“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1Peter 1:17-19 ESV, emphasis added)
The English Separatists knew first-hand what it meant to live in exile. They fled persecution in England to Holland initially, and then journeyed across the Atlantic to the New World. We tend to think of the Pilgrims almost exclusively toward the end of the month of November when schoolchildren used to dress up and re-enact the first Thanksgiving (I don’t know think they do that anymore). We do need to recover that historical understanding of feasting with thanksgiving to Almighty God who graciously provides. We have, as Christians, a wonderful opportunity to offer a refreshing (and in our day, perhaps novel to many) alternative to the gluttony and greed that often and regrettably characterize this holiday and the day after.
What is equally important and interesting, although often ignored, is the signing of the Mayflower Compact as they anchored off Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. Here we have a group of people entering into a covenant or compact with each other to order themselves as a “civil body politic” to rule themselves “for the general good of the colony” (see the full text below). These English Separatists, the Puritans, knew very well that they had been called by God to be holy. They understood the Biblical tension of being in the world but not of the world. But they also clearly knew that God had set them forth to be a light to the world, that Jesus Himself had sent them into the world with the pure Gospel message (see Mt. 5:14-16 & Jn. 17:14-19).
So let’s remember our Pilgrim forebears at the beginning of this month and not just at the end of it! November 4th is the day of our general election; be good (and holy) citizens and vote according to your conscience which is enlightened by God’s Holy Word. Then we will truly be acting for the general good of our community.
Here is the full text of the Mayflower Compact:
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620. Source of text: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower_Compact, accessed 10/28/14)
Have a blessed November, beginning and end! And may we take every opportunity to engage our culture without compromise.