taking the middle ground

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.
John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” (1630)

“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 feete on the firme and stable earth…
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Fatih and Honor
of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony”

William Bradford: History of Plymouth Plantation c. 1650

According to History.com, William Bradford was a founder as well as a longtime governor
of the Plymouth Colony.

He was one of the original Mayflower passengers and signed the Mayflower Compact.
Bradford helped to draft the legal code ” and facilitated a community centered on
private subsistence agriculture and religious tolerance.
Around 1630, he began to compile his two-volume “Of Plymouth Plantation,”
one of the most important early chronicles of the settlement of New England.”

Bradford was a staunch member of the Separatist Chruch, a church body that was opposed
to the Chruch of England’s dominance over the lives of all English citizens.
The Church was (is) a state church overseen by the sitting monarch and so religious
groups such as the Separatists,
who were opposed to the Catholic influence over the Church,
felt an increasing need to find a place that was more open and tolerant to
varying sects of Christianity.

So as a young man, Bradford left England, moving to the Dutch Republic (Holland)
where religious freedoms were more widely permitted.

Bradford eventually married and began a family—
but as time went on, there was concern over the encroaching strong Dutch influence
upon the English Seperatirt’s children…
This was the impetus needed for the Separatists to seek a new life in a new land.
Thus joining the Mayflower pilgrims…pilgrims seeking a new land, a God-fearing land,
yet a God-fearing land accepting of a diverse Chrisitan faith, Bradford and his family
made the perilous journey across the Atlantic.

“Bradford’s history was singular in its tendency to separate religious from
secular concerns.
Unlike similar tracts from orthodox Massachusetts Bay,
Bradford did not interpret temporal affairs as the inevitable unfolding of
God’s providential plan.
Lacking the dogmatic temper and religious enthusiasm of the Puritans of the
Great Migration, Bradford steered a middle course for Plymouth Colony between the
Holy Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the tolerant secular community of Rhode Island.

A common sense sort of man…seeking the middle ground in a new world.
Which leaves me wondering, when I watch and hear what’s taking place around this
nation of ours, a nation that was once the hope of a people seeking to
worship the God of all Creation as that of His created while worshiping that of
His risen son…worshiping in the tolerance of varying denominations,
I wonder where that nation has gone…as that notion of worshiping the Creator…
a nation under God, is now fraught with grave contention.

David Fiorazo begins his book, The Cost of Our Silence,
with this look back to our founding as a God-fearing, Christian tolerant nation…
albeit when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the idea of a “nation” was something
far from their thinking.
Theirs was simply the thinking of survival while building a new life in a new world.

Survival, living, worshiping and finding a place of happiness and peace.

David notes that in the earliest days in this land, when Christians experienced
hard times, their desperation caused them to rely on God.

Conversely, when things are going well, we (now) often choose to rely on ourselves.

Throughout history, the Lord often allowed persecution in order to turn people back to Him.

Men came to these shores hoping to establish a God-fearing settlement that would flourish
on faith and freedom.

So opens Chapter 1 “What’s Happening to Our Heritage?” in David Fiorazo’s book.

And so I will leave us today with this one thought offered by David…

“Has God removed His hand of protection and Providence from our nation?”

As William Bradford was near death, he reflected on life in the new land
by way of a journal entry.
He had been governer as well as a major designer in the community,
establishing the standard of living, the laws,
the judicial system as well as the economic system to be used
for that of Plymouth as well as the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Most importantly he helped to establish what was to be the spiritual life of
these early communities. A spiritual life based on the acknowledgment of God
and that of His Divine intent for His created in this new land…
along with an acceptance of how each man and woman would worship..
It was to be the basis for our religious tolerance today…

Bradford found himself opining the sentiment that this once dutiful Nation was
beginning to actually show the early signs, signs during Bradford’s own lifetime,
signs which seem to be coming into full fruition today,
that this nation was and is finding herself no longer willing to acknowledge the Creator
of all of the Universe…
nor is she willing to afford those who continue to call themselves Christians the
God given rights to do so.

And so we now ask ourselves…Has God removed His hand of protection and Providence
from our nation… because we first removed our faith and belief in Him…?

