A pilgrim’s thanksgiving like no other

first-thanksgivingThe Pilgrims left Leydon, Holland when they heard about and prayed about the opportunity to go to America. But, the Pilgrims were not Dutch. They were English. Why were they in Holland? They were separating themselves from the spiritual corruption in the Church of England. The Bishops would not tolerate such rebellion, so under persecution, the “separatists” fled to Holland.*

The hard conditions of life in Leydon made the idea of settling in a new land appealing, but not without much prayer. They were seeking a life of total commitment to God. Thus, when they came to the shores of America they consecrated it and themselves with prayer.

Not surprisingly, settling the new land was hard. However, they had freedom to pursue worship of God in purity. Nearly half of them died the first year. The second year started with a promising outlook until new comers came from England without supplies of food or clothing. The new colony took on the burden of more mouths to feed, but the daily ration was down to five kernels of corn. Can you imagine living on five kernels of corn? Miraculously, they all lived through the winter’s icy chill. Not a single person died.

The following summer, they planted extra acreage of corn, but a drought set in. The Indians said it was the worst they had ever seen. The Pilgrim’s began a community prayer and fast. Nine hours later, clouds appeared, and for the next fourteen days, there was a soft, soaking rain. The result was a bumper crop. The second thanksgiving that year was a feast. There was an abundance of food. But, before they feasted, they all received a plate with just five kernels of corn on it. William Bradford wrote, “We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.”

This year my family’s feast will begin with the five kernels corn and a prayer of thanks to God for His grace, His blessings, and our spiritual founding and heritage.


*Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, Pub. Fleming H. Revell, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1977.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1850-1936), Painted in Honesdale, PA, or New York, 1914. Oil on canvas

Poem by Hezekiah Butterworth, Five Kernels of Corn


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