Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. We Congregationalists have a special connection to this holiday because the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in 1620, were Congregationalists too. It was a difficult start for those stalwart men and women. They surely would not have survived without help. By early 1621, the Pilgrims had built only some crude huts along with a common house for shelter. However, neighboring Natives had begun to build relationships with the Pilgrims. Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped and taken to England nearly a decade before, was willing to serve as an interpreter between the Pilgrims and local tribes. The soil in Plymouth was much different than it was in England, and the settlers were having trouble growing food. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to fertilize the soil with dried fish remains and it produced a stellar corn crop.
Massasoit, the chief of the nearby Wampanoags, signed a treaty of alliance with the Pilgrims that summer. In exchange for assistance with defense against the feared Narragansett tribe, Massasoit supplemented the food supply of the Pilgrims for the first few years. This treaty actually lasted longer than any other treaty ever signed with Native Americans.
Half of the Pilgrims died that first winter, but, in the fall of 1621, partly because of the help of Squanto and the Wampanoag, there was a bountiful harvest. Governor William Bradford recorded it this way.
Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling; that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our Arms; many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoyt, with some ninety men; whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted. And they went out, and killed five deer: which they brought to the Plantation; and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain, and others.
The Pilgrims feasted and celebrated, remembering the source of their bounty. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1) Yes, Squanto was a blessing as were Massasoit and the Wampanoag, but none of these things would have come to be if not for the creator of the universe.
Most of us will gather together tomorrow with family and friends and, like the first Congregationalists and Native Americans, enjoy a great feast! There will be turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, turnip, other assorted vegetables, and then the pies. Pumpkin of course, but, perhaps also apple, pecan, custard, sweet potato, chocolate cream, and maybe even a lemon meringue. We will eat ourselves silly until we can eat no more. The truth is today, Thanksgiving is mostly about food, family, and don’t forget football, and that’s fine. I pray however, it is also about thanks. I know, before the meal begins, many families will go around the table and ask everyone to share something for with they are thankful. I love that. I also hope that we recognize who is truly responsible for the blessings. Jesus, Himself, told us, “My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10). Do not forget to thank the Lord. He is the founder of your feast. The source of your bounty. He loves you and always desires to bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.
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