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Thanksgiving: Celebrating Humility and Unity

Eucharisteo means thanksgiving in Greek, and in the Latin community there is a liturgy of the “Eucharist” where a sacrament known as the holy communion is presented in offering to the masses gathered in church. Prior to taking communion (the bread and the wine), a eucharistic prayer is said. There are many prayers specific to this consecrated ceremony all of which are giving praise to God. Many make mention of notable people in the Holy Bible such as Abraham and Melchizedek. The lives of men and women throughout Scripture offer us examples of humility and sacrifice. In Genesis 22:9-12 Abraham’s faith was tested by God — “Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’” This father loved his son, but he loved God so much that he was willing to give up everything in devotion and humbled himself before the Lord. This idea of thankfulness is universal, we should all be grateful for these models to follow.

When I surveyed both new and mature Christians and non-Christians, I received a lot of valuable insight when it comes to this important word. Those new to the faith focused on the food and those mature in Christ testified of the spiritual food and blessings from the Lord. Those that were pagan told me of traditions involving gratitude, generosity and giving back to those they believed provided for them which of course would include gods/goddesses such as Freyr. They even bake fresh baked bread as an offering of thanksgiving with the first of the harvested grain. We as Christians know this is ungodly but it is refreshing to see that thanksgiving is defined in a similar way by unbelievers. Those that come to God who understood these values in other religions can easily embrace this idea.


Many expressed gratitude for what God both gives and takes away which is very humbling because the “pruning” can be painful, but God knows what is good for us and during our process of sanctification many things can happen such as experiencing new convictions that lead us to cut things from our life we once enjoyed including friends and hobbies. This is because the desires of our hearts are changing to meet God’s will for our lives. In John 15:1-2 the relationship between us and Christ is explained — “‘I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.’ “ This a true sign of humility when a believer comes to appreciate all blessings, even the ones in disguise.


In November 1621 there was a bountiful harvest shared between the Wampanoag Indians and the English settlers. During their voyage on the Mayflower nearly half of the Pilgrims and Puritans died due to harsh conditions, in fact 50 of the 102 passengers that had been recorded were the only survivors and their sole concern was survival at the time of their arrival. Prior to the Plymouth colonists’ appearance, the Indian tribe had suffered an epidemic that wiped out an entire community leaving vacant land. Tisquantum (Squanto) was the only survivor of the infected tribe. Both groups had experienced devastating losses and sought comfort through this time of harvest. An alliance was formed, and both the English and the natives viewed this time as nothing short of a miracle, because both could reap many benefits from the other. The “white man” had resources and skills the Indians found valuable, and vice versa. The Wampanoag tribe taught the settlers how to grow crops, hunt, and many other trades that made clever use of the land. A brotherhood was formed, and there was peace between the two.


On this day, the first “Thanksgiving” was celebrated. The tribe offered up venison and fowl, and the Pilgrims contributed their lobsters and mussels. Corn was also a staple, a crop that was readily available and ground into cornmeal or porridge and sweetened with molasses. Tisquantum taught the settlers how to use controlled burning to clear areas for fresh crops such as beans and squash as well. Although turkey is a staple in modern day celebrations today, it is unlikely that turkey was actually on the menu for this meal. It has been documented, however, that the immigrants had prepared for 3 days for this feast in which they sent out “fowling parties” to hunt for a long time. There is no record of success in this endeavor for turkey. I find it interesting that turkey is the centerpiece at most tables now. The ceremony celebrated by the Pilgrims and Indians in November 1621 was a toast to commemorate a blessed harvest. 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 puts this gratitude into words — “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever. ‘Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.’ ”


To give thanks to God for the bounty, and express gratitude to the neighboring tribe for their efforts; everyone worked as a team and there was harmony. In fact, Chief Massasoit made sure this peace and order endured for over 50 years between the Native Americans and the English. This was a time of fellowship and led to friendship during recovery in the face of adversity and hardships. The relationship between the settlers and the Indians was friendly, and they often exchanged gifts, which resulted in a bartering system. What destroyed this companionship was fear and doubt infiltrating the community. In public school we learn via leftist propaganda and indoctrination that the colonizers set out to force assimilation and steal Native American land, motivated only by greed. One belief was that religion was forced on the Indian tribes, but this would not have made much sense because the Pilgrims themselves were running from England to practice Christianity apart from Catholic views. They did build camps specific to their Christian studies to offer Biblical teachings to the Indians, but  they were also receptive to the beliefs of the tribe. Some of the Native Americans already believed as the Puritans did.


The original English settlers were only concerned about survival and sought out fellowship. They did invite more of the immigrants to join their colonies and when they did the others brought with them ignorance and forced their ways on the natives, such as bringing animals in that were invasive to the fields of crops when they should have been fenced in. This new group of settlers that arrived years later launched a preemptive attack on a rival tribe. This resulted in the peace treaty being shattered. The Indians became fearful and skeptical of the English because this assault was unwarranted, and the group of colonists went as far as to place the rival chief’s head on a stake. This showed the Native Americans a new side of the English that was ruthless and cruel, and paranoia settled in the hearts and minds of both sides. Fear was always the root cause, fear of the unknown, and fear of being attacked first so they made the first move, albeit the wrong move. The bond shared between the white man and the natives became a tense business partnership based solely on barter and trade. This later led to issues when greed turned to violence as a result.


