Summary: A seasonal message for Thanksgiving
Read Psalm 138
Tomorrow across America families will gather, turkey will be served with cranberries and all the fixin’s and people will give thanks. Most will not have a true understanding of the Thanksgiving holiday, or what they are thankful for except that it is a day off from work.
In fact, in schools across this nation, the real meaning of thanksgiving is absent because the Christian dimension of the holiday has been excluded, seperation of church and state.
President Woodrow Wilson said, "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are not trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about."
I want to help us tonight to focus our thanksgiving attention on a group of pilgrims who joined together in the early part of the 1600’s. I want us to remember a time when King James I was on the throne in England and the Church of England under his authority persecuted anyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority, a church which was known to hunt down, imprison and even execute those who believed in freedom of religion.
There was such a group who left England for Holland and after being there for about 11 years, forty agreed to make a dangerous journey to the New World, they were coming to America. This small band of believers knew they were going to face hardships. But they knew they would also be able to live and to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. And so they set sail on August 1, 1620 aboard the Mayflower. The ship carried 102 passengers, including 40 pilgrims led by William Bradford.
Halfway across the Atlantic the Mayflower and her crew faced near disaster in a fierce storm that caused one of the main beams to bow and crack. Passengers had urged Captian Christopher Jones to turn back but he assured them the vessel was strong and firm under water. He ordered the crew to replace the beam and to secure it with a great iron screw the pilgrims had brought with them from Holland. With the beam raised, they committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.
On November 19, 1620 the Mayflower caught sight of Cape Cod, which the pilgrims described as "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea." A true statement of Cape Cod at that time, but lacking a sanction of go ashore, they continued to sail on for their charter had been issued for the Virginia Colony which was south of Cape Cod.
As the ship continued to sail south, those on board pondered what to do. Their decision, the Mayflower Compact which was intended on as being a temporary pact to keep law and order among themselves in the wilderness where there was no law. This historic document has laid the foundation for law and order in America.
Where did this revolutionary idea come from for the Mayflower Compact? From the Bible. The Pilgrims were people who were totally immersed into the Old and New Testament, people who looked to the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture and the ancient Israelites for their example. They never doubted their experiment in religious freedom would fail.
At the heart of the Compact lay the undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and that law without a moral base was really no law at all. The compact also rested on a covenant agreement, that all law would rest not upon a monarchy or a dictatorship, but upon the consent of the governed.
This was no Princess luxury cruise the Pilgrims had embarked upon. It was long and hard when when they landed in New England in November, the found according to Bradford’s journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. They had no friends to greet them when they came ashore Bradford wrote. There were no houses for shelter, no inn in which they could refresh themselves.
And the sacrifices they made for religious freedom were just beginning. In the first winter, half the Pilgrims, including Bradford’s wife, died either of starvation, sickness, or exposure. When spring came, the Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod, and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper. This is where the modern history books leave off. In fact, some explain Thanksgiving as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testament.