Hymn 1: My Country Tis of Thee

Prayer: open with prayer requests and prayers (pay special attention to prayers of Thanksgiving)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 107:8 (NRSV):  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

Theme: Kernels of Wisdom & Thanksgiving

Do you know who the Pilgrims were? (Depending on your audience; you may have VERY different answers)

Back in the 1600’s, they sailed away from England on the Mayflower to the New World (America) so they could worship God the way they wanted. That is the good news. Unfortunately, there were many negative consequences to their arrival including disease and colonialism for the Native peoples and this sermon focuses on both; the beginning (probably the most positive part of their interactions) while respecting the realistic history of what really happened in this country to Native Americans, who have also fought this countries wars.

Illustration: Depending on your audience, you may want to discuss Native history now or later

The story we tell our children (Sermons4Kids, Inc. 11/23/2015)  is that they landed at Plymouth, MA in the beginning of winter. The winter was long, cold and difficult.  They had very little food and they worked hard to build a settlement.

At the end of the winter, a Native American Indian named Squanto made friends with the Pilgrims. He taught them how to plant the Indian corn by heaping the dirt into a mound and putting the seeds and a fish in each mound for fertilizer.

The Pilgrims planted corn the way the Native Americans taught them, and the corn grew so well that they harvested a lot of food for the coming winter.

Their harvest was so successful; they wanted to have a special day of thanksgiving to show their thanks for God’s blessings. From that time on at each Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims kept 5 kernels of corn at their plates to remind them to be thankful to God.

I have 5 kernels of candy corn here to remind us of the meaning of Thanksgiving (I picked candy because of the much too sweet character of this telling):

Kernel 1: The first kernel reminds us that God loves us.

Every Veteran is a creation of God, made in God’s image and deserving of God’s love. God loves ALL of us.

Kernel 2: The second kernel reminds us that God provides for our needs.

Sometimes directly or sometimes by helping us pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or helping our Veteran brothers and sisters to our left and our right. God provides for our needs.

Kernel 3: The third kernel reminds us of the friends God has given us.

In the military we are surrounded by amazing Battle Buddies.God puts that Battle on our left and right to protect us in harm’s way. I trust them as much as I trust my own family, with some things I trust them more. God has given us amazing friends.

Kernel 4: The fourth kernel reminds us of all the people God has given us who love us.

Depending on your experience, this can be your family or friends or Battle Buddies or maybe an amazing teacher you had or pastor or caregiver here in the VA (or whatever context.) Maybe you will never know the angels who surround you who love you, but they are there. God gives us people who love us.

Kernel 5: The fifth kernel reminds us that God hears our prayers and answers us.

As we focus on thanking God for all we have, let us remember how important this is. One time there were ten people who were very sick with a terrible disease called leprosy. When Jesus saw them, He touched them and they were healed. They were so happy that they ran up and down the streets singing and dancing. One of them stopped and went back to tell Jesus, "Thank You." Jesus said to him, "Weren't there ten who were healed? Where are the other nine?" Only one out of the ten said, "Thank You."God does so much for us! Every day God provides for us: food, clothing, and a place to live. Do we ever forget to say, "Thank You?" Let's stop right now and say "Thank You" and ask God to help us remember to thank God every day. Thank you. God does hear our prayers and answers us.

(You may give specific illustrations for each that fit your context.)

Psalm 107:8 (NRSV):  “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.” As important as it is to remember to do this, it is equally important to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Some of these neighbors are Native Americans whose experiences surrounding Thanksgiving might be very different. As Veterans, we need to remember to respect ALL of our Veteran brothers and sisters who sacrificed for this country, including native peoples. How might they think about Thanksgiving and celebrate?

Illustration: “When Cedric Cromwell sits down with his family for a meal on Thanksgiving each year, the day holds a unique kind of significance.  Cromwell is the chairman and president of the tribal council of the Mashpee Wampanoag, the same Native American tribe that first made contact with the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620. While the Wampanoag welcomed the Pilgrims and helped them ensure a successful first harvest, they were nearly wiped out by the warfare and disease that arrived with the settlers.

For Cromwell, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give thanks, but also to highlight the way that his people suffered at the hands of the settlers.  "We are Americans as well, and so even today, I sit down at Thanksgiving with family," he said. "I do have that Thanksgiving meal on that day with family but it gives me an opportunity to speak to the kids and the family about the truth of the day, and why that day is important to give thanks."

Cromwell's perspective illustrates the dual meaning that Thanksgiving holds for some Native Americans. The day is both a chance to ceremoniously express gratitude, a practice that existed in Native American culture before the Pilgrims arrived, and an opportunity to highlight the challenges the community faces today like high suicide rates and low school graduation rates.” (Sam Levine; Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post; 11/23/2015)

Christians and peoples of faith, especially those in the Veteran community, should remember to lift up the prayers of our Native brothers and sisters. We fought with them honorably in every American conflict. They were heroic code talkers and iconic in images from Iwo Jima that represent the military today. The least we can do is pay them respect as we sit down to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal this Thursday.

(Optional Illustration: Repeat the 5 Kernels from a Native Perspective)

As we move toward the Thanksgiving holiday, I also want to take a moment to express my thanks for each and every one of you. I truly appreciate your sacrifices for this country. No matter the changes and challenges at the VA, you are each appreciated and loved.  Remember that compassion as you spend time with other Veterans here at the VA this Thanksgiving.  Let’s also remember our brothers and sisters who are currently serving our country, stationed far away from their loved ones during this time. I know many of you have spent your holidays in similar places. Let us find comfort in our similarities as we pray for one another.  Amen.

Let us Pray.

Dear God , Thank you for providing for our many needs and for loving us. We Love You too!  Please also lay your healing love over the Native Peoples of this country who may be experiencing pain as they remember & mourn the loss of their ancestors at the beginning of our developing nation. May we remember their Holocaust today so it never happens again. Amen.

May We Pray together as God taught us in scripture:

The Lord’s Prayer:  Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

2nd HYMN: Amazing Grace


3rd Song: This Is the Day

 (Sermon Adapted by VA Chaplain Jennifer Lane from an article by Sam Levine; Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post; 11/23/2015 & a children’s sermon from Sermons4Kids, Inc.)