Thanksgiving began in a season of uncertainty. Almost four hundred years ago, the Pilgrims who first broke bread at harvest time were not living in days of optimism and plenty. Rather, Governor Bradford and his people had gone through unimaginable hardship. During their first year in the New World, almost half of their 101 members died. So what did they do on the eve of their second brutal New England winter? They gathered with their neighbors—Chief Massasoit and ninety of his men—to celebrate God’s generous provision. They came together across racial lines in times of uncertainty, and gave thanks to God for the harvest.
It is only fitting, then, that churches from across Lane County come together again this Sunday night for our annual Community-Wide Thanksgiving Worship and Prayer Gathering. Like the Pilgrims and Native Americans before us, believers today face troubled times. No, we are not on the verge of starvation or freezing, but in some very real ways, 2016 has been difficult. It has been a year fraught with violence, disaster, and a grueling election season that revealed a great deal of division to our nation. Many feel afraid for their future, and helpless towards what lies ahead.
So why should we gather now? Why should we give thanks now? Because God’s name is also His greatest promise. He is called Emmanuel, “God with us,” and indeed, He has been with us. He has been working in us, His church. He has been working through us, and sometimes even in spite of us. And even though this year hasn’t been easy, His Kingdom has been advancing in our midst in some truly remarkable ways:
● Our One Church - One Day Prayer Initiative continues to expand. We now have 41 churches praying for our community around the clock, every day of the week. God, too, is answering our prayers.
● Our mission to help children in foster care is taking off. Through a collaboration of church and ministry leaders from around our area, “Every Child Lane County” is now raising up and training new people and foster families to take care of vulnerable children within our region in many ways.
● At Project Hope in August, our faith community showed Jesus’ love to our public school system and its students. We came together to serve more than 35 schools, and offer more than 3,000 shoes and backpacks filled with school supplies to families who’d benefit.
● This month, we will work together again to provide complete Thanksgiving Meals to 1,000 families in our area.
Each of these efforts involve collaboration across denominational, racial, and social lines, and they all effect the good of our region. It is clear that God is doing something new. These are no longer isolated events. Rather, this has become a city-wide movement of the Gospel, and it is right and good that we celebrate it, and continue in prayer for our community.
We gather on this Sunday night, November 13th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at First Baptist Church of Eugene. Everyone is welcome. Come, join us as we thank God for what He is building among us: for the unity among congregations, the genuine love and affection between leaders, and for all the opportunities to truly bless our friends and neighbors, while we continually grow in loving our community.
God’s Kingdom always shines brightest, no matter the times. We celebrate that Kingdom, not because everything is perfect, but because God’s name is still Emmanuel. We may be pilgrims on this earth, but we are His pilgrims. He has not left us or forsaken us. For that, He deserves our praise, and our thanks.
We’ll see you Sunday night!