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SUMWALT: Thanksgiving withness different this year, but still important

SUMWALT: Thanksgiving withness different this year, but still important

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‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Math. 28:20

There is an old British marching song from the Boer War called “Marching to Pretoria” that we used to sing in grade school:

“I’m with you and you’re with me,

and so we are all together, so we are all together.

I’m with you and you’re with me,

and so we are all together as we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria.”

The rhythm of the song is such that you really feel like you are marching, and it doesn’t really matter where. What’s important is that you are marching with someone.

I’m with you and you’re with me,

and so we are all together.

The song points to our continual need for companionship — the need to feel a part of something or somebody; the need to feel a part of something more than just ourselves — the need to be with.

“Withness” is especially appreciated in times of need or hurt. When we are in the hospital, a simple visit from a friend can make all the difference. When we are lonely, all we want is for someone we love to spend a little time with us. When we are in sorrow after the death of a loved one, it means so much to have friends and family with us. We sometimes wonder what to say, but more important than what we say is just being there. Presence is a comfort.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I look forward to being with our children and grandchildren. We have not been together physically since March 8, seven long months ago, when I had the joy of baptizing our youngest grandson. No, they are not coming to our house and we are not going there. But we will meet through Zoom and we will tell the family stories, and play games, and laugh and love each other just the same. We will hold each other in our hearts. It is a different kind of withness for which I am deeply thankful.

There is no Zooming with heaven, at least not yet. But as we look on the faces of our beloved family through the computer screen, we will also be aware of loved ones who have gone on, who like Jesus are always with us.

John Sumwalt is a retired pastor and the author of “Shining Moments: Visions of the Holy in Ordinary Lives,” email johnsumwalt@gmail.com.

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