Rev. Dr. Anna Verlee Copeland's Blog

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Thanksgiving Blog Post

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“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” - Psalm 90:1-2

We know that the first year our forebears landed at Plymouth Rock proved devastating, the environment unforgiving, with much suffering and loss through the first harsh winter. Were it not for the hospitality and generosity of the Wampanoag Indians, the Pilgrims may have all perished.

The first Thanksgiving was actually a harvest festival that likely included games and sport, not a religious occasion which would have been a much more sober affair, and had been previously celebrated in Europe long before the first settlers arrived in this land.

The next year, the prospects of the surviving settlers significantly improved, with the successful planting of grain, and the abundance of wild game and seafood.

The only items we can be certain were on the table during that first Thanksgiving were venison and some type of wild fowl, as described by Edward Winslow in his 1621 Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so 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, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest 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 to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
We’ve landed on the shore of this Thanksgiving, bleary-eyed and stricken from so much angst and concern this past year. We surely long for a day of respite to play, and engage in games with our neighbors as did our Pilgrim forebears.

This year will be different from that. Missing will be the remembered games of touch football with the cousins, or card games after dinner with the grandkids. Instead, we’ll call our family or neighbors and share stories by phone or Zoom or Facetime. We’ll swap recipes as we look ahead to the next Thanksgiving, when we can all be together again.

Wherever you choose to celebrate this Thanksgiving, whether sheltered in your home with take-out food or gathered in your bubble with close family or friends, treasure the provision given to you by the grace of God, and give thanks. Give thanks.

Prayer for Thanksgiving:

God of harvest, gardener supreme
you feed us, equip us and having provided for us
look to a different harvest
a fruitfulness of lives in service to you and others.
God of harvest,
feed us
prune us
harvest us
that our lives
might bring glory to you. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Blessed Thanksgiving to you.

November 18 Blog Post

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“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me…” -- Matthew 25:45

I think about Jesus a lot. No big surprise, I suppose, I’m a minister. There are things I wonder about his life. Did Jesus have a dog? Did he enjoy games? Was he athletic? What made Jesus laugh? Which of his close friends did he trust with his struggles and worries?

As Thanksgiving approaches, I wonder what he ate besides bread and fish and wine. I suspect Jesus enjoyed a Mediterranean diet of figs and grapes and apricots, goat cheese and yogurt and curds. When Jesus broke bread and blessed it and shared it with his friends, for what was he most grateful?

We have hints about this of course. Jesus expressed gratitude for those who engaged authentic questions of faith. He honored those who trusted God for healing and noticed those who forgave others even when it was hard. He looked for Godly people made visible by their behavior, and pointed them out to the disciples. “The Kingdom of God looks like this”, he said, and then helped them see the one who gave even a cup of cold water to the thirsty, the one who fed the hungry and homeless at their gate, the one who had compassion on the imprisoned, and the one who gave all they had as an offering of their life to God.

Jesus was always saying really hard things. I’m sure the disciples must have felt like saying, “Stop talking like that Jesus. You’re going to get all of us in trouble.” At the end of Matthew 25 for example, Jesus could have stopped talking with the words in verse 40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Those who heard him could easily imagine themselves as the faithful ones, who did the right things and took care of each other. This parable inspires us. It motivates us to cook for one another when sick, to volunteer for stuff that needs to be done, and to pay attention to the needs of our neighbor. We’re all over that.

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He carried on and on about the consequences of having the chance to do the right thing or to say the right thing and then to miss it. He communicated in no uncertain terms that we are accountable for the opportunities we have to live as kingdom people, and then we blow it.

If you want to love me, Jesus might have said, you’ve got to be generous in your treatment of one another. Love one another, serve one another, treat one another with dignity and respect as a beloved child of God. Stop demanding that somebody else make you happy and start figuring out how to make God happy. Treat one another as you would treat me as a guest in your home for Thanksgiving dinner. And then it will be true: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”

Prayer: As we gather at our tables of thanks giving in the week to come, reveal to us every opportunity to be truly generous in our treatment of one another, as if it were you. In just such a way as this, come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let our gifts to you be blessed. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Dr. Anna V. Copeland

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