November 5th – Remembering

This is one of the dates children know, as well as they know the date of their own birthday. From being tiny tots they are taught to chant: “Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gun powder, treason and plot.” Of course we were raised on the popular version of the story that the villain of the piece was Guy Fawkes, who, in 1605 was discovered ready to blow up the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder. Lord Monteagle, a Roman Catholic Peer of the Realm, had been warned not to attend the State Opening of Parliament on November 5th, hinting that a severe explosion could take place. The cellars of the Parliament buildings were searched and Guy Fawkes was later discovered with a huge wood pile under which were vast quantities of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes, a 35 year old Yorkshire man, had been recruited because of his courage and coolness in action with the Spanish Army.
This whole story is but the tip of a political iceberg, the greater part of which is beneath the surface. The appallingly hideous death-punishment meted out to Guy Fawkes has been masked by the carnival effigies made and burned in his memory, and all set in displays of fireworks (which were not part of the original story).
No, I am not about to start moaning about the present three or four weeks of fireworks which once were ignited only on this one night. No, I am not complaining about the bonfire parties, and what terror the noises of fireworks create in domestic animals. But I am concerned that every year good people, even careful and experienced people, get maimed and burned, and some even killed by remembering the festival which, perhaps by now, in a liberal-minded society, should have been buried and forgotten. But … any excuse for a party, Eh? Despite the risks, the dangers, and the callousness, and remembering the brutal execution of a traitor, we will remember it because it is an exciting occasion, now virtually severed from its callous roots.
I am more impressed in these later years of mine with another act of remembrance in November. It is on the 4th Thursday of that month, and is called “Thanksgiving Day”. It’s an American festival, of course, and commemorates the thankfulness of the nation’s founding fathers. You all know the details. The vital difference between Bonfire Night and Thanksgiving is just that in the latter, people are urged to remember and give thanks to God for all his mercies. Psalm 100: 1-3
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
A Prayer:
Can you say, and mean, the General Thanksgiving from memory? It begins: “Almighty God, we thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and heart thanks for all thy …” Well, go on then!!
Now read Leviticus 25: 1-24.

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