Who does this remind you of: Funny hats, turkeys, and rifles? If you said, "A redneck birthday party," you are funny but wrong.
With Thanksgiving in view, you probably thought of the Pilgrims. Maybe, you had the honor of being in the first grade Thanksgiving pageant, playing Governor Bradford, John Alden (or Priscilla), Miles Standish or even Squanto. The Pilgrims are a quaint relic of American history, their legacy relegated to inflatable lawn ornaments and accordion table decorations. However, there are still pilgrims today--and you may be one!
In 1517, the Reformation called for changes in the European church. By the time you read this, we will have celebrated its anniversary on October 31. Out of that movement came many splinter groups. One English group, the Puritans, didn't believe the Reformed church was pure enough, so they moved to Holland. Despite their acceptance in Holland, they missed their English culture and customs.
The English were colonizing the New World, which they named Virginia. The idea of starting a new life in a new world appealed to these Pilgrims; so, in 1620, the Mayflower set sail.
A pilgrim is someone who journeys in a foreign land. A pilgrimage is a trip to a particular location, usually for religious purposes. The Pilgrims certainly fulfilled both definitions: They traveled to strange lands to find religious freedom for themselves. They became strangers and sojourners on the earth.
The Pilgrim concept didn't die out with that little band of Puritans with funny hats; it continues today with all who follow God.
About 4,000 years ago, God told Abraham to emigrate from his home in Haran to a strange land that would become his new home (Genesis 12). He left everyone and everything to follow God to Canaan. Two generations later, grandson Jacob (Israel, Genesis 32:28) was asked his age by Pharaoh of Egypt. "And Jacob said to Pharaoh, 'The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage'" (Genesis 47:9). Speaking of Abraham, Hebrews informs us, "By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (vv. 9, 10). God promised a new home for these men--and all who follow God after them--therefore, they admitted their time in this world was a pilgrimage.
Believers in Jesus Christ are heirs of the same promise given to Abraham: "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29). All who follow Christ are modern-day pilgrims on a pilgrimage. We are strangers in a strange land, seeking a better place, where we can freely worship God: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'" (Revelation 21:3-5).
We are Puritans, seeking purity of life and worship--strangers to the world (2 Peter 4:3, 4). Thus, we sing:
This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through;
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore (Jim Reeves).
This Thanksgiving--and every day--give thanks for the salvation and reign of our pilgrim leader, Jesus (Revelation 11:15)!