31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 20, 2022
Psalm 37:1-7, 39-40
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Cornucopias and cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and Pilgrims, football and the Macy’s Day Parade. Thanksgiving would not be quite the same without these traditions. Or without the classic Peanuts’ cartoon, “It’s Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown”.
If you have never seen this cartoon, which is only airing on Apple TV this year but you can find through the library, “It’s Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown” is about Peppermint Patty talking Charlie Brown into making Thanksgiving dinner so she, Marcie, and Franklin can come over.
If you have seen the cartoon before, perhaps you remember the children all gathered around the ping pong table for a “feast” of toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans, which is all Charlie Brown knows how to make.
You may or may not remember though that this cartoon special begins with football. Lucy is holding a football, and she says to Charlie Brown, “Come on, Charlie Brown, I’ll hold the ball and you kick it.” Now, Charlie Brown has some experience with Lucy and her football. Time and time again, Lucy has encouraged him to kick the ball and then pulled it away at the last minute with Charlie Brown ending up flat on his back.
He knows he would be a fool to trust her and he tells her so. To which, Lucy replies that on this Thanksgiving holiday, one of the most sacred traditions is football which begins with the traditional kicking off of the football, so this is a great honor for him.
Talking this out with himself, Charlie Brown decides it would be rude to turn down such an honor, and Lucy wouldn’t really try to trick him on a traditional holiday, would she?
So with perseverance and a ‘can do’ spirit, Charlie Brown gets up a head of steam and begins running toward the football. This time, he is going to kick that football to the moon!
And what happens? Lucy pulls the football away; Charlie Brown flies through the air and ends up flat on his back – again.
Do you know how that feels? Have you ever literally landed on your back while playing sports, doing a household chore, or simply because you slid and fell? Have you ever figuratively landed on your back because of disappointment or loss of a loved one, loss of your health, loss of a job, loss of a dream?
Regardless of how or why, when you are on your back, with the wind completely knocked out of you, it is really hard to believe you can get back up and try again. It is hard to believe that things will get better. It is hard to be Charlie Brown and trust that next time, next time, you are going to kick the football of life to the moon!
And in that moment, it is really hard to “Trust in the Lord, and do good”. It is even more difficult to “Take delight in the Lord, and [trust God] will give you the desires of your heart.” And might it be near impossible to “Commit your way to the Lord…and wait patiently for him”? (Psalm 37:3-5, 7)
The words of Psalm 37 are beautiful and inspiring. We aspire to them. We want to not fret or worry because of the wicked. We do our best to not be jealous of those who are unkind or do wrong. We want to trust in God, rejoice in God, and be given what we want, what we plan, the desires of our hearts.
And when we do not get what we want, when we do not get what we plan for, what we pray for, we can be disappointed. Or worse, we can feel like the wind has been completely knocked out of us, calling ourselves a fool for having trusted like Charlie Brown, a fool for ever having believed we could have the desires of our hearts.
When that is how you are feeling, it is really hard to rejoice. It is really hard to be thankful to God. It is really hard to have faith.
And yet, that is the very definition of faith. Trusting God, believing, hoping even when this moment, this day, this year is challenging, disappointing, or difficult.
As Kathleen Long Bostrom writes:
Faith isn’t about having everything turn out the way we ask for it to turn out. Faith is believing – and trusting- that when we fall on our backs, or when we’re hanging onto a thread, God is going to be the one who reaches out a hand and helps us back to our feet. (Finding Calm in the Chaos, Kathleen Long Bostrom, pg 270)
Faith is trust. Faith is hope. Faith is believing that God will give us the strength to get up and keep going. Faith trusts that things will get better, that God will rescue us, that God will save us, that God will be with us, that even in times of trouble, especially in times of trouble, God will be our refuge, our safe space, the healing balm for our hurts.
Faith, tenacious, hopeful, trusting faith, is challenging, though, no matter what age we are. When disappointment and loss come into our lives, it is hard to “Trust in the Lord…Take delight in the Lord….Commit your way to the Lord” (Psalm 27:3-5).
But maybe, just maybe, you can be “still before the Lord” (Psalm 37:7). You can take a deep breath. Take a breath while you are figuratively or literally laying on the ground. Take a breath and be aware of all that is around you – the beauty of your surroundings, the people reaching out a hand to help, the sense of peace that comes from being still before the Lord, the heartfelt knowledge that God is present with you.
Take a breath and be aware, despite the loss and disappointment, of all the goodness, the blessings that surround you, blessings that may be so close and ever present that you take them for granted.
To some, faith, tenacious faith, might look as foolish as Charlie Brown trusting that Lucy will not pull the football away; however when we take a deep breath, a deep breath of the Holy Spirit, we know that trusting God, that having faith is the wisest thing we can do.
Wise, not because it will keep us from disappointment and loss, wise because we know, we believe, we trust that God is our refuge in times of trouble. Wise because when we fall flat on our backs, we know God is going to be there, reaching out a hand to help us up, giving us the strength to keep going, to keep trying, to keep hoping.
How do we know? God gave us God’s promise; God gave us God’s presence; God gave us God’s Son; God gave us God’s Word. (Finding Calm in the Chaos, Kathleen Long Bostrom, pg 270)