December 22, 1620: I and 17 others just returned to Provincetown to lead the others back to the suitable place we have found up the coast. Alas, we will have to spend the Winter aboard the ship, as it is too cold stay ashore. The area is called Plymouth. May God truly bless this our new home.
December 26, 1620: We arrived this morning just after daybreak. Our eager anticipation must be quenched but hope for our religious freedom restored and we know the God of our fathers will be with us as we serve him. I looked up the banner that waves over us onboard ship and a tear came to my eye as I read it again "In God we Trust". Agatha coughed all last night, I hope she isn't ill.
March 1621: We bade farewell to Mayflower yesterday and today we buried Agatha and 46 others atop Cole's Hill Winter was harsh and bitter to both body and Spirit but our God has not forgotten us. We will plant seed on these graves and give thanks to God for the increase sure to come. An Indian named Somoset, confronted us today. His tribe also suffered great loss during the Winter. We will work together with him towards a bountiful harvest.
The following autumn, December 13, 1621, the Pilgrims and the tribe of the Indian, Someset, feasted and thanked God for the tremendous harvest in a 3 day feast and worship service. Pilgrim Edward Winslow described the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving in these words: "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling [bird hunting] so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as... served the company almost a week... [M]any of the Indians [came] amongst us and... their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought... And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE ARE… FAR FROM WANT."
How do you see life? I’m not talking about an occasional bad day, but a way of viewing the world. What are some of the alternatives to a life of thanksgiving? Here’s a few:
1. Negative thinking. Seeing the bad in everything. Thinking the worst.
Joy and gladness are gone
from the orchards and fields of Moab.
I have stopped the flow of wine from the presses;
no one treads them with shouts of joy.
Although there are shouts,
they are not shouts of joy. (Jeremiah 48:3).
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Prov. 17:22).
Being thankful and negative thinking don’t go together.
An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins (Prov. 29:22).
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20).
You cannot be thankful and angry at the same time.
3. Feeling sorry for yourself.
Jonah felt so sorry for himself when he was sent to Ninevah and the people repented. It was not supposed to be that way. We find him in chapter 4 sulking underneath a withered vine as God exposed his crazy attitude.
When I was a child I used to be pretty good at board games. As a family we often played Monopoly in the winter. I must have been 7-8 years old, and I unexpectedly lost. I was so shocked I ran and hid under the bed. You cannot be thankful and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap (Luke 21:34).
As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets (Mark 12:38-39).
You cannot be proud and thankful at the same time.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24).
You cannot be focused on the things of the world and be thankful.
There are many alternatives to thankfulness. You heard the story of the ten lepers healed by Jesus. Only one came back to thank the Lord. The following are nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return:
One waited to see if the cure was real.
One waited to see if it would last.
One said he would see Jesus later.
One decided that he had never had leprosy.
One said he would have gotten well anyway.
One gave the glory to the priests.
One said, "O, well, Jesus didn't really do anything."
One said, "Any rabbi could have done it."
One said, "I was already much improved."
Back to the passage in Colossians. Paul says your life is to be “overflowing with thanksgiving.” How do you do that?
1. Thanksgiving is not natural, but a discipline that you need to practice. I find it fascinating that Paul teaches the people in Colasae to be thankful people. Thanksgiving is not natural, but something adopted. It is purposeful. Children are naturally selfish, and the tendency never goes away. We have to remind ourselves to quit feeling sorry for ourselves.
I was so impressed with Mary who said to me, “thank you for stopping by to see me.” Only one sentence could she muster the energy to say, and that was what came out. A life of thanksgiving is learned.
2. The primary reason to be thankful is your faith in God and what he has done for you in Christ Jesus. "Just as you received Christ." Faith is not an add-on. It’s the main thing. This week I was with a man that was asked the question if he was a man of faith. He hemmed a little bit, but he was pretty direct in that he had his own personal ideas and thought knowing God in an empty room was more productive for him than living by the imposed rules of a church. He talked for about five minutes, but he could not say anything personal about God, it was more general spirituality and being a good person. To me, that’s not enough. Thanksgiving springs out of knowing God, rooted in him the scripture says. Strengthened in Christ Jesus.
People can lose health, but if they have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ it is enough. They can lose a job, but if they have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ they still have purpose. Rooted in Jesus Christ is more important than anything else.
3. Be thankful for what you have, not what you don’t have: “continue to live in Christ." Paul does not say a thing about needing something else to make them complete. The richest people are those who know Christ. We never know what might happen, but as long as we have faith in Christ we have stability. Focus on the blessings that are yours.
Here is a testimony from Erma Bombeck: An estimated 1.5 million people are living today after bouts with breast cancer. Every time I forget to feel grateful to be among them, I hear the voice of an eight-year-old named Christina, who had cnaner of the nervous system. When asked what she wanted for her birthday, she thought long and hard and finaly said, "I don't know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything!" The kid is right.
4. A life overflowing with thanksgiving is to be shared with others. Paul instructs the people to overflow with thanksgiving together. Tell others what they are thankful for. When I have good news I want to call somebody.
Part of our roof blew off this week on the church. One of the fun things was all the conversations I’ve had with people. We had some water get on the new cabinets, but person after person takes it as a reminder of how much we do have, rather than a reason to be depressed or mad. It is a reminder that the Lord is so very good. We can’t control it, so who cares? We can’t worry about that which we cannot control. So let’s suppose this week that an even larger wind comes up and the entire building collapses.
Our calling is to create an environment for others to give thanks. Just as Paul reminded the Colossians to be thankful, let’s do the same thing for each other and for our community. Sumas is one of the most gracious places. May our acts of kindness and the testimony of our life of faith cause others to be thankful. We live in a gracious community, where people are blossoming. Draw expressions of thanksgiving out of others by the way you conduct your own life and interaction with others. I find it fascinating that Paul says to the Colossions, continue to overflow with thanksgiving.
I know it does not fit the meter of the song, but some of you have expressed appreciation for the song, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” I propose another song, “They will know we are Christians by our life of Thanks.”
There are many alternatives to a life of Thanksgiving. That is because a life characterized by an attitude of thankfulness is not natural, but learned. Your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate reason to be thankful. Focus on what you have, not what is missing. May your life overflow with thankfulness, not only this week of thanksgiving, but as a way of life.