Julie Lyles Carr: Sunday Selah

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Selah

Jesus replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted."
Matthew 15:26-28

Thanksgiving leftovers.
There are quite a bit of them around here.

Because somewhere in my caffeine-addled mind, I developed an equation that stated the sixteen individuals I was hosting for Thanksgiving dinner would require two pounds of turkey a piece.

Which turned out to be a bit of an over-multiplication.

To say the least.

Turkey burgers. Turkey chili. Turkey nuggets. Turkey loaf. That's the week's upcoming menu.

It may all lead to the Great Turkey Rebellion of '09 deep into next week.

Leftovers.

There are leftovers in God's economy. When Jesus feeds the 5000 and the 4000 with a few fish and loaves, there are twelve baskets and seven baskets of leftovers, respectively. When the Canaanite woman comes to Jesus in Matthew 15 for healing for her daughter, she tells Him that even the dogs eat the crumbs, the leftovers from the master's table. She understands that, even though Jesus has come as the consolation of Israel, even the crumbs of His ministry yield great power. She receives healing for her daughter and encouragement from Jesus as He commends her for the great faith she has shown.

And what of manna, the bread of angels that God fed to the Israelites as they made their way to the Promise Land? They were only to gather enough for the day each morning, except for the day before the Sabbath. On that day, they were to gather enough leftovers to eat on the Sabbath. Any other day, those leftovers would have spoiled by the morning. But for the Sabbath, those leftovers fed them, twice the miracle.

There were leftovers from that original Thanksgiving in autumn of 1621. The Mayflower, that small cargo ship that carried Separatists and Strangers to a new world, made its way back to England and most likely was dismantled for its lumber around 1624, its timbers supposedly used as the crossbeams in a barn. The leftovers of the original Plymouth Colony site, with its small thatched cottages and the Common House that served as shelter during that first desperate winter, lie buried beneath the village which was built over the site in the 17th and 18th centuries.

John Howland was a leftover of his society. At the age of twenty-seven he was nothing more than an indentured servant, brought aboard the Mayflower in the summer of 1620 by his master, John Carver. He made the voyage not as a Separatist seeking freedom of worship and not as a Stranger intent on new opportunities, but simply as a man with leftover dreams and debt. Howland was thrown overboard during a violent storm in the crossing, miraculously grasping a rope trailing from the ship's stern, being hauled back aboard by means of a large fish hook. He served the struggling band of colonists through the devastating winter of 1620-1621, helping build shelters and burying the dead. When John Carver and his wife passed away within the first couple of years of the landing, they left no children. Howland was left their inheritance and he began buying up land. In 1626, he was appointed by Governor William Bradford to search for new sites on the Kennebec River and was named assistant governor in 1628. But he was not recognized as a freedman and admitted to the Plymouth Colony as such until 1633, thirteen years after the original landing.

John Howland and his wife Elizabeth had ten children, all of whom survived to adulthood. They built a farm a few miles from the original Plymouth site. When John passed away in 1673 at the age of eighty, he was the oldest surviving male member of the original Mayflower manifest.

From this man who had been a leftover in his original homeland come the miracles of God's economy. Direct descendants from the Howland family line include actor Humphrey Bogart and composer Phillips Brooks, who wrote the beloved O Little Town of Bethlehem. Poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow hail from Howland's heritage. The acting family of the Baldwin brothers Alec, Daniel, Stephen and Billie, Dr. Benjamin Spock and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin count Howland as pater familias. Barbara Pierce, who would become First Lady Barbara Bush comes from one of the Howland children's family lines and her husband George Bush comes from another, meaning that their son, George W. Bush is also a direct descendant, along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

John Howland's final resting place boasts this stone bearing this inscription: "a godly man and an ardent professor in the ways of Christ."

Thanksgiving leftovers.

As you eat your turkey sandwiches and your turkey nuggets and your turkey omelets this week, think on John Howland. Consider the leftover pieces of your life, your leftover time, your leftover dreams.

And know that in the economy of God, leftovers can yield double the miracle.

Selah.


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