Summary: Exploring and encouraging the principle of giving God thanks both in times of blessing and in times of tribulation.

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Thanksgiving In Feast And Famine

Thanksgiving Message, Perth Bible Church, 11/25/07

Rev. Todd G. Leupold


Ah, Thanksgiving – big, fat juicy turkey, prim pilgrims in their ’Sunday best,’ oodles & oodles of fun, gentle Indian friends, beautiful outdoor picnic . . .! How could they NOT be thankful? How thankful are we?

It was in the fall of 1621 that colonial leader Edward Winslow initiated what is widely considered the first ’Thanksgiving’ – a day dedicated to applauding the “goodness of God.” What circumstances must have led to such joy and gratitude? Let us review history together, starting a year earlier in the Mayflower.

On September 6, 1620 about 102 passengers joined 25-30 crew members and various other hired personnel aboard a converted cargo ship that was likely only about 90-110 ft. long and 25 ft. wide and headed out across the vast, unforgiving Atlantic Ocean to settle the little known wilderness of the Jamestown settlement and off the Hudson in “North Virginia.” Originally, they were supposed to have departed in early August and occupied two ships. However, due to sailor sabotage, they were delayed a month and restricted to one ship built for cargo – not passengers.

So began a 66-day journey together, leaving their homeland and remaining family & friends never to return, intimately sharing together a bath-less journey over treacherous waters. During the journey westerly gales ripped open seams in the deck and the frightened passengers were drenched in icy waters. But, not before already suffering through rampant sickness, scurvy, typhus, and loss. Finally, on November 11 the tattered, sickly group arrived at . . . the tip of Cape Cod – a far cry from their “North Virginia” destination, far from any other known settlement, and just in time for the beginning of a brutal New England winter! Yippee!!!

Without much other choice they spent that winter mostly confined to the ship, with the sick stretched out in a makeshift storehouse. The ship which was supposed to bring them food and relief, instead brought 35 more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and care for. When winter finally broke, only half of the original pilgrims and half of the crew were still alive. Thirty of those who disembarked were children. Amidst the common English names given to the newborns, there were those such as Resolved White and Wrestling (with the devil) Brewster.

Surely, then, Spring brought new life and vitality? Hardly. During that first Spring, 12 of the 18 married women died and those who survived – men or women, young or old – barely had the strength to plant next year’s crop. Seven times as many graves were made for the dead as homes for the living. Spring and Summer laboriously passed as the pilgrims began establishing themselves. So much so, in fact, that eventually Wrestling Brewster’s father, William, was able to praise God “for the abundance of the sea and the treasures hid in the sand.” That was after feasting on a dinner consisting of a plate of sandy clams and a cold glass of water. That first Fall after their arrival, each pilgrim was allotted the bountiful allowance of 5 kernels of corn per day. Eventually, with the generous help of the Wampanoag Indians, they had something of a first harvest and some success hunting waterfowl and deer.

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