Archives For Thanksgiving

The_First_Thanksgiving_Jean_Louis_Gerome_Ferris

The First Thanksgiving Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Public domain)

Images from the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving Day feast are easy to call to mind—black hats, wide white collars, Native American guests, and an idyllic feast bringing together two very different cultures. But historian Robert Tracy McKenzie—along with others in his field—say that many of those images are, to put it simply, not true.

The Pilgrims often wore bright colors, for example. And while the 1621 feast did include Native Americans, the dynamic between the two groups was likely tense.

McKenzie, chair of the history department at Wheaton College, explores the Pilgrims’ journey from England to Holland to America in his 2013 book “The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History.”

The Pilgrims, he writes, wouldn’t have been given to celebrating very many holy days. This set them apart from the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Aside from a weekly Sabbath, the Pilgrims had two distinct reasons to call for a holy day: a day of humiliation and fasting, and a day of thanksgiving.

Both happened in 1623, as new settlers arrived while the existing colonists were already struggling to survive. Food was scarce, and now there were more mouths to feed. And on top of all that, McKenzie writes, they faced a two-month drought that summer.

The Pilgrims called a day of humiliation “to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer.” They prayed for eight or nine hours, McKenzie writes, during which the sky became overcast. Then, it rained for the next 14 days.

And then the Pilgrims saw reason for another holy day—a day of thanksgiving. McKenzie writes this particular day was very different from what we traditionally think of as the first Thanksgiving, which historians generally consider to have been a kind of harvest festival. The real first Thanksgiving, he says, was “called to acknowledge a very specific, extraordinary blessing from the Lord.”

The current vestiges of Thanksgiving Day celebrations are very different than what the Pilgrims embraced, McKenzie says. “In their view, an annual Thanksgiving taught human conceit and divine predictability and could easily degenerate into a meaningless ritual that reduced God’s provision for human news to his creation of the crop cycle.

“By observing Thanksgiving irregularly, on the other hand…the Pilgrims reminded one another to look with expectancy for God’s ongoing, direct intervention in every aspect of their lives.”

– The First Thanksgiving (IVP Academic, 2013)

Thnaksgiving Blessing Celebrating Grateful Meal Concept

(Editor’s note: For thirty years, Chicago Tribune columnist Joan Beck annually penned a wonderful essay of thanks. It was part song, part poetry, and a lovely grocery list of God’s blessings in the year nearly passed. Beck died in 1998. Here we offer our own humble version, with thanks for her example of gratitude.)

As we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings,
396 years after the first Thanksgiving Day,
we are grateful, dear God
For pilgrim fathers and mothers
who survived privation and dismay,
only to see your rich blessings
on the other side of suffering.
Their spiritual journey reached fulfillment on these shores;
Brave Pilgrims in a fearful new world,
Found welcome and home.

Now thank we all our God—
For that signal year 1517,
When an agitated priest sounded a protest,
Nailing his complaints to the church house door.
The echo of his hammer rings today.
We are grateful inheritors of the Reformation,
Expiation, Propitiation
Justification, Sanctification;
that the just shall live by faith alone;
For grace that grants to us salvation
offered freely but in Christ alone
my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.

Here we are, five centuries past, and the Protest lives.
The freedoms won by our spiritual ancestors are still protected;
We are grateful for the Constitution that lets us worship freely—
even though our theology differs,
And to speak freely—even when others object.

O God, our help in ages past, our help for years to come…
For responders first on scene in crisis and storm,
That in their service we see the Ultimate Rescuer.
For those who come in the second wave;
“Yellow Shirts” and the Relief they bring,
the love they extend for the One who gave
his very life the dying to save,
and for standing for us all, we sing,
You’re a good, good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are,
it’s who you are.

Give thanks with a grateful heart…
For text and Skype and e-mail too—
(I may never have said that before)—
because it keeps our loved ones close
though they live on distant shore.
For faithful companions for life’s journey
and a church that proves they’re truly family
in our time of need,
and for man’s best friend
who loves us steadily to the end
(not only because we feed them)
thank you.

For summer tomatoes and cornbread dressing,
Folded hands and children’s blessing,
The Spirit’s whisper in times distressing;
For “miracle drugs” and miracles real,
For doctors, nurses, and the God who heals,
for the will to get up and the desire to soldier on,
for endurance and insurance and the blessed assurance
that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media

The BriefingCastro death unlikely to halt revival or spur liberty
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who died at age 90, is being remembered as both an unwitting catalyst of revival and an opponent of religious liberty. His death, said Southern Baptists with ties to Cuba, is unlikely to yield significant increases in religious liberty for the island nation until the fall of the communist government he inaugurated 57 years ago.

