Journey with John
They gathered for a feast of appreciation. It had been a year of great struggle. They came together in gratitude for surviving in this strange new world. Those Pilgrim survivors endured disease, bitter winter cold, deaths of nearly half their number, and separation from families who remained in the old world. Their pilgrimage led them through a time of great fear and loss and they gathered to offer thanks for life, food, for the possibilities the future might hold.
I cannot approach the Thanksgiving season without recalling those courageous people, enduring great deprivation, yet, feeling called to praise God for what they had received. From their faithful example, we have continued the tradition. In 1863, President Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a national Thanksgiving Day. On November 22, from coast to coast people gather with family and friends to offer thanks for the riches of this age.
I am filled with wonder at a God who provides so much. My life is so rich. God has been gracious to me. But, like my Pilgrim predecessors, I have had a year of struggle as I’ve buried people I have cared about and admired deeply. I’ve struggled with loved ones who have faced illness where the future remains unknown. I have struggled with the difficulty of being separated by many miles from the ones I most love. It’s a bit strange that the centuries have not softened our struggle. But, as I think about the table of thanksgiving, I am overwhelmed by the mercy and grace of God.
In death, God has promised and provided new life. In that joyful reality, I give thanks…. In sickness, God offers a Comforter who is ever present, offering encouragement and hope that lasts forever. For that empowering presence, I give thanks…. In separation, God has allowed me to be present through prayer and the riches of memory. For that sweet communion, I give thanks…. And how could I observe a day of thanks without mentioning my fellow Pilgrims in faith – you, who have also walked in sadness and hardship, but kneel before God with thankful hearts for life, for food, for hope, for a future. Dear Pilgrim friends, how I rejoice in each one of you and how thankful I am for your faithful pilgrimage through life. May God bless you richly, one and all.