The Pilgrims and Thanksgiving Part 1

As we approach Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to draw from the Pilgrims’ story and their landing at Plymouth Rock, and look at the Bible then make some applications to us. It’s been over 400 years since the Pilgrims’ arrival in Massachusetts. I have become quite enamored with the Pilgrims. I did not know much about the Pilgrims until the last few months. I had always thought of them as people wearing funny hats and shoes. They carried strange looking rifles and ate turkey with the Indians on the first Thanksgiving, which was probably in October and not November. They truly were a bold and faith-filled people! The “Pilgrim” is the concept of a stranger who is just here for a limited time, or as the song says, “I’m just a passin’ through.”


I am going to read from the Geneva Bible. That was the Bible of the Pilgrims. It was translated in the late 1500’s into English in Geneva, Switzerland. It was smuggled into England, much like how Eastern European Missions has done in some of the Communist countries over the years. Once the Geneva Bible got there, they were able to read the Bible in English in their homes.


Hebrews 11:13 (GNV) reads:

All these died in faith, and received not the promises, but saw them afar off, and believed them, and received them thankfully, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.


The Pilgrims were by no means the first to settle in the New World. A lot of people came for different reasons. Some people came for land, some came for gold, and some came for adventure. The Conquistadors, for example, came for conquest in the name of Spain and the Catholic Church. Why did these Pilgrims come to America?


They were referred to as “separatists,” in England. If you lived in England in the 17th century, you would have been required to be a member of the Church of England just because you were a citizen of England. Any other church activity would have been paramount treason. The monarch, whether it be the king or queen, oversees the Church of England, and if you did not comply with what the monarch dictated in the church, then you are in opposition of the monarch and are guilty of treason.


The Pilgrims were part of a group that were called, “Puritans,” at first. They were there to purify the Church of England. They had been reading scripture and realized there were some differences in what the Bible says about the church and what was going on in the Church of England. They started trying to fix the Church of England. When some of them realized that the church was beyond fixing, they separated themselves out from that and became, “separatists.”


They left England and went to Holland for several years, then back to England before going to America. The only country in the world that was tolerant of other religions was Holland, so they could have stayed there. In Holland they had freedom of religion, so when they came to America they came for more than just freedom of religion. So, why did they come?


When the Pilgrims anchored in the bay in Massachusetts, they found out that they were not in Virginia like they had planned. They had intended to go to Virginia and start a settlement there, but they were too far north. Now what did they do? On the Mayflower ship, the men got together and wrote the Mayflower Compact. There were Pilgrims in this meeting, as well as non-Pilgrims and non-religious people. They said we are going to settle, and we need a method of governing ourselves while we are here. So, they wrote this compact, this covenant, this agreement that all the men signed, as representatives of their families, and they were going to abide by it.


This is what I want you to see from the Mayflower Compact: “IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN…Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia;…” Do you see why they came? They wanted to plant a colony, but why? They wanted to advance the Christian faith. The great commission had taken hold of them.


They had been in England and were persecuted in England. They went to Holland and had freedom of religion in there, but it went further than that. They went to America, to plant a place where they could advance the gospel. They wanted to carry the message of Jesus into the New World. They were fully converted to Jesus and were all in for the gospel. Their whole life revolved around the scriptures, and the God of heaven.


An obvious application we can make today is being fully committed to God. Over and over the scriptures remind us to love God fully. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (GNV):

Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is Lord only, And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.


This command, given through Moses and Jesus is one of full commitment to the LORD. There is no asterisk with a footnote that says to love God when things go well. It is an all the time command because as the Pilgrims knew and we know, life is not always fun and easy. Life has many challenges and God wants us to love Him through them. The Pilgrims experienced these challenges but were committed to a greater cause, the Great Commission.


Keep The Light of Our Commitment to God Burning!