“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
On December 20, 1605, 105 colonists and 40 seamen set sail from England to the new settlement with orders from King James’ Virginia Charter:
“We greatly commend and graciously accept their desires for the furtherance of so noble a work, which may, by the providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God and may in time bring the infidels and savages living in those parts to human civility and a settled, quiet government.”
Years ago my wife Cindy and I visited Jamestown, VA (not the theme-park iteration but the actual 1607 Jamestown Fort). In recent years archaeologists have discovered muskets, swords, bandoleers, coins and more. Within days of digging, William Kelso and his team clearly identified the corners of the triangular fort. Indeed, they uncovered the actual timbers, in remarkable condition, used in building the fort.
Later excavations uncovered the first Protestant church in America built in the spring of 1609. To date, they have uncovered over 1.5 million artifacts at the Fort.
Among the site is a modest memorial shrine for Reverend Robert Hunt, one of the original settlers of Jamestown who is listed on the manifest as “Master Robert Hunt occupation, Preacher.”
While historians hold to various timelines, many believe the first act after landing at Cape Henry was to build a wooden cross and hold a prayer meeting. When the colonists landed on the shores of Virginia, Rev. Hunt required that every person “person wait before God in a time of personal examination and cleansing.” This would be Hunt’s first “public” service on April 29, 1607, which included a public thanksgiving and prayer.
Records indicate Hunt held open air services until a chapel was built. Captain John Smith had a strong faith (some discount his Christianity) and some historians believe Hunt and Smith were more interested in spreading Christianity than other motivations for coming to the New World.
The settlers held Rev. Hunt in great esteem. After Hunt died, the settlers wrote,
To the glory of God and in memory of the Reverend Robert Hunt, Presbyter, appointed by the Church of England. Minister of the Colony which established the English Church and English Civilization at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607.
His people, members of the Colony, left this testimony concerning him. He was an honest, religious and courageous Divine.
He preferred the Service of God in so good a voyage to every thought of ease at home. He endured every privation, yet none ever heard him repine. During his life our factions were ofte healed, and our greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his memorable death.
We all received from him the Holy Communion together, as a pledge of reconciliation, for we all loved him for his exceeding goodness. He planted the first Protestant Church in America and laid down his life in the foundation of America.242
Even Captain John Smith recounted, “Our factions were oft qualified, and our wants and greater extremities so comforted that they seemed easie [sic] in comparison of what we endured after his memorable death….”
As Thanksgiving approaches we are a deeply divided nation. America is a mess. While it helps to remember our history, we are still left with a fragmented country. So what are we to do?
Choose to be thankful.
It is easy to forget the extraordinary benefits and blessings we have. We overlook the obvious when we forget to be thankful.
Hope in Jesus Christ.
Our hope is not in man but in the God Man. The Savior, Redeemer, and Friend of sinners has made the way. He changes hearts, helps us to grow and mature, and reframes our view of this world.
Make a list.
It is interesting how simply writing things down is a powerful tool to jog our memories. A few things I am thankful for include:
- Parents who taught me to work. Their work ethic was the example that I needed. I worked part-time jobs from the earliest memory through high school, college breaks and graduate and post graduate degrees. I worked, scrimped, avoided debt, didn’t whine and pressed on. I am thankful they taught me to work.
- Freedom to vote. I can freely go into a polling booth and make a choice. It may not be an ideal choice, but I have a choice.
- Men and women in uniform. Our military are some of the finest people in the world. They serve, sacrifice and see something bigger than self.
- Friends who tell me the truth. To have a few choice friends who love me but are willing to confront me, tell me the truth as well as encourage me when needed.
- Mentors who shaped my thinking. In God’s great kindness, I have known “Barnabas” kinds of older men who were further along in their faith, elders and shepherds who poured into my life. I am blessed to have known them.
- The Scripture. That I can hold a Bible in my hands. That I can read it, study it and teach from it. What a blessing we are still free to have God’s word within our reach.
- The matchless person, Jesus Christ. That He could love a sick sinner like me. That He could forgive me, make me right before Him and indwell me with His spirit to transform me.
It is good to remember our national heritage. It is too easy to be discouraged or live in fear about our country, politics, the economy and all the “what-if’s” that can spiral into sadness. But it is even better to remember our spiritual heritage. We were once lost and in desperate straits, now we are forgiven, saved and secure.
We have a vista of history if we but pause, read and reflect. God has been lavish and kind to us in so many ways yet the troubles of the day can overcome us and distract us.
2 Corinthians 2:14–17 (HCSB)
14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? 17 For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.
242 Virginia, Colony of. 1607. Inscription of original 1607 Settler’s testimony engraved upon the bronze Robert Hunt Memorial, Jamestown Island, Virginia.
 William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]