If a leper can be thankful…
First St Johns, Thanksgiving Eve Nov 27, 2013
This evening we start by talking about food. Certainly a relevant subject. The two biggest sellers in any bookstore, according to Andy Rooney, are cookbooks and diet books. Cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how to avoid the food. Orson Welles once said, “My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four, unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me.” Champion archer Rick McKinney confesses that he regularly eats chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. He refers to “the basic four food groups” as a Big Mac, fries, a shake and a lemon tart. A California scientist has computed that the average human being eats 16 times own weight in an average year, while a horse eats only eight times its weight. This all seems to prove that if you want to lose weight, you should eat like a horse.
I’m sure that you will enjoy your Thanksgiving without my encouragement, a quick note on turkey’s from Nathaniel Philbrick’s book; “By 1575, the domesticated Central American turkey had become a fixture at English Christmases.” (p 118) So the Pilgrims were probably very familiar with turkeys and New England was probably well stocked back in their day. Also like to note there was no long table that everyone gathered at, because there was probably about 300 people, and since the pilgrims or the Native Americans between them really didn’t have any furniture, they probably found places to sit anywhere. Also there wasn’t any silverware, so both groups ate with their fingers. This gives you a picture more like a big backyard barbecue, then our traditional Thanksgiving picture.
The Pilgrims had arrived 11 months earlier at the tip of Cape Cod, Philbrick says fearful and uninformed, “They had spent the next month alienating and angering every Native American they happened to come across. By all rights, none of the Pilgrims should have emerged from the first winter alive.” The sub-title to Philbrick’s book is “A story of Courage, community and war”. Courage in terms of following God’s leading on such an adventure. Community not just in terms of themselves, but of building a Christian community with those around them and spiritual warfare, to overcome the challenge that would be set before them in this strange new world. Remember this is most certainly in a Christian context, just before landing at Plymouth they realized they needed an agreement as to how to govern the group now that they were going to have to establish a community. It says: “Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country,…” Notice the order, this colony, this grave risk that they are taking is for “the glory of God”, as Christians our motivation in anything we do should be to “the glory of God”. Clearly the Pilgrims had staked their life to that. Next it is to their faith and finally to their country. As Christians they clearly have their priorities in order. There is no doubt in my mind that God honored their intentions to demonstrate His glory, that He would bless them with opportunity. Now often we have our own ideas as to what or how God should provide us with opportunity. As Philbrick points out: “Placing their faith in God, the Pilgrims might have insisted on a policy of arrogant isolationism.” We see many people trying to do that today, trying to have this private, isolated relationship with God. They try to ignore anyone around them and think that it’s all about them and God. We know that it is all about growing with all those who come to Christ. The Pilgrims intended to bring Christ to the new world, but when they confronted by the natives of the new world, the practice of their intention might not be according to the idea of their intention. They see these strange people all around them, I’m sure you can imagine, they are desperately trying to survive, but maybe their actions don’t match up to their intentions.
As Philbrick points out, the fact that even half of them made it through their first winter “…was a testament not only to the Pilgrims’ grit, resolve and faith, but to their ability to take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity…” When Squanto walked into their settlement and began to address them in English, they could have let their fears get the better of them. Maybe Squanto was there to spy on them, steal from them, see what the Pilgrims were about and how his tribe might capitalize on their weakness. God had provided Squanto as a way to help them survive, to let them be true to their stated intention of bringing their faith to those in the new world, they couldn’t be sure, but knew that for them to survive they had to step out in faith and trust this strange man, all the strange people that were around them and grow together.Tthe Pilgrims were able to do that well, they maintained good relations with the natives and did reach out to them in Christ. Others who came along later, sabotaged what they had built. But we really don’t appreciate the risks the Pilgrims had taken and the fact that it was all from their faith, from trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, if they had not trusted what the Holy Spirit did through Squanto, they would not have survived. It is a testimony to us, that the Holy Spirit guides us to reach out to everyone, regardless of who we think should or shouldn’t be reached. That quite often God’s blessings come through people we least expect His blessings from. Christ died for the sins of all of humanity, so that all would be saved. It’s not up to us to decide who should and shouldn’t, like the Pilgrims we can be put into different neighborhoods, schools, work places, who knows. I know for me I’ve often received that lifeline from an unlikely person. Help us Lord to see Christ in all who we meet, help us to reach out to them as a brother in Jesus, in faith in You. You have saved all of us through your death and resurrection, for those of us who know You, who are part of your church. You can send us on trips to strange places, maybe just different parts of our own cities, to people we think are strange, and then through His Spirit, He puts people in your life, to trust, to even become brothers with, and the Holy Spirit will use them to give us new life, new direction in Christ. We thank you Father that You do lead us to the New World, always under Your guidance.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.