Mobile, AL (WKRG)
Pastor William Parsons with Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fairhope joins us to talk to us about the holiday. The pastor even took the liberty of providing citations for many of his answers. Here's a look at our conversation:
Chad: We have a holiday that is based on history and rooted in faith. What role do you feel Judeo-Christian beliefs played in creating and sustaining thanksgiving?
Pr. Parsons: America’s first thanksgiving concluded a tough time for the Pilgrims. They had survived crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the rickety Mayflower and then suffered through a brutal New England winter that killed 47, nearly half their colony. (pp. 127, The Light and the Glory, Peter & David Marshall, Power Books, Old Tappen, NJ, 1973).
Yet, they experienced a number of miracles which they believed demonstrated God’s love for them. In (Ibid. 122-144).
First, the New Plymouth site was uninhabited. Arriving in December and low on food, they found cached corn and other foodstuffs the area’s former inhabitants had left behind. In Spring, the Pilgrims were aided by Tisquantum (Squanto), a Native American who spoke fluent English, had actually been to England and was a Christian. Tisquantum taught the Pilgrims Native American farming techniques which helped ensure a good harvest and the first Thanksgiving meal. Tisquantum introduced the pilgrims to the Wampanoag people led by Massasoit, who later attended their Thanksgiving celebration. (pp. 65-66, Making Haste from Babylon …, Nick Bunker, A. Knopf, New York, 2010). Theologically speaking, the Pilgrims took the term “Thanksgiving” from Psalm 107 which says, “O Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and his mercy endureth forever.”(KJV) They also had a church service for Thanksgiving and William Bradford preached a sermon in which he also cited medieval Jewish rabbi Maimonides and the Talmud for why they should give thanks to God for seeing them safely across the ocean and through their first American winter and summer
So… During the first Thanksgiving, we see religious pluralism germinating on American soil Years later, as President of the United States, George Washington declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789. And every year since Abraham Lincoln declared a national Thanksgiving Day 1863 it has been a federal holiday. /en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_(United_States).
Q: Why is it important to give thanks?
A: Absolutely. We need to remind ourselves to be thankful to God for giving us “This day our daily bread” which includes as Luther says in his Small Catechism “everything that we need for this life.”
Q: Why is it sometimes easier to forget to be thankful and focus on the bad stuff in our lives?
A: We can easily forget that what man means for evil God can turn to good. Take Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, yet God used that evil act to place Joseph as Egypt’s Famine Czar, and he was able to get the country ready for a terrible seven-year famine.
Q: What would you like to focus on with your message for this holiday?
A: In Luke 17.11-19 Jesus heals ten men with leprosy, an incurable disease. But only one returns and thanks him. We need to be like this lone thankful man. We need to recognize God’s goodness and help .
Q: What’s your favorite part of this holiday?
A: Receiving Holy Communion. The New Testament Greek word for “giving thanks” is Eucharisteo. This word comes from the root word for grace. And interestingly, another name for Communion is the Holy Eucharist. As a Lutheran I believe that the Holy Eucharist is a means by which Christ Jesus gives me forgiveness and the certainty of eternal life. So, as far as I am concerned, no Thanksgiving is complete without it. (TDNT – G. Bromiley, pp.1306)