The Pilgrims and the Native Americans had experienced what longsuffering meant, and both healed through fellowship with one another, but fear is always waiting to take root. Fear brings division, and even today we experience division and strife with different cultures. We can learn from the Plymouth pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe when it comes to setting aside differences to establish unity. Today we celebrate Thanksgiving Day with the traditional turkey, pumpkin pie, and family gatherings. Family is the theme of many holidays. The concept of togetherness should be embraced year-round but often we restrict family gatherings to certain days of the year such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. To married couples, family is the first ministry and oneness should start at home. After all, home is where the heart is. Family is defined as unity in the Body of Christ, stability and balance at home, unbreakable bonds, and accountability/responsibility.


Unity is vital for our hearts to be full of thanksgiving, and I learned this while attending a Christian retreat known as “Walk to Emmaus.” During this event, I formed bonds with people of different denominations and views, but we all had two things in common: Our love for the Holy Spirit and the fact that we as Christians all walk in Christ. Every morning we woke up to greet one another with genuine love and care for one another, wondering how the other person slept. It was the same question every morning because we all wanted to make sure each person was filled with peace and receiving rest. We were vulnerable and honest with one another as though we had always known each other, and every conversation was to edify or educate. There was no gossip, there were no secrets, there was no dissension, there was no strife, and there were no arguments. Every heart was full of thanksgiving, which resulted in nothing short of endless joy and peace. We were practicing Philippians 4:4-7 — “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”


The way that this peace was maintained was by practicing humility. In order to do this, we surrendered everything to God, fasted from technology, and stopped monitoring time. This was humbling because every day we rely on technological advances for convenience. We become dependent on social media to hear about current events in the world and to keep up with family and friends, and we use various platforms for entertainment. When you are humbled in this manner, you learn to appreciate what you have more in your life, even the breath in your lungs or the hot water for your shower. You find more value in the things you have simply because you are willing to submit to God in such a way that results in finding your true calling He has on your life. Finding value in these aspects of our lives is vital and leads to spiritual growth. The Pilgrims served as an excellent model for humility and that is what you are known for when you attend the retreat for the first time.


The concept of Thanksgiving goes beyond tradition. It is a spiritual journey where you learn to embrace the intrinsic value that accompanies the fruit of the Spirit. Christians experience the warm embrace of Christ in them when we show others the love of God and let our light shine. This guiding light within us leads us along a path where each blessing we receive we are encouraged to share with others. In Luke 6:38 we are told — “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” This does not mean to give and expect something in return, though. Rather, this means to be a cheerful (hilarious) giver and to give from the goodness of your (regenerate) heart. Having a heart full of thanksgiving means that you give freely, you share your blessings, you set aside differences and unite with others with a brotherly/sisterly love, you practice humility and kindness, and you express the joy and assurance in the Lord that inspires others to follow suit.


We should always be thankful, 365 days a year, not just the 4th Thursday of November! We have so much to be thankful for, especially the freedom to practice religion. When the Pilgrims escaped the tyranny of the king forcing his own beliefs on everyone, they were free to practice Christianity. There are other countries where Christians risk everything from job loss to imprisonment to torture and even death for practicing their beliefs. Our freedom of religion ensures that we are not punished or executed  for this, and this is something we often take for granted by not reading our Bibles, for example. We have easy access to church services, yet some will not go due to fear of being judged. There are people huddled underground in caves studying Scripture on torn pages, and those pages as the most precious belonging they own. Those same people would risk persecution and death for those excerpts of the Holy Bible.


The Lord says to rejoice in Him ALWAYS, not just when it is convenient for you or if life is going well. Rejoice in the trials and the tribulations also, as told in James 1:2-4 — “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Patience is also a virtue valued in thanksgiving, for the Pilgrims had to be patient during their voyage and those that endured hardships did not give up. They trusted in God’s plan although they were not even sure what that plan would be for them. They endured longsuffering and were rewarded with peace and prosperity at least for a time. Romans 5:3-4, adds more to the idea of what comes with overcoming trials — “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” This rings true based on these verses, although not everything we experience was what God wanted for us because we still have the free will to make stupid decisions that can result in bad consequences. Thankfully, we have a loving and merciful God, a God of second chances as revealed in 1 John 1:9 — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us oursins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


Our God is faithful! We can trust in His word in Proverbs 3:5-6 — “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” He has a plan for each of us and that is just another thing to be grateful for. Meditate on Colossians 3:15-17 this Thanksgiving Day — “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” This is the TRUE meaning of Thanksgiving! Man cannot live by bread alone, and turkey and sweet potatoes do not define the meaning of this holiday. Be hungry for spiritual food, too, this year!


We pray you have a Happy & Blessed THANKSGIVING this year, in Jesus’ Name!