Shortly before his death, Governor Bradford wrote a journal entry:
“O sacred bond, whilst inviolably preserved?
How sweet and precious were the fruits that flowed from the same!
But when this fidelity decayed, then their ruin approached.
O that these ancient members had not died or been dissipated
(if it had been the will of God)
or else that this holy care and constant faithfulness had still lived,
and remained with those that survived…
But (alas) that subtle serpent hath slyly wound himself under fair pretenses of necessity
and the like, to untwist these sacred bonds and ties…
I have been happy, in my first times, to see, and with much comfort to enjoy,
the blessed fruits of this sweet communion, but it is now a part of my misery in old age,
to find and feel the decay and want thereof (in a great measure)
and with grief and sorrow of heart to lament and bewail the same.
And for others’ warning and admonition, and my own humiliation, do I here note the same.”

Do you know your roots?

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

DSC00283
(the emerging roots of root bound paperwhite bulbs / Julie Cook / 2015)

My dad and his family can trace their roots to 13th century Scotland–that being on his dad’s side. His mother’s side documents their early start back to England and that fateful Mayflower couple Pricilla Mullins and John Alden—th wonderful stuff of legends and lore which makes for great stories.

It is however rather forlornly that I often find myself staring at the large copy xeroxed of this giant map-like family tree based on my dad’s family’s journey—always feeling a bit hesitant to claim my tiny branch. Being adopted I often think that there is another tree out there somewhere, in the black hole of my life, missing a tiny limb. . .that being me.

And then there is my mom’s family and their story, all of which is a bit more sketchy. She was of direct Scotch / Irish blood but that’s about all we know. We surmise both families made their way to the United States on the heels of the devastating An Gorta Mór, better known as the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800’s or even further back to the Bliain an Áir, the year of Slaughter which saw an equally devastating demise of the Irish population, due primarily to starvation, in the mid 1700’s.

Mother’s Irish mother, born at the start of new century in 1902, married her Scottish father in 1924. At some point he sadly took to drink and gambling, losing recklessly everything the couple had on that fateful day in 1929 when all the world simply seemed to crash. Eventually locked away to the confines of a TB sanatorium, he died sick, lost and alone in 1941. My grandmother, to my recollection, never spoke of him again. She was left to raise two young girls at the onset of both a global world war and devastating depression.

My grandmother, who forged seemingly emotionless ahead with her two daughters in tow, built both a successful business and comfortable life for her small family. She was never the warm and fuzzy type of grandmother but rather much more matter of fact, frugal and no nonsense. Given her circumstance, it isn’t surprising. Being both weary and cautious became two common threads woven into her fabric.

For whatever reason, she was very leery, or weary, of the Catholic Church as she was convinced that if John F. Kennedy became president, we were all in going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, as God forbid, a Catholic should be president. A bit irrational to say the least and as to where such irrationality originated, I haven’t a clue.

Yet I find it rather ironic, that to this day, there are many a Christian, even in the midst of this modern 21st century of ours, who are indeed equally weary or leery of both the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Maybe it is because there are many Christians who are actually unfamiliar with the history, our history, of the one true “Church.” Maybe it’s because many Christians fail to remember that there was once but one single body, unlike the multitude of branches we see today splitting off from the once sturdy main trunk, much like a giant family tree.

A quick google search yields staggering numbers in regard to a concise listing of total Christian denominations. . .upwards of 35,000–give or take a couple of hundred depending on the source.
Rather amazing that in roughly 2000 years, approximately 35,000 branches have sprouted from one main trunk—but given the divisive nature of human beings, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

When we say in our creed, or declaration of faith, that. . .”We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. . .” we are not saying that we believe in the Catholic church in Rome, as so many of the faithful erroneously believe, but rather we are declaring a belief in a global family–a global family tree containing many branches. The word catholic, with a little “c” is a latin word, catholicus, which comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos, meaning universal. So therefore in our creed we claim to believe in the one holy “universal” and apostolic church, not a church, faith, or denomination based in Rome, Italy.

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in the one single trunk of Christianity splitting into two branches, each of the same faith–the Latin Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East. The splitting hasn’t appeared to slow down all these many years and branches later but to the contrary it seems to be spiraling, splitting and multiplying almost out of control.

Yet it is not my intent today to examine the divisions and differences of opinions within our Christian faith but rather I am merely making an observation about roots and branches as it were, and as to where one may find oneself on a proverbial family tree–be it the tree of one’s genealogy or of one’s spiritual family tree. And since I am adopted, which seems to throw a small monkey wrench into which branch and to which tree I am actually meant to belong, I am sweetly reminded that we are all adopted sons and daughters of Grace–so perhaps that means we are all members of the family tree of Grace and Salvation—which is actually a very welcoming and comforting thought indeed.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26