Pastor’s Corner: Thanksgiving

The first American Thanksgiving did not take place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, attended by local Wampanoags and their new neighbors, that curious collection of English religious refugees and business speculators we call the Pilgrims. They did celebrate a successful harvest together in 1621, but oddly enough they did not call it a “thanksgiving.”

Our modern observance gets its name and its date from Abraham Lincoln, whose 1863 proclamation summoned the nation to a solemn, reverent, and grateful acknowledgement of God’s blessings on the last Thursday of November. 1863 was a turning point in the American Civil War. Union victories at Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga promised an end to the conflict. President Lincoln further observed that the war had “not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship.”

He saw reason to give God thanks.

It cannot have been an easy thing to see. The victories of the year came at a terribly price. Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the war, claiming an estimated 3,100 lives from the Union army, and 4,700 from the rebels. Lincoln’s proclamation invited prayers for “all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife.” His was a thanksgiving offered amidst profound grief.

I invite you to share in Lincoln’s wisdom. Our lives do not flow smoothly and gently. They come with losses and sorrows, pains and deprivations, as well as with successes and joys. What they always come with is the love and care of God. God is never distant, never dismissive, never uncaring. God’s embrace for our souls is always at hand.

For God’s presence and grace, let us be thankful. And may this year bring you what you need to live, to thrive, and to rejoice.


Pastor Eric

The image is Winslow Homer’s 1864 wood engraving: “Thanksgiving Day in the Army: After dinner, the wishbone.” First published in Harper’s Weekly on December 3, 1864.

Categories Pastor's Corner Reflections | Tags: | Posted on November 15, 2017

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