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Posts Tagged ‘pilgrims’

pilgrim landing

There are many words that express the attitude of the day. You will hear thankful, grateful, and blessed. Our day is focused on early American settlers who crossed a freezing ocean on a little rickety boat because of their faith. While those words and themes are important, let us also focus on the words that inspired these settlers.

In Psalm 103, we find a hymn of Thanksgiving.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit, 

who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

These words reminded them to look beyond their losses, their hardships, and difficulties. These words reminded them to instead focus on the Almighty. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult. Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620. They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

May we follow in their example. No matter the problems we have experienced in 2015, let us join together and bless our God, whose love and care sustains us through all things.

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thanks

Thursday is the day that America will stop work, join with families, and give thanks.

In 1620, some 100 people seeking religious freedom, left England and landed in the New World. Little food, poor housing, and a harsh winter made their first year difficult.  Only 50 Pilgrims survived the winter of 1620.  They gathered together in the fall of 1621 to celebrate their first harvest and the blessings we often overlook today.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in 1863, the midpoint of our Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring that a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. American has celebrated Thanksgiving Day every November since 1863.

As we gather around homes and loved ones, may we remember the gifts and blessings of this year. May we also remember the Giver, Almighty God, our Creator, and Eternal Father.  It is through Him that we can truly give thanks.

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Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious freedom was the original goal of living in our land.  And by that, I mean prior to signing the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity operated in a very different environment from what we know today.  Prior to the Pilgrims leaving England, there was no separation of church and state.  There was one official church for people to attend and the King was the head of the church.  During the 1600s, British law required citizens to attend worship services.  Those who did not attend would be fined one shilling for each Sunday and holy day missed.  People who conducted unofficial church services could be fined, jailed, or executed.

As persecution and arrests grew, the Pilgrims left England for Amsterdam.  By 1617 the congregation was stable enough for another, more permanent move.  They wanted an enduring place where opportunity and religious freedom could be secured for their families.  They turned their eyes to the new America, braved a sixty-five day voyage across the Atlantic, and started Plymouth Colony.

Days after sighting land, The Mayflower Compact was established as a way to honor God, guarantee just and equal laws in the colony, and create a free form of government.  The Pilgrims decided to establish a system where every member of the colony could enjoy guaranteed rights and freedoms under majority rule.  Freedoms that they were unable to enjoy until that very moment when the ink was dry.

Their voyage and vision created the first written constitution on our continent.  It became the seed of American freedom and democracy.

We often forget the past difficulties that Christians have faced trying to worship God.  We also forget the difficulties in our present age.  We have been so blessed with liberty in our nation, that we forget the inequalities that exist elsewhere.  While we are not fined, jailed, or executed for practicing our faith in America many others suffer across the globe.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the same fears, torment, and punishments of seventeenth century Pilgrims.

Recognize the incredible gift we have as Americans and utilize your religious freedom.  Glorify our risen Savior in song.  Strengthen your faith in a worship service.  Read your Bible in public.  But also take time to pray for the persecuted Church beyond our borders.  Their current plight was ours not so long ago.

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