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Let us help each other survive

November 02, 2020

This is a good year to remember that Thanksgiving, at its core, is about helping others survive. At least that’s the example of the Native Americans in 1620 and 1621. When they came ashore in North America, the Pilgrims actually landed more than 200 miles north of their intended destination. The captain tried to get back on course, but the weather was so bad they had no choice but to come ashore.

The harvest season was over so there was no way they could plant seeds and grow their own food. Plus, they had no knowledge of the climate, soil, or type of crops that could be successfully grown. Winter was brutal. Half the Pilgrims died. The rest might have died also, except for the American Indians (Native Americans) who came to their aid. Native people were the key to the Pilgrims’ survival. Edwin Schupan of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D. C., says:

Not only did Native Americans bring deer, corn and perhaps freshly caught fowl … they also ensured the Puritan settlers would survive through the first year in America by acclimating them to a habitat they had lived in for thousands of years.

They showed the Pilgrims how to smoke and dry indigenous meat and fish and how to grow corn, beans, and squash. And they taught them how to move from place to place by water and over land. 

Think of it: 400 years ago, a group of Native Americans held the lives of those Europeans in their hand. It would have been easy to let nature take its course and that would have been the end of the Pilgrims. But the Native Americans chose to help the strangers Thanksgiving, at its core, really is about helping others survive.

And that, at its core, is what the Church does. In the name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we help others survive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The Church helps families survive, helps communities survive, and helps the world survive.

I am writing this a few days before the national election. I am aware of the political polarization that is so much a part of our lives these days. Whatever the outcome of the election, we United Methodists are uniquely equipped to provide the spiritual strength our communities and our nation need to survive. We unite rather than divide. We bring down dividing walls of hostility through the power of the Cross (Ephesians 2:14). We look not to our own interests but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). We actively practice the non-violence demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:43-48).
Thanksgiving is about helping others survive. With all that is weighing so heavily on us these days, may this be our resolve: in South Georgia, we will help each other survive by being Alive Together at the Table.

Here are the questions I am asking myself this Thanksgiving: Whose life do you hold in your hand? How will you help them survive?

Alive Together at the Table,
R. Lawson Bryan

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