By Pastor Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ
The wife of one of my college mentors, Carolyn Mack, was the inspiration behind the contents in this article.
There seems to be two versions of America, and perhaps we can see why in America’s two beginnings.
Headed for the “New World” in the 17th century, two very different groups of adventurers left England for the promise of a new life in a new land across the ocean.
Thirteen years prior to the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth, Massachusetts, a group of upper-class Englishmen sailed to America’s first permanent English colony, the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia. Chartered in 1606 by King James I and supported by the Virginia Company of London, the venture sponsors hoped for profit and the expansion of European nations abroad. Unprepared for the hardships they would face in this New World, serious trials soon came to the little colony. Tense relations with the Algonquian-speaking Indians, poor water supply, lack of food, and prolonged drought and disease led to many deaths. A lack of solid leadership led to a period of warfare and, compounded by starvation and disease, resulted in the deaths of many additional colonists. A second charter arrived a few years later with stronger leadership, but then introduced a period of military law which carried harsh punishment for its offenders.
Six hundred miles north of the Jamestown Settlement began America’s first permanent Puritan settlement. It was established by English Separatist Puritans in December 1620. Seeking religious freedom, the group departed Holland, and after much delay and many challenging circumstances, landed on the shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Originally they were bound for Virginia by agreement with a group of London stockholders. But as providence would have it, their colony was destined to be as different as their lives were. They also faced many similar trials of harsh climate and disease as the Jamestown settlers, but the Puritans persevered by faith to get them through that first winter. Providentially, a few Indians of the region were English-speaking. They brokered a peace treaty with the natives and they became invaluable help instructing them in planting corn, catching fish, and gathering fruit. The first harvest of 1621 is what we now celebrate as Thanksgiving Day.
What’s the main difference between the first English colony and the first Puritan one? It was a matter of worldview; the way they viewed their lives, their priorities, and their heart’s motivation. One valued the wealth of the world, while the other viewed the eternal goal of bringing the Gospel to the New World, a world with the promise of religious freedom. Today we are witnessing all sorts of crises: political, economic, environmental, healthcare, education, and leadership. But the root of all these problems is the same competing worldview, as it was in the founding of this nation.
With a worldview set upon profit, power, and acquisition, the Jamestown settlers soon found themselves in a war, starving and quickly losing their lives and vision. With a life perspective set upon simple devotion and dependence upon God, the Puritans found the strength to persevere in the face of adversity. In a spirit of love and of unity, they were radically faithful in their relationships to God, to each other, and to the surrounding peoples. While the Jamestown worldview brought death, that of the Puritans was life-giving.
Which America do you identify with most? Will we spend our days in devotion to our selfish pursuits, looking to make a name for ourselves? Or will we choose the way of love and live for God and sacrificially for others, influencing those around us?
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember that first celebration. Fortified with faith in God, love for others, and an intense hope, this led the settlers to give thanks in the midst of great trials and struggles. As they did, let’s see God’s hand of providence in all we encounter. We should not let fear and anger lead to the devouring of each other until no hope is left. Let’s instead be that self-sacrificing stepping stone for the next generation to know our lives are in God’s hands!
The Bible says those who trust in God are able to live in a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness despite present challenges. Though nearly half of original 102 voyagers on the Mayflower died during the first winter of 1620, some 35 million people trace their ancestry to one of the twenty-four family names passed down—including the lineage of my dear friends, Ron and Carolyn Mack.
Jesus came in humility and self-sacrifice and went to the cross, willingly laying His life down, that you and I might live. He endured the cross and likened Himself as a seed planted in the ground which will bring forth millions who would believe in Him and be saved. Though others may live for power, possessions, and pleasure, seeking to hold onto their lives at the expense of others, let’s follow the course of the Pilgrims and not live for ourselves, but be like that seed planted for the next generation.