Thursday, November 20, 2008

Will the Real William Brewster Please Stand Up?

I stood in a one room “clapboard” house and looked around. The inside walls were sealed with a combination of straw and mud to keep out the cold and keep in the heat. A fire on an open hearth made of hardened mud and clay to radiate the heat, was being used to cook the simple meal of meat “pudding” wrapped in what was described as pork intestines. It looked, for all intentional purposes, like modern day sausage links. The house had a thatched roof, but the interior was furnished with some very out-of-place furniture we were told came with them aboard ship from England some seven years prior. Many other things were homemade. Sitting near the fire was a man who appeared to be in his forties, dressed in what might have stepped off of a Shakespearian stage. I asked him what his name was and he replied, “William Brewster”. Immediately, my mind opened a file of remembrance from my readings about the colony I seemed to be “experiencing” at the moment.

“…William Brewster more than any man was entitled to be called the Founder of the Pilgrim Church. It originated in his house at Scrooby, where he was born in 1566, and he sacrificed everything for it. He was elder of the church at Leyden and Plymouth, and served it also as minister for some time after going out. Through troubles, trials, and adversity, he stood by the Plymouth flocks, and when his followers were in peril and perplexity, worn and almost hopeless through fear and suffering, he kept a stout heart and bade them be of good cheer. Bradford has borne touching testimony to the personal attributes of his friend, who, he tells us, was "qualified above many," and of whom he writes that "he was wise and discrete, and well-spoken, having a grave and deliberate utterance, of a very cheerful spirit, very sociable and pleasant among his friends, of an humble and modest mind, of a peaceable disposition, under-valuing himself and his own abilities and sometimes over-valuing others, inoffensive and innocent in his life and conversation, which gained him the love of those without, as well as those within."
Of William Brewster it has been truly said that until his death, on April 16, 1644, his hand was never lifted from Pilgrim history. He shaped the counsels of his colleagues, helped to mould their policy, safeguarded their liberties, and kept in check tendencies towards religious bigotry and oppression. He tolerated differences, but put down wrangling and dissension, and promoted to the best of his power the strength and purity of public and private life. Mary Brewster, wife of William, who went out with him, died before 1627…”
As I engaged him further in dialogue, I mentioned my own interest in drama and portrayals, and he stared blankly at me as though hearing but not understanding where I was “coming from” and as if to reaffirm his own identity, in truth. I realized, of course, that in order to portray the real William Brewster, he had to be, in mind and thought, as well as, in surroundings, William Brewster. As I watched him and listened to his tale of their seven years of survival in the new world I was captured at how well he communicated the disposition and spirit of the man I had read about.

In and out of other houses scattered within the rudely constructed “fort”, the other inhabitants were equally compliant with their roles and the explaining of their daily life, not just in talk but in action, for they were engaged in the very hard labor of keeping the village in shape, whether hewing of timbers, repairing a thatched roof, or hulling of walnuts, of which the young lady answered my unasked question, “I think I left them too long to dry.” Their speech, clothing, everything , left you with no doubt but that they were the Pilgrims, who, after seven hard years, were the survivors of the famous Mayflower which arrived in Cape Cod in 1620.

REFLECTIONS: I have alluded to this theme before in my previous blogs, but it continues to bear repeating, I believe, and is a singular need that every child of God must realize, if we are to ever capture that which has so captured us.

Paul says it thusly: “…I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the high call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…” (Philippians 3:12-15)

The Pilgrims came to this land for religious freedom from the oppressive state church persecution. They did so at great sacrifice of life. The Plimoth Plantation, as it is called, is a reenactment of that colony, to share and keep alive a bit of history that is the foundation of our land and life. I commend them for their excellent portrayals and immersion into the life and times of William Brewster and others with him. Because of that beginning, we continue to have religious freedom still not fully experienced in the rest of the world, but sadly, not portrayed by the spirit and disposition of even the most evangelical and conservative of Christian believers. Now, herein is my point, and what I believe Paul is bringing as a challenge to our “modern” day Christianity. Yes, and William Brewster, too.

We don’t have to put on a 1620 period costume, with its Shakespearian accented speech, or live in a hovel of poverty to portray that which has “apprehended” or captured us. We must, however, follow the spirit and action of our Saviour, continuing to immerse ourselves in Him, capturing daily more and more of His mind and will and way – for it is for this purpose His Spirit has captured us and made us a part of His family. We do not have to flee this land to experience such, but we do have to so live a life that portrays Him, even in the midst of, often, an unwelcome society that seeks to pull us out of character. The William Brewster I met stayed in the character of his task. We must ever stay in the Character of our Lord in a similar manner.

Well, I pray I have whetted your appetite in your own hunger for our Lord. Brother Brewster, please pass me a piece of that meat “pudding”, will you?


Jo said...

Good comparison! Now, the next time I see you "in character", are you going to acknowledge me as your sister, or not? (ha)

Mich said...

I bet you are coming up with plenty of new "characters" for your own dramatic presentations. I know you are having a good time.
Love ya!

Amber said...

Very cool. I would love to have been with much fun!

Ray Edwards said...

Great point you make. We need more like William Brewster who stays in character, regardless of what is going on around them. We need to be reminded that as Shakspear put it, "All the world is a stage, and we are actors." But the play is for real. And life or death awaits us after the curtain comes down. The Lord is the Director and we must hear His voice above all others.
BroCo Ray