3 dead, 5 sickened after church’s Thanksgiving dinner
Three people have died and five more were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner at an event organized by a church in the San Francisco Bay Area, health officials said. Sutter Delta Medical Center said it received eight patients with probable symptoms of foodborne illness Friday and Saturday. Three of the patients died, four patients were treated and released and one remains hospitalized. It remains unclear exactly what caused the illness.

Violent Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago
Chicago saw one its most violent Thanksgiving holidays in years, with eight people killed and 62 others wounded. The toll towers over the number of shootings in the previous two Thanksgiving holiday weekends, according to data kept by the Tribune.

Why Jerry Falwell Jr. turned down Trump’s Cabinet position
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. believes that Donald Trump “will become America’s greatest president since Abraham Lincoln.” But that wasn’t enough to persuade him to accept Trump’s offer to become secretary of education. Falwell told RNS the decision was due to concerns for the health of his family and the university he leads.

Pope challenged by conservative cardinals
Four senior Catholic cardinals went public with a private letter they sent to Pope Francis, asking him to state plainly whether he is liberalizing Church practice on divorced, remarried Catholics. The letter also questions whether the Pope is relaxing traditional and biblical standards on morality in general. Francis refused to respond so, the cardinals published their letter on various Catholic news sites.

Sources: Baptist Press, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, Religion News, CNN

Thanksgiving 2016 FB Twitter.jpg

The BriefingAmericans most thankful for family & health
When Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God will get most of the credit. And money might be the last thing on their minds. Most Americans are thankful for family (88%), health (77%), personal freedom (72%) and friends (71%). Fewer give thanks for wealth (32%) or achievements (51%), according to a new study from LifeWay.

Top Bible verse, topics of 2016 election
On Election Day, more people were searching the Bible for topics involving the end times than for praying for government. And the top Bible verse of the 2016 presidential election: 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Christian colleges grapple with election, views on women & minorities
Exit polls suggest 81% of white evangelicals voted for President-elect Donald Trump. But support for him may have been less decisive on Christian college campuses, where most students are also white evangelicals. Internal polls from some Christian colleges before the general election showed weaker Trump support than among the evangelical community at large. At Wheaton College in Illinois, 43% of respondents said they would vote for Clinton.

University: Religious volunteering doesn’t count
Two students are suing a Wisconsin university for denying them mandatory community service credits for work they did with a local church. The university claims their service projects violate a policy excluding hours that involve certain religious activities. The students, who filed a lawsuit in federal court, argue the policy is viewpoint discrimination and unconstitutional.

Protests at FBC Dallas draw spotlight
Protesters picketing First Baptist Church in Dallas will have no effect, pastor Robert Jeffress. “Look, these people, these protesters, aren’t opposing me or our church,” he said of the 50 or so protesters who picketed the church because of the pastor’s apparent public support of Trump during the contentious presidential campaign. “When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, saying I’m going to topple you over.

Sources: Facts & Trends, Christianity Today, Religion News, World Magazine, Baptist Press

Give thanks Autumn conceptual creative illustration

(Editor’s Note: Chicago Tribune columnist Joan Beck annually penned a list of things for which she was grateful, letting lines from a few famous hymns to guide her prayer. With appreciation, we borrow her literary form for our own version again this year.) 

As we gather together to count the Lord’s blessings, 396 years after the first Thanksgiving day, we are thankful once again that our forefathers brought forth on this continent a new nation… that survives even today, twelve score years later,

still committed as one nation, despite our divisions,
still committed to the proposition that all people are created equal,
still committed to pursuit of life, the cardinal freedoms, and happiness.

Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, we are grateful—
For the rule of law and peaceful transfer of power,
for the right to vote, and whether we win or lose, we’re still one nation under God;
That truth, justice, and the American way, mystifying it at times may be
Is God’s gift, this noble attempt to govern well through liberty.

O Lord My God, when we in awesome wonder consider—
this year’s progress with cancer drugs, loyal dogs and healing hugs;
children raised with tender care, troops come home in answered prayer,
dear souls saved by God above…this is amazing grace, unfailing love.

