Although we think of Thanksgiving as a day to thank God for life and abundant sustenance, the abundance is only true for some of us, and what we think of as the first “Thanksgiving,” celebrated by the Pilgrims back in 1621, was actually a very stressful occasion when 90 Indians showed up uninvited to attend the festivities of the 53 surviving Puritans who had managed to last through the first year of life in the new world. The festivities lasted three days and had a frightening impact on the precious stores of corn and staples that the Pilgrims were depending on to help them survive the upcoming winter. Nevertheless, as an act of goodwill and faith, the Pilgrims shared what they had, played games with the Indians, accepted the 5 deer that the Indians brought to add to the feasts, and stopped worrying about survival long enough to embrace the Indians and rejoice together in God’s care. Such was the faith and hospitality of our forefathers, and such was the forbearance and goodwill of the Native Americans, who could easily have killed all the Pilgrims that day had they wanted to! My earnest prayer is that every person who reads this has enough to eat today, although I read frightening statistics on those who suffer. In Grand Rapids, anybody can get a good, hot Thanksgiving dinner at Mel Trotter Rescue Mission or Guiding Light Mission down town. I remember about fifteen years ago (when our kids were younger and we had a family band) providing music for Mel Trotter’s free dinner. Over 2,000 turkey dinners were served at the DeVos Convention Center. I’m not sure how many cities are that organized and charitable, but I pray that today people will reach out in faith and hope to embrace those around them who are spiritually and physically needy. God will provide if we faithfully follow his leading, even during scary times, like the very first Thanksgiving! By the way, I recently finished listening to a fascinating book by Nathaniel Philbrick called Mayflower, which was among the finalists for a Pulitzer Prize. If you’re interested in American history, this carefully documented account traces the journey of the Puritans, detailing the perils and conflicts that began before their cramped crossing of the Atlantic crammed into the 4-foot-high middle deck of the Mayflower . . . and all the way through the terribly destructive King Philip’s War (1675-1678). Although studying history dispels any illusions of universal peace and goodwill among any nation or tribe, it does have the effect of making me even more appreciative of the relative peace and security in America and around the world today. Despite the terrible accounts of persecution, murder, and war, the entire world is slowly becoming statistically less aggressive and murderous, with fewer violent deaths per capita than earlier times in history (according to the studies of psychologist Steven Pinker). In reflecting on the “why” of this, it occurred to me that it may be the result of the Kingdom of God coming to earth in the person of Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, and the calming effect of true believers (not all those who pose as Christians but are really wolves in sheep’s clothing and destructive) who are “salt and light” in the world. Just one thought, but a happy one! Well, throughout American history—and world history—we have innumerable reasons to be thankful, so I just want to say, “Thank you, Father!”
This is My Father’s World
(—Maltbie Babcock, 1901)
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres…
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring
God reigns, let the earth be glad.
“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ 16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,’We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign'” (Revelation 11:15-17).