It was a lovely way to start the holiday season, featuring the Fellowship Community Church Choir, a reading from Luke 17:11-19, and some great old-fashioned American patriotic songs.
Dennis Hankins, the American Consul General here in Sao Paulo, spoke briefly, winging his speech since President Obama had not yet written his Thanksgiving Proclamation (“He hasn’t even pardoned the White House turkey yet,” joked the CG), which is typically read at this time. Instead, the CG spoke about community and fellowship, starting with the Pilgrims as they established community and fellowship in a new land, even as Americans living in Brazil must establish community and fellowship with Brazilians if we are to thrive. What he said made sense: we can live here in isolation, but if we reach out to our hosts and establish friendships, the exchange of fellowship will enhance our lives and the lives of those with whom we interact.
Pastor Richard Solberg spoke to the theme, “Don’t Take the Blessing and Run.” Reading from Luke 17 about the ten lepers who were cured by Christ, but only one, the Samaritan returned to give thanks, Pastor Solberg guided us to think on our blessings and be sure to give thanks, today and everyday. (I love the pastor’s name: soul – berg: the mountain upon which our souls rest.)
He told the story of a man who hid iron filings in a barrel of sand and challenged another man to separate the filings from the sand. He did it. How? Simple, by using a magnet. Pastor Solberg challenged us to use the faith magnet to find the blessings in our lives, separating those blessings from the chaff that comes in every life. Once separated out, we can then give thanks for those blessings.
A delightful thought.
After the celebration, the guests adjourned to the fellowship hall, where we shared an early feast of turkey sandwiches and cranberry sauce and delectable desserts. Among the guests, I thanked a woman for singing in the choir. She was delighted to be thanked. A few moments later, she came up to Tom and me and pressed a homemade notecard into our hands, saying she only had a few, but that she wanted us to have one. (She also gave one to the CG.)
On the front of the card, she had written (decorated):
Nova York 1924
Sao Paulo, Brasil
Na Semento, Regina, V.Do November 2014
On the back, she had pasted a typed prayer:
21 “I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:21)
What a marvelous gesture, what a thoughtful gift from a stranger in fellowship!
One of the other high points of the celebration for both Tom and me was the singing of America the Beautiful — all of the verses:
Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His light on thee!
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend they every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, they liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved, and Mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Til all success be nobleness and every gain divine!
Oh beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee!
And crown they good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
Happy Thanksgiving, friends.