By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)
The first Thanksgiving feast was recorded in 1621 between the Pilgrims, having recently arrived in America, and the Wampanoag, having already been residents here for many centuries.
In those early months, the Pilgrims might not have survived if the native people had not taught them the best local hunting, farming and harvest practices. Even though the relationship between the new settlers and the native people was tension-filled at best, it is said that the first feast was a traditional celebration of the plentiful harvest to which the Wampanoag were invited as an act of gratitude for the ways they had helped the Pilgrims acclimate to their new environment. The two groups joined together for these few days.
Yet we know that this temporary time of friendship and feasting did not last. Now, even as we prepare for traditional celebrations with family and friends, the complexity of our history must be acknowledged. While we are thankful, we need to remember that reconciliation is still needed.
Writer Matthew Rozsa asserts, “We shouldn’t forget things for which we are grateful often come at an ugly price…. By contrasting that initial thanksgiving with the ugliness that followed, we can be reminded of why it’s important to be mindful of similarly ugly impulses which exist today.”
We still witness remnants of the racism and colonialism that date back more than 400 years, and we are in danger of repeating those wrongs if we do not make an effort to live in the present while also remembering the past.
It has been said, “An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.” Even though it is difficult to swallow your pride and offer an apology when it is due, we can all make the effort to seek reconciliation.
As people of faith, we know that this effort is worthwhile. Paul emphasizes to the Colossians that the peace of Christ should rule in their hearts. In other words, make the effort to choose peace over other perspectives. Make peace and gratitude your priority.
So, even though it might be difficult, take time to be thankful. We cannot escape the past, but we can move toward a future that reflects the kingdom of God. Recognize the blessing that it is to serve God. Find joy in rolling up your sleeves and sacrificing for something greater than yourself. Share in mission that makes the world a better place.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus. Together, we will build tomorrows that are better than our yesterdays.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston