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"We Are Pilgrims on the Earth"
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). "Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). (From the 1599 Geneva Bible used by the Pilgrims.)
Last night Brooksyne shared a program about the Pilgrims and their journey to America in 1620 leading up to the first Thanksgiving feast held in mid October of 1621. Pilgrims were referred to as Separatists and Saints as well. She did extensive research on this subject while we lived in Massachusetts. Dressing in Pilgrim's costume she takes food and other items from the period to share with listeners during her presentation. As I prepare this I am eating a bit of dried beef, cheese and hardtack left over from last night!
She shares the story in a historically accurate, non-revisionist manner, with an emphasis on presenting the deep Christian convictions the Pilgrims held. She shared this program in the public schools in Massachusetts when we lived there. Many of you can imagine the vast sea of historical ignorance, deception, and denial she confronted in a heavily secularized Massachusetts school district only 25 miles from Plymouth, where the Pilgrims first settled!
With Bible in hand, for that was the one treasured possession that pilgrim families would not leave in Holland, she repeatedly shares concerning their faith in God and how they treasured the Word of God. She weaves in how its message would strengthen and guide them throughout the hardships and heartaches they would endure on the treacherous voyage and over the next few years in the new world.
One of the great Biblical themes that deeply impacted these early settlers was the sense that they were pilgrims (hence their name!) They used this sense not only in regard to their pilgrimage from the old world to the new, but in a much greater sense in regard to their spiritual pilgrimage. John Bunyan's classic allegorical novel, Pilgrim's Progress, reflects this sense.
Both daily Scripture texts were surely held dear by these people and the 1599 Geneva Bible, the version used by the pilgrims, translates these verses using the word "pilgrim", as the KJV also does.
We are all pilgrims on the journey of a narrow road. May all who come behind us find us faithful!
Be encouraged today on your pilgrimage,
Stephen C. Weber
Daily prayer: Father, since this pilgrimage on earth is all we've known since birth, far too often we see it as a permanent dwelling. But the prophet Isaiah gives us a true perspective of our transient life when he writes, "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever." Help us to lift our eyes to the heavens and place our affections on the eternal truths of Your Word. We, as Your redeemed children, desire to be faithful as we walk this pilgrim pathway watching expectantly and longing for Your soon return. Amen.
Note from Brooksyne: In light of our message today the words of Gov. William Bradford come to mind when he was describing the scene of the pilgrims who were boarding the ship in Holland for their voyage to the New World on July 22, 1620, "So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place for twelve years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.…and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leave one of another, which proved to the last leave to many of them." What a perspective that we would do well to attain in our Christian pilgrimage.
An amusing note: We invited our neighbors to go to church with us last night for our Thanksgiving dinner and the Pilgrim Presentation to follow. When I opened our van door for the children to board the family goat jumped in front of them and decided to hop on board instead. We had a good laugh since the goat was hard to convince that she was not invited along for the ride. Of course it would have lent authenticity to my presentation as I get to the part where we describe the different animals the pilgrims brought along on the Mayflower.
One more note: Many of you sang "Come Ye Thankful People, Come" in your congregations yesterday since it's usually sang on Thanksgiving Sunday. Henry Alford penned this hymn in 1844. Consider this definition of a gravesite for a Christian on a pilgrimage: "An Inn of a Pilgrim Traveling to Jerusalem." That's what Henry Alford wrote for his tombstone!
An online version of the Geneva Bible is here.
Two songs to share today, both having a "pilgrim" theme:
Find us faithful
Guide Me O Thou great Jehovah
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
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