I am half-way around the globe this week - in east Africa, on a mission trip to Uganda. I wrote this post a few days before I left, as I was thinking about the vast differences between that country and my homeland. Cultural, economic, language. . .the differences are vast. And yet, the United States is not really my home. Those English Separatists, the Pilgrims (our theological forefathers and foremothers in many ways) knew this so much better than I.
Of Plimoth Plantation was written over a period of years by the leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation is the single most complete authority for the story of the Pilgrims and the early years of the Colony they founded. Written between 1620 and 1647, the journal describes the story of the Pilgrims from 1608, when they settled in the Netherlands, through the 1620 Mayflower voyage, until the year 1647. The book ends with a list, written in 1650, of Mayflower passengers and what happened to them. . .
The Bradford journal records not only the events of the first 30 years but also the reactions of the colonists. The Bradford journal is regarded by historians as the preeminent work of 17th century America. It is Bradford’s simple yet vivid story, as told in his journal, that has made the Pilgrims the much-loved "spiritual ancestors of all Americans" (Samuel Eliot Morison).
(thanks to Wikipedia)
Of Plimoth Plantation
(Enjoy some samples of Bradford's original spelling, too!)
Is this our response when we think of our homeland? To fall on our knees and bless the God of heaven? What about when we think of our eternal home? What do you think will be your response when we finally get there? Ignore all the hypothetical talk about "When I get to heaven, the first thing I want to ask God is. . . " No, rather, what will our VERY FIRST response be? The lyrics of the MercyMe song, I Can Only Imagine can only touch the surface:
[Chapter 1]. . . by a joint consent they resolved to go into the Low Countries, where they heard was freedom of religion for all men; as also how sundry from London and other parts of the land had been exiled and persecuted for the same cause, and were gone thither, and lived at Amsterdam and in other places of the land. So after they had continued together about a year, and kept their meetings every Sabbath in one place or other, exercising the worship of god amongst themselves, notwithstanding all the diligence and malice of their adversaries, they seeing they could no longer continue in that condition, they resolved to get over into Holland as they could. Which was in the year 1607 and 1608. . .[Chapter 7]. . . So they lefte that goodly and pleasante citie, which had been ther resting place near 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrimes, and looked not much on these things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest cuntrie, and quieted their spirits. . .
So they left that goodly and pleasant city, which had been ther resting place near 12 years; but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on these things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits. . .[Chapter 9]. . . Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast & furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles & miseries therof, againe to set their feete on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente. And no marvell if they were thus joyefull, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on ye coast of his owne Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remaine twentie years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious & dreadfull was ye same unto him. . .
Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. And no marvel if they were thus joyful, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on the coast of his own Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remain twenty years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious and dreadful was the same unto him. . .
I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by Your side
I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine. . .
Words & Music by Bart Millard
© 1999 Simpleville Music (ASCAP)
Do we "know we are pilgrims"? When we lift up our eyes to the heavens, do we recognize it as "our dearest country"? Does the thought of heaven "quiet our spirits?" Or are we too enamored with this "goodly and pleasant city, which has been our resting place" these many years?
Here is another version of the Plimoth account, from the same era. Note the differences in bold.
Nathaniel Morton's New England's Memorial was based on the account of "William Bradford, sometime governor thereof. "
So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. 11:16), and therein quieted their spirits.
Let the conversation continue.