So, the bird is in the oven. Nope – it’s not being deep-fried, or filled with donuts, or tied up with a sachet of fragrant herbals, or just finished up being dunked in a tank of salt and spices for three days. It was stuffed, and put in the roasting pan that we have used for the last 35 years or so, and it should be ready about 1pm, for the four of us to sit down for the feast. We always try to buy a fresh turkey – they just seem to taste better.
By the way, I watched about a half hour of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. In this pandemic year, they had to change a lot of things about the parade, but at the same time, I’m sorry to say, they also took the opportunity to change many more things. I won’t go into it here, but I really used to love the parade and the bands and lots of other things about it, but it has turned into a show that I just don’t want to watch any more. Sad, but changes occur.
A number of years ago, I was asked to speak at a community Thanksgiving eve event. It wasn’t a service – just a program, and so instead of writing a sermon, I decided to do some research on the whole first Thanksgiving. The more I read about it, the more fascinating it became.
The pilgrims landed in 1620, in early December. There were 128 persons on board the Mayflower. By Spring of 1621, only 50 were left, with nearly half of them being children and teenagers. The pilgrims indeed were saved by the kindness of the Wampanoag tribe, led by chief Massasoit, and with the aid of a fluent English speaking tribe member named Squanto. The Indians showed the pilgrims how to plant and grow successful crops in the northern climate, and they formed a mutual protection pact to stand against other neighboring tribes who would frequently attack.
Although the first governor of Plymouth was John Carver, who was responsible for writing the Mayflower Compact, and also brokering the peace treaty with Massasoit, he and his wife died in the early spring of 1621, less than a half year after they landed. The governor to follow is perhaps the best known – William Bradford. It is believed that it was Bradford’s idea, as the colony prepared to move into a second winter, to have a time of giving thanks to God for their survival up until then. This of course was fully appropriate, given the fact that the pilgrims were the first colony established as a place where they could practice their religion freely, instead of under persecution under the Dutch and English.
So, they decided to invite Massasoit and the tribe to their feast. Remember, there were only 50 pilgrims – probably no more than 25 men. Massasoit showed up with 90 warriors. It was also the tradition of the native Americans that when you came to a feast, you ate until ALL the food was gone. This meant that the pilgrims were in real danger of having all their stockpiled food that was to last through the next winter being eaten.
When the food looked like it was getting low, the chief sent warriors out and brought back five deer, which were completely used in the three-day feast. Here is a list of a probable menu served: deer, ducks, geese, swans. Mussels, lobster (although the pilgrims did not really care for them – they thought them to be bottom feeders), bass, eel (come and have some more eel, Willy!), oysters. They had pumpkin, onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and corn, that was boiled and pounded into a mush that was covered with molasses. Also they had blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and of course, cranberries. That’s a big table.
The purpose of the feast was, again, to serve as an example of trust, that God would continue to provide, and that they knew their lives remained in God’s hands. So today, 399 years later, as our mouths are filled with turkey, and potatoes and corn and such, as the pies wait silently to be served later, we too should feast as an example of our trust that God will see us through this pandemic, and that we do so, intentionally knowing that our lives are also in the hands of the same God. Happy Thanksgiving…
Word of the Day: thymoleptic. Pronounced thigh-mow-LEP-tick. You could guess it is from the Greek, and is a medical term. Broken into two Greek words, thymo, which means the “thymus” or gland in the brain that controls mood, and lepsis, which strangely enough means “seizure.” However, it’s not a seizure that is like epilepsy. It means something that “seizes” the thymus, and takes control of the way it controls mood. Usually, in medical terminology, it denotes a class of drugs taken to ward of depression, or other mood disorders. They will prescribe thymoleptics, but the truth is, there are way more things in our lives that can serve the same purpose – of keeping the thymus from trashing our day. Something like… a great Thanksgiving dinner, where we eat until we are full, and then in about a half hour later, we are blissfully, wonderfully in nap-land, enjoying our day away. Have another plate of thymoleptics on me!
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.