The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930).
My doctoral advisor at Duke, Grant Wacker, sent this along, with the comment, “It offers the usual Hall wit, erudition, and elegant writing style.” Yes, it does. Here’s a taste, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!
THANKSGIVING 1971, the 350th anniversary of the “first” of the harvest celebrations in Plymouth, Mass. Invited to speak to a local historical society about that long-ago event, I described the ritual significance of food to the colonists and the Native Americans who attended. Afterward, someone asked, “Did they serve turkey?”
This was no idle question, for it captured the uneasiness many of us feel about the threads that connect past and present. Are our present-day values and practices aligned with the historical record, or have they been remade by our consumer culture? Is anything authentic in our own celebrations of Thanksgiving? And isn’t the deeper issue what the people who came here were like, not what they ate in 1621? Continue reading →
With Thanksgiving coming soon and plenty in the world to be worried about and afraid of, these words from John Donne (introduced by me, updated by long-time CT writer Philip Yancey, and posted a few years back on http://www.christianitytoday.com), still speak to me:
[Twenty] Thanksgivings ago in the pages of Christianity Today, Philip Yancey shared a powerful meditation on giving thanks in a time of suffering and fear. Its source was one of Christianity’s most complex and compelling poets: John Donne.
Born in England in 1571, “Jack” Donne spent his youth in dissoluteness and rebelliousness, expressed in witty erotic poetry. Turning at last to Christ, Donne came to see himself as a prodigal saved only by grace.
Through a middle age marked by increasing devotion to Christ—but also by poverty and discouragement—he turned his evident poetic skill to the great themes of love, death, and God’s mercy. Then in 1615 he became an ordained Anglican priest, whereafter he poured his creative energies more into sermons than poems.
During a near-fatal illness in the year 1623, however, Donne turned again to poetry, completing his most famous volume, the Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. Continue reading →