A Thanksgiving Prayer
Googling the phrase, however, has taken me in a totally different direction, far away from the pies that will, in a few short hours, rest in my oven.
At first, I was excited to see that Johnny Cash had penned a song There'll be pie in the sky but fan that I am, I have to admit There’ll be pie in the sky, by and by when I die are hardly his best lyrics.
Where, I then asked of my magic Google machine, did the phrase pie in the sky originate?
Turns out it’s a phrase coined by labor leader Joe Hill in the song The Preacher and the Slave, lampooning the Salvation Army for its perceived lack of care for the needs of the poor in the early 1900's, as a parody of the hymn In the Sweet Bye and Bye.
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die.
It goes on from there in similar vein. As I read, I feel the ouch of it: as a preacher, I must ask myself whether I, too, promise a vague heavenly release while ignoring the real pain standing right in front of me? I hope not, but the question is an important one for people of faith.
Was Joe Hill right? Do we meet real pain with bromides and vague promises? Do we dismiss present suffering as of no account or cost because of the prospect of heavenly ‘reward’ (a word I loathe in the context of life with God, whether here or hereafter)? Do we, blinded by promises of glory, miss seeing the real human being with real need standing right in front of us?
Or do we offer our own real presence to the real pain of others? Do we attend as well as tend them?
May it be so, O Lord, may it ever and always be so, especially in these holiday times when joy and plenty stand in sharp contrast to suffering and want, making it all the worse for the comparison.
May we be mindful of the needs of others: the need for companionship as well as for provision, the need for a smile and a warm touch as well as a plate of food, the need for caring as well as for sharing.
Really, really, really, I wasn’t thinking at all about politics, religion or even Jesus when I sat down to the computer this morning. It was really just going to be about pie. Really.