On Thanksgiving 2019

 The Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving behind their homeland – for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. See On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, along with Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

Keep America Beautiful’s famous 1971 Ad Campaign, featuring Iron Eyes Cody, the “Crying Indian”

For one thing, I got hired back as a supervisor at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. (Supervising mainly young folk working off community service hours.) For another thing, I got back from Portugal in the middle of the “High Holy Season.” (I.e., the season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”)

Which means that – since the regular college season is now nearing an end – it’s time to get back to posting more regularly. And next Thursday’s Thanksgiving is a great place to start. But first a couple passages from today’s Daily Office Readings.

For starters, there’s the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25. It tells of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: “when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:”

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

Lamassu from “Sargon II…” 

The problem? The Assyrians and Egyptians were at the time arch-enemies, both with each other and with Israel, which they took turns conquering. Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.

That theme got mirrored in the New Testament reading, Romans 15:5-13, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of which could be very good news indeed, giving us hope for the future.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving. I covered the subject in On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, and On Thanksgiving – 2017. The caption for the Mayflower Pilgrim image at the top of the page – borrowed from “Part I” – alludes to a song from the movie Aladdin.  See Aladdin – A whole new world – YouTube.  Also Aladdin – A Whole New World Lyrics:  “A whole new world, A new fantastic point of view, No one to tell us no, Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…” 

All of which – I noted – could describe the feelings of any pilgrim who is setting out for any “new world,” before reality sets in and the real work begins. And which might be said of any “baby Christian” just starting out on his or her spiritual journey…

Which brings up a key point to remember. See for example the post Thanksgiving 2015, which noted this reality check on that much-celebrated First Thanksgiving:

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

Which reminds us that any true pilgrimage – or any spiritual journey worth its salt – involves a lot of disciplined, persevering work. And that “stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor” isn’t the real purpose of Thanksgiving. (Any more than “getting presents” is the real purpose of Christmas.)

We should be thankful – above all – for the right to explore our own spiritual pilgrimage – our own spiritual journey – in our own way and at our own pace. Which means that – if we choose – we can follow the lead of Luke 24:45 and read the Bible “with an open mind.” 

All of which is another way of saying that once you start reading the Bible on a daily basis – with an open mind – you can find an exciting “whole New World out there.” 

You can become – in your own way – like an old-time explorer whose main job – it often seemed – was to push past grim warnings and superstitions:

In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world.  At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again…   For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one.  (E.A.)

That’s from the INTRODUCTION. Then there’s Thanksgiving – 2016, referring to a quote from William Bradford (Plymouth colony) on the difficulties inherent in all great and honorable actions. (“Like trying to maintain a true democracy after the kind of heated-rhetoric election we just went through.”)  Which could be summed up this way:  “If it was easy, anybody could do it!”

Which brought up the topic of “dormancy, darkness and cold,” referring to the Dark Ages, that period of intellectual darkness between the “light of Rome,” up to the rebirth or “Renaissance in the 14th century.”  (Not that there was any connection to current events or anything…)  

Which in turn serves as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age” you may be going through, during this fine but politically-hectic November of 2019:

“This too shall pass…

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The “First Thanksgiving,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia, captioned, “The Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.”

The “lamassu” image is courtesy of a link n Assyrian captivity – Wikipedia. It refers to “an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings.” Sargon II began his reign in 722 BC, then “conquered the Kingdom of Israel, and, in 710 BC, conquered the Kingdom of Babylon, thus reuniting Assyria with its southern rival, Babylonia.”

The lower image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

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