When Christians observe something we call Pentecost, we are remembering the birthday of the Church, marked by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus. Peter when preaching in Jerusalem said that it fulfilled the writing of the Old Testament prophet, Joel.
I was reminded that the Jewish celebration of Shavout happens at the same time, but it marked one of the three feasts which drew them to Jerusalem — the Feast of Harvest. As a result of their settling in the “promised land,” they had spring crops. They set aside the best of the early harvest fruit and grain to bring to the Temple to express their gratitude to God for His blessing.
In some ways, Shavout was a precursor to our nation’s early history of Thanksgiving. The pilgrims were grateful they survived both the journey to the new land and the struggle to establish their homes.
Much of what characterizes Shavout and our need to express gratitude is missing today. In the midst of the pandemic it is more difficult to give thanks. Yet we have seen the more generous offering of food for those without it. The “givers” have been blessed. We find the principle fulfilled: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Let me apply that to our election time. “Public” service was an honor and a sacrifice in the past. Members of different streams of thought respected their “opponents.” Civility was a mark of the Congress. There were divisions of views, but gratitude for being an American led us to join hands in gratitude to our Creator. When we focused on our privileges more than our rights, we found ways to compromise and to achieve some wonderful results. In more recent days we have demanded our rights before we have listened to understand a difference of opinion. The question now is “what’s in it for me” rather than what can I do for others. John Kennedy’s inaugural address words remind us of the higher call: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
No matter our background, our ethnicity or our creed, there is one common ground where we can meet. It is in the practice of gratitude.
I am grateful to be an American and to live in a land where some freedoms remain. The only way we can preserve this nation is remembering what our founders did. They understood that with freedom comes responsibility. The gratitude we feel for freedom demands that we behave respectfully and responsibly toward our fellow citizens.
Let us rediscover why we are grateful and practice sharing that with the world around us!