Thanksgiving Services Sermon: Wed. November 23, and Thursday November 24, 2022
Lessons: Psalm 100
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Sing: All Good Gifts from Godspell
We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s Almighty hand.
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above,
So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all His love…
What a perfect song for this absolutely joyous time of year that we celebrate, right?
Many of us were taught that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth,
Massachusetts and their Indigenous friends from the Wampanoag tribe in 1621. It celebrated the
first successful harvest of the Pilgrims in what was known as the New World. They had been
taught by the Native Americans what crops to grow. It was a three-day feast, because it took the
Native Americans two whole days to walk to the site of the celebration. So, staying for three
days of feasting seemed like a reasonable thing to do, so the story goes. It wasn’t all love, peace,
and kisses, kisses, kisses hugs before and after the gathering, but it was for that time.
Many of us who live in this area of the country have heard the history of what some might say is
the “real” first Thanksgiving. According to this story, this Thanksgiving celebration took place in
1598, some almost thirty years before the Plymouth celebration, near present day El Paso, TX,
just a hop, skip, and a jump down the road a piece from here! The official date for this is April
30 th , so if we want to celebrate twice, this is the perfect excuse!
The story goes that the explorer Don Juan de Oñate had worked his way up from Mexico in an
arduous, and by some reckonings, disastrous expedition that started with 400-500 people and
7,000 head of cattle. After five days in the Chihuahuan desert without any water, the party came
upon the Rio Grande or the Rio Bravo as it is known in Mexico. It was not a pretty sight.
The arrival of the group also signaled what is called La Toma or the taking of the territory for
Spain. While some might say there was no harvest of food, it did have a feast between the
colonizers and nearby Native American tribes. Unfortunately, both the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving
and the El Paso Thanksgiving eventually would signal the colonization and taking over of Native
Whatever any of us may think of this history, we all deeply appreciate the central themes of
Thanksgiving: of giving thanks to God, of gratitude, of give and take, and of depending on each other. And they are of the utmost importance. I have a hunch that folks around here learned those
values at any early age because of the nature (pun intended) of nature around here!
But still, let’s take a moment and think of the instance in our lives when each of us really and
truly learned to be thankful for what we have, for our family and friends, for all God has given
us. Please, take a moment and think of that moment. If you haven’t had one yet, that’s okay! Let
me tell you about my aha moment.
I was a stranger in a strange land, a newly minted missionary in Barinas, Venezuela. I think my
housemate Elena and I had been there for something like three days. One of the catechists,
someone who helped us with the children’s Christian formation, invited us to her house for
Elena and I accepted, of course! We went to Yadira’s house (not her real name) and met her
Mom and Dad, and then her Mom and Dad disappeared. Yadira sat and talked with us for what
seemed like hours, and I was beginning to wonder if our Spanish wasn’t good enough and we
had misunderstood about the food. I was really hungry! Oh, did I mention that Yadira’s house
had dirt floors, no running water, and an outhouse? Those may be circumstances some of us have
lived in or are living in as well.
As I was thinking about the food, it seemed to magically appear. There was some fried chicken,
just fried, not like what we think of as fried chicken, and some yuca or fried tarot root. Yadira
then proudly told us that her parents had killed one of their egg laying hens for us. It was how
they earned a little bit of money.
As y’all might imagine, this big city girl was hit hard! Who ever heard of someone going out and
killing dinner, and then cooking it for guests! Laugh all you want, but that in and of itself taught
me a lot!
But what really go me was how these, literally, dirt-poor people had just sacrificed a good bit of
their daily bread so Elena and I could eat. And they did it with grace and expressing such thanks
and gratitude for our presence among them. It was humbling beyond belief, and I learned not
only to accept thankfulness, but to be thankful each and every day of my life!
And so, we can take some important lessons from the first two Thanksgivings, today’s lessons
from Scripture, and indeed, the song All Good Gifts.
We are people of joy, because we are God’s, and “the Lord is near” as Philippians tells
us. Let us remember that and live in joy and thanksgiving even during what might be
such difficult times.
We are blessed by God and fed spiritually. Let us remember that and the physical needs
of all our neighbors, both old and newcomers, to this beautiful place on earth.
We see the example of different cultures in the first Thanksgivings setting aside their
differences, being able to work together, to celebrate together, to be in peace with each
other. Let us remember that as we celebrate Thanksgiving together, the season of
celebration to come, and in our every day lives throughout the year.
Yes, all good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above. So, thank the Lord, oh