I pause to remember the pilgrim that I am, a wandering heart, wondering what promise the world has to offer, whom to trust, what to believe, where to settle this soul. I reflect on Governor William Bradford and “the saints” who settled on Plymouth. This new world was not their destination but their temporary refuge. They fled the oppressive rule of The Church of England. They wanted to worship God free from the constraints of human construction, to return to a simpler worship akin to that of the early church. They left their homeland of England for the Netherlands, where they lived for over a decade. Fearing coming war and loss of their identity as English, they sought an alternative in the New World. Through sacrifice and trial, they made their way to a new land. In the first two months in their new home, two or three people died each day. When the Mayflower left to return to England in April of 1621, it left with half its crew, leaving behind only half of the original party. Despite their suffering, they celebrated the sovereignty of God and thanked Him for giving and sustaining life.
Reflecting on his life and trials, William Bradford penned these words:
From my years young in days of youth, God did make known to me his truth, And call’d me from my native place For to enjoy the means of grace. In wilderness he did me guide, And in strange lands for me provide. In fears and wants, through weal and woe, A pilgrim, passed I to and fro: Oft left of them whom I did trust; How vain it is to rest on dust! A man of sorrows I have been, And many changes have I seen. Wars, wants, peace, plenty, have I known; And some advanc’d, others thrown down. The humble poor, cheerful and glad; Rich, discontent, sower and sad:
When fears and sorrow have been mixt, Consolations came betwixt. Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust, Fear not the things thou suffer must; For, whom he loves he doth chastise, And then all tears wipes from their eyes. Farewell, dear children, whom I love, Your better Father is above: When I am gone, he can supply; To him I leave you when I die. Fear him in truth, walk in his ways, And he will bless you all your days. My days are spent, old age is come, My strength it fails, my glass near run. Now I will wait, when work is done, Until my happy change shall come, When from my labors I shall rest, With Christ above for to be blest.
Thanksgiving is a day set aside to reflect of the sovereignty and mercy of the immutable God who is our Creator and Sustainer and His Son who gives us the promise of new life in a new land.
When we are found in Christ, we are no longer pilgrims.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…”