Thanksgiving goes hand-in-hand with pilgrims. In 1621 the first Thanksgiving feastwas celebrated. Pilgrims were giving thanks for surviving in the new world. The pilgrims invited their native American neighbors who helped them, the Wampanoags. Remembering these events, it isn’t hard to conjure up an image of a pilgrim. We readily see men with tall hats with shoe buckles, women with long skirts and bonnets. We’ve seen these icons since we were children.
Thanksgiving is a holiday rooted in the American ideals of life in a new place, working hard, and recognizing that God is the source of all blessings. But we often overlook an important part of Thanksgiving: many of these pilgrims were Christians who moved to a new continent because they were being persecuted for their beliefs.
Driven out of England, they forged a new life on this continent, braving hardship and threats. These pilgrims were pioneers of the American dream. They had a feast of Thanksgiving that lasted many days. Much of the food that we think as traditional – turkey, potatoes, corn, squash – would have been considered new and exotic to these new residents in a foreign land.
Luke’s account of the Last Supper features Jesus at a meal giving thanks: Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19).
What I find compelling in this verse is the words in bold above. The Greek word for the phrase “had given thanks” is “eucharisto.” In this word we have the Greek word of “grace” (“charis”). In total, we have “thanksgiving,” or to put it in another way, giving thanks for grace. Eucharist also happens to be another term for Holy Communion. Within this simple verse we have eating, grace, and thanksgiving, which is exactly what we all will be doing on November 24.
As we gather this month to celebrate thanksgiving, we do so with an extra dose of gratitude. In addition to the usual items God has graced us with, health, friends, family,and faith, there also is thanksgiving that we made it through Hurricane Matthew relatively intact. Our homes, our church, our community were spared. In this sense, we are similar to the original pilgrims. We each are on our pilgrimage, forging our way onward, taking each day by faith. We have faced threats to our well-being, and endure with gratitude. Thanks be to God.
“Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” Second Corinthians 4:15
Have a Happy Thanksgiving,
Pastor Jason Talsness