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A Twofold Heritage

The ravages of winter took a heavy toll on the newly founded pilgrim colony in New England. The first winter was severe and they were ill-prepared for it. The long ocean voyage of more that two months had been taxing. Some of their number died enroute, and the lack of proper diet had weakened many others. It was the middle of December when the Mayflower came to anchor in the harbor at Plymouth. By the end of March their number of 102 had been reduced to only 51, and almost half of them were children. Only 20 men and 8 women had lived through that dreadful winter. In spite of the rigors of this first winter in the new land, not one of the remaining pilgrims chose to return to England when the Mayflower sailed again for England in early April. Before long, their leader Governor Carver also died. The pilgrims selected William Bradford as governor. Although he was only 31 years old, Governor Bradford proved to be a good leader and was elected governor thirty times.

Even though some of the natives were as inhospitable as the first winter, in time the pilgrims developed a friendship with them. When the harvest was over that year, for the first time since they came to America, the pilgrims had all the food they needed. They had ample wood cut for their fires, and their houses were readied for the winter.

Governor Bradford declared that it was time for “thanksgiving”. A feast was prepared, and the Indian friends were invited to join the pilgrims for this festive occasion. God was to be thanked for sparing their lives, for their freedom n this new land, for the abundance of their harvest, and for their Indian friends. And so began our day of national thanksgiving.

We, today, can learn anew from the pilgrim forefathers. They knew that their very lives depended upon the blessing of Almighty God, and they were not forgetful in acknowledging this. Our nation, and its people, have traveled far from this day in 1620. But have we traveled in the right direction? Have we, as a people, been mindful of this early example? It is especially important that we as Christians walk the pathway of thankfulness.

God is good and sends countless blessings upon the earth. Jesus explained the goodness of God by saying that our Father in heaven makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. May we not be forgetful to return thanks to God, Who is the source of our many blessings. We need to be grateful for this good land in which we live, and also to share in the responsibility that St. Paul places upon Christians when he instructs them to pray for kings and for all that at are in authority.

Our national heritage is a great blessing, but it is second in importance in comparison with our Christian heritage. Harvest was the time of the pilgrims’ thanksgiving. We join in thanking God for His promise that while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest will not cease. (Gen. 8:22) But we also look to the greater harvest—the harvest of souls. This harvest is the primary purpose for living and should be the goal of our lives.

Today, we are still surrounded by the cloud of witnesses of which we read in the twelfth chapter of the Hebrews epistle. They have passed this way before us. We are urged to remember them for they have spoken to us the Word of God, and are encouraged to follow their faith, mindful of the end of their lives. (Heb. 13:7)

“JESUS CHRIST, THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER” (Heb. 13:8)

“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise unto God continually, that is, the FRUIT OF OUR LIPS, GIVING THANKS TO HIS NAME.” (Heb. 13:15)

“We thank Thee, God, for saints in times long past,

For fathers brave, who laid foundation strong;

These pilgrims true, in living faith held fast,

And blest the wilds with strains of sacred song:

They built their homes, they turned the virgin sod,

Fair temples raised to thee, Thou Living God.”

“What treasures vast which live from age to age:

How great our debt! Thou, God, hast sought our race!

Thy Holy Word, which glows on hallowed page

Sweet psalms of hope, the sacraments of grace.

For all, dear Lord, we render thanks to Thee.

Of treasures vast, O may we worthy be.”

[Evald Benjamin Lawson]

(From the writings of the late Pastor A.C. Holmgren- November 1984)

Submitted by Pastor Stan

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