January before the first COVID -19 vaccines are given. Most will be given in two stages, several weeks apart, and then it will take about a month before they are fully effective. So it will likely be around June of next year before we have a substantial part of our population benefiting from the vaccine. The flu shots are being given right now. Sally and I encourage you to get your flu shot asap.
So, what do we have to be thankful for in a very rough year, during of a lethal and debilitating global pandemic? The LA area, where we live, is the most infected area in the country, as of last Monday. Yesterday, it was reported that 1 out of every 145 residents of LA County can infect others with the coronavirus.
Lets take a look.
I found out this week that a colleague was a part of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine study and was in the group that received the vaccine that has shown itself to be 95% effective. He will soon be allowed to bring Sunday worship services to a local Lutheran retirement home. I’m thankful for that.
Soon, the first people will be getting that vaccine in a mass inoculation and, by the middle of next year, or so, we should have enough people who have been inoculated that we should be seeing a reasonable version of the New Normal. I’m thankful for that.
Today, we live in a country where we are free, where most people are seeking the common good. If you look out your window right now, I will guess you do not see a war going on. Our military shows up every day.
Our law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, 911-dispatchers and EMT’s protect and serve in a challenging environment under difficult circumstances. They show up every day.
Our hospitals are nearing capacity and doctors, nurses, therapists, researchers, and other frontline workers are stressed, burned-out, and fatigued, but they are still showing up every day. Truck drivers who bring things to our home and stores and workers at every level of the food providing chain are showing up. I’m thankful for them. Pastors and church leaders are still showing up. Hardware store workers are still showing up. I’m thankful for them all. Very thankful.
Sally and I are thankful for each other, for our son, thankful for our larger families, for our health, and for the opportunities each of has been given to serve to God’s glory.
And, with a text I was reminded of this week during devotions in a Zoom meeting (for which I’m sort-of thankful), in the words of Paul to the young church at Philippi, the Philippians:
What are you thankful for in 2020? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and we’ll respond to every one.