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
Wins we never dreamed came true, this was the year for champions:
Gymnasts, Phelps, and medals gold, victory laps and stories told
Of dedication’s sure reward, winners crowned and loss consoled;
Several million voices raised, the whole state rings with the praise;
Holy cow! a chant sublime, Go, Cubs, Go! It’s about time.

Count your blessings, name them one by one…
the bills were paid, the taxes too, the floors were sound, the roof was sure;
with many homeless, we were “homed,” many hungry, we were fed.

So thank you, Lord, for my three squares, Pease’s candy, deep-dish pizza,
Horseshoes, cornbread, and Cracker Barrel.
Forgive the irony, but thank you, too, for insulin and athletic shoes,
which we’ll use next year.

Surely, there are 10,000 reasons for my heart to say…Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

In Christ alone my hope is found…and in a year of uncertainty, we have learned again the meaning of sovereignty, that God’s in charge whatever man plans, when the world’s unsafe we rest in Your hands. At day’s end with the lights turned out, we hold this blessed assurance close, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor" by William Halsall, 1882

“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Halsall, 1882 (Wikimedia Commons)

Visitors to London’s Westminster Abbey are transfixed by one tomb containing the remains of two women — sisters who were rivals in life but united in death.

Queen Mary is known to history as “Bloody Mary” because of the repressive persecution and martyrdom of Protestants in England during her reign. When she died, her half-sister Elizabeth I, a Protestant, became queen. Elizabeth was none too friendly with the Catholics during her long reign. Today, more than 400 years later, they are closer in death than they ever were in life, for they are buried together in one grave, which is marked by a Latin inscription reading (in English): “Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep. Elizabeth and Mary, in hope of the Resurrection.”

It was the see-sawing vacillations between religious factions during the 16th and 17th centuries that set the stage for the Pilgrim Fathers to seek out a new world for the exercise of their religious freedom. Those seeking to purify the church (the Puritans) were caught in the middle and opposed by both sides.

Eventually one group of faithful liberty-loving believers gathered in the small village of Scrooby in the Nottinghamshire region of central England. With great courage this group of religious dissenters declared themselves independent of the national church and of the monarchy’s jurisdiction as it related to spiritual matters. This was treasonous in its time, and soon informants were reporting to authorities about the Scrooby meetings, bringing harassment and persecution on the heads of the dissenters.

Most of the Scrooby worshippers fled to the Netherlands where they enjoyed the freedom to self-govern their churches and lives, first in Amsterdam and later in Leyden. Over time, however, Holland, too, posed problems for these wayfarers. The English felt themselves in a cultural no-man’s-land. They wanted to retain their English identity, but as their children grew they were speaking Dutch and being assimilated into the Dutch culture.

What to do? To return to England was dangerous; to remain in Holland was untenable. These worshippers began to discuss something outlandish and dangerous — to cross the ocean to establish a village on the deserted and inhospitable shores of America. It’s still traumatic to us today to think of relocating our families to another nation, but to these Pilgrims the journey must have been akin to traveling to the moon. They were literally going to another world — a new world.

In 1620, the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower, and for more than two months they made their home aboard the storm-tossed, disease-ridden boat. Because of the onset of a New England winter, the travelers stayed aboard ship until the following March, then disembarked.

Leaving its passengers to fend for themselves, the Mayflower returned to England. Meanwhile the new residents of Plymouth Colony scrambled to get their lives, homes and gardens organized during the short summer of 1621. They were aided by the timely arrival of Native American helpers such as Squanto and Massasoit.

When the first harvest began to be gathered that fall, the pilgrims and Native Americans gathered for a festival of thanksgiving, which set the stage for subsequent annual Thanksgiving observances around the world.

William Bradford wrote about that original occasion: “Thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity. They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.”

Have you ever traced the practice of thanksgiving in our Lord’s life? He thanked God when His teachings were received by the humble (Matthew 11:25); before He fed the five thousand (Matthew 15:36); before He fed the four thousand (Mark 8:6); at the Last Supper as He took the cup (Matthew 26:27) and the bread (Luke 22:19); and before the rising of Lazarus (John 11:41).

The biblical story is full of exhortations to thanksgiving, and Christian history is filled with examples of stalwart saints like the Pilgrim Fathers who did just that.

Try it right now. Start your journey each day seeking ways to thank your Heavenly Father.

This article first appeared at www.BPnews.net. David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.