November 25, 2014
November 25, 2014
Thanksgiving Greetings to All,
Sunday’s Youth led worship was wonderful. It is always true that we have something to learn from our teens and pre-teens. Thank you to Pastor Tanner and Minister Okusu for putting together such an able team of young leaders. As per usual the music of Stan, Mikki, Carolyn, Julian, the Voices of Lakeshore and the Lakeshore Handbell Ensemble was soaring. Also, the energy in the Narthex was amazing as we filled 65 bags with the ingredients for Thanksgiving feasts.
This coming Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, will be geared to our children but I can promise you that the service will be of benefit to worshipers of all ages. I hope you can stay afterward and help decorate the Sanctuary and Family Room. Please bring a vegetable to put in the Stone Soup, which will be served mid-afternoon.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Day on Thursday allow me to share some thoughts on the history of Thanksgiving.
As children we learned the story of the Pilgrims and Native Americans gathering for a Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. We may have also learned that in 1863 President Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November to be a day on national Thanksgiving and that on December 26, 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt changed the official Thanksgiving holiday to the fourth Thursday of November.
What may be less well known is that official proclamations of, and calls for, days of Thanksgiving by local, state and national governments have a long and often complicated history in the colonies and in the United States. Such calls and proclamations come very close to that difficult to define line of separation between church and state.
George Washington understood this tension. He understood both the value of days of Thanksgiving and the need for such days to be inclusive of differing faiths and differing perspectives. In the words of historians Michael and Jan Novak he was committed to communicating in a way that “unites-rather than divides-a religiously pluralistic people.”
Here is an example of what I mean. In a 1777 Proclamation of Thanksgiving the Continental Congress wrote, “It is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God.” In his excellent book Endowed By our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America Professor Michael Myerson notes that in his 1789 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation Washington changed these words to read, “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.”
Myerson continues, “The 1777 proclamation was explicitly Christian, urging ‘the good People…to join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins…that it may please GOD through the Merits of Jesus Christ.’ Washington recommended that people be devoted ‘to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.’ Though unmistakably religious, Washington’s proclamation displays an awareness of the diversity of religious belief across the nation and the need to respect religious freedom.”
I think we have something to learn from President Washington. He understood that God’s blessings flow to people of all faiths as well as to those of no faith. He understood that Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us to rise to God’s level rather than trying to bring God down to our level.
Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary on the Michael Brown Jr./Darren Miller decision:
“The state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against young people of color in this country is abominable. It is cruel and sadistic, …The brutality of racism and the harms it inflicts on black and brown bodies directly contradicts every tenant of our Christian faith—indeed, the tenets of all the world’s major religions. Until it is addressed directly and with sustained commitment by all of us, we will repeatedly fail to be the country we dream of being.”
On a happier topic: Happy 36th Anniversary to my Beloved, the long-suffering Karen Hopkins. Thank you for being the gift you are.