Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works! Psalm 105:1–2 (ESV)
Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Psalm 106:6 (ESV)
Becky and I are heading out of town next week to spend Thanksgiving with our son and his family. I will be too busy with LEGOS to write a new Observations post, so I think I will do what I have done frequently in the past. I will post Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation which established our fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day tradition. That or Edward Winslow’s description of the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in 1621. Maybe both.
I am a traditionalist and find these traditional sources for the history of the holiday to be not only personally satisfying, but historically most honest. The holiday is rooted in the reality of what happened in 1621 and 1863. I am also aware of the minority – or now majority – reports that will be posted by the revisionists rightly decrying the oppression of indigenous peoples from Plymouth on and the still-unfulfilled promises of our founding.
What shall it be? A traditional Thanksgiving or the revisionist version? Is it possible to give thanks, to enjoy family, and to celebrate our history without a cloud of oppression and injustice casting its cold shadows on our feast day? Must it rain on our Thanksgiving Day parade?
The Psalms help us.
Psalm 105 is among the many thanksgiving psalms, and, at 45 verses, longer than most. Beginning with a call to give thanks, the Psalm goes on to retell the story of God’s faithfulness to his people from the call of Abraham to the exodus from Egypt. “Oh give thanks to the Lord!” We need not claim to be a chosen nation to give thanks to God for his mighty deeds in human history.
Psalm 106 also opens with thanksgiving:
Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
The psalm continues with a blessing to those who observe justice and do righteousness. Biblical thanksgiving may require of us more than just eating a big meal.
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
The verse that startles me every time I read Psalm 106 is verse 6: Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
The next 41 verses tell the story of the unfaithfulness of God’s own people. We and our fathers have sinned.
O that all of us from MAGA right to woke left would have the courage to confess what the psalmist confesses. Traditionalist or revisionist, we have sinned. We have committed iniquity and have done wickedness.
Together we must sing with great thanks of purple mountain majesty and then beseech God with lament and sorrow to mend our every flaw:
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
Plymouth’s pilgrims were not the least bit interested in preserving the norms of the dominant culture. Traditionalists should not make them partisans in our culture wars. The revisionists, on the other hand, seem to find joy in casting their critical-of-all things-American gloom on our celebration of Thanksgiving Day. They should not be invited to the family dinner unless they promise to behave.
What, then, shall we do with Psalm 106:6? If we might manage to get traditionalists and revisionists at the same table, how do we, all of us, acknowledge our sins and our fathers’ sins? And how shall we get about the business of observing justice and doing righteousness?
In fact, we need a National Day of Lamentation and Repentance in addition to the National Day of Thanksgiving. Like Psalm 106, the day could begin with thanks and then, sadly, recall the stories of our unfaithfulness to the God who sheds his grace on us, our betrayal of the “patriot dream that sees beyond the years the alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.” It seems likely that neither the MAGA right nor the woke left would support such an idea, however; the one unable to see any wrong, the other incapable of admitting any good.
This coming Thursday I plan on remembering the harvests of 1621 and 1863 as we give thanks to God for his bounty and his love. The nation cannot afford not to have a Day of Thanksgiving.
Maybe Black Friday should be a day to lament and repent.
It is more than a set-aside day or two, however. The Psalms remind us we must hear the call to observe justice and do righteousness at all times.