TELL THE STORY
Tell the Story
In Archibald MacLeish’s play J. B., there is a provocative scene wherein the family is seated around the Thanksgiving table. As J. B. carves the turkey, the children begin urging their father to tell the story. They, of course, know the story. They had been brought up on how J. B. had become a shining knight in the business world. But tradition and expectation demanded a recapitulation of the saga on a day of celebration.
All of us have a story. Families hand down stories, and they are often repeated at festive occasions. Individuals have stories to tell, and so do congregations. Professing Christians are commissioned to tell the story of the promised Messiah, His life, death, and resurrection (Matt. 28:16–20).
I. Give (v. 34)
Jewish Prayers of Thanksgiving
According to the Mishnah, the standard prayer for food begins with, “Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe” (Berakhot 6:1; Neusner, Mishnah, 9). Those praying then acknowledge God’s sovereignty over the specific item being blessed, whether fruit, wine, vegetables, or loaves of bread.
The Babylonian Talmud forbids anyone from enjoying any pleasure from the world until they have first offered a “blessing” to God, who has provided it (Berakhot 35a; Simon, Tractate Berakoth, 134–36). The Babylonian Talmud views the blessing as a means of thanks because pleasure is only made available through God’s goodness and love (Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind, 168).
Each Gospel account of Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes (Matt 14:14–21; 15:29–39; Mark 6:30–44; 8:1–13; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:1–15) mentions that He “gave thanks” (εὐχαριστέω, eucharisteō; or εὐλογέω, eulogeō) before miraculously distributing the food. While the two Greek terms used in these accounts hold slightly different meanings—εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) means “to give thanks,” while εὐλογέω (eulogeō) properly means “to bestow a blessing”—the term εὐλογέω (eulogeō) seems to be an idiomatic expression meaning “to give thanks” (Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew, 644). The idea is that Jesus was offering thanks to God as provider, not “blessing” the food in order that it might multiply.
The four main verbs used in the accounts of these miracles (“took,” “gave thanks,” “broke,” and “gave”) reflect the Jewish pattern of blessing at a meal (Boobyer, “Eucharistic Interpretation,” 162). The
II. Gather (v. 35)
III. Glory (v. 36)
6587 Thanksgiving Lady
Thanksgiving might not be celebrated in the United States today, were it not for a patient, persistent woman named Sarah Hale.
It is well-known that the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 to give thanks for their winter in the New World.
In 1789, President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation to commemorate the first Pilgrim celebration. But Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States discontinued it, calling Thanksgiving, “a kingly practice.”
After this, Thanksgiving was observed by some individual states, and on whatever date suited their fancy.
Then in 1828, Mrs. Hale, the editor of the magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book and author of the poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” began campaigning for the restoration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
She wrote letters and sought appointments with national leaders from the President down. Time after time she was politely rebuffed, sometimes being told it was “impossible” and “impractical,” and sometimes being dismissed with a this-is-none-of-your-business scolding.
Finally in 1863 President Lincoln listened seriously to her plea that North and South “lay aside enmities and strife on (Thanksgiving) Day.” He proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November to be the official “National Thanksgiving Day.” This day was finally ratified by the U. S. Congress in 1941.