What does Firework Night, a ship called the Mayflower, King James I of England, the foundations of America, a man on a bonfire and a man on a cross all have common? Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot. One of the more dubious events in English history. A reckless attempt to destroy both royal and political power in one go by assassinating King James I. It was the first terror attack on London and guess what? It was all done in the name of religion.

Every November millions of every day people turn into pyromaniacs, lighting bonfires and purchasing brightly coloured domestic explosives to detonate in their backyard or in some cases, their living room. It’s all done in the name of fun and to commemorate what happened here at the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The Gunpowder Plot was, amongst other things a spectacular failure. This fella Guy Fawkes, hatched a plan with his pals and then got caught holding the smoking gun, so to speak, manoeuvring 36 barrels of gunpower into the basement beneath the House of Lords. It all happened at a time of great religious tension across Europe and would eventually lead to a group of Christians setting sail across the Atlantic.

Southampton is a major stop over for posh cruise liners but 400 years ago a famous old ship called the Mayflower left the city, a different kind of vessel to say the least. The food onboard was dried fish rather than smoked salmon and a hangover from the free booze on the cruise would more likely have been scurvy or typhoid onboard the Mayflower. So why did a hundred or so people take on such a perilous sea passage? In a nutshell, anyone who was serious about following Jesus was running into trouble for not signing up to the religious rules laid out by James I. Old King Jimmy had survived the attack on his life and was now determined to crackdown on those who refused to swear allegiance to dead religion.

Just a few short years after the Gunpowder Plot, a group of radicals left on the Mayflower for a one way sea passage to the New World. They paid a high price for a personal relationship with God, a deep commitment to the Bible and a passion to see others experience new life through Jesus. They would lay the foundations stones of America and history would call them the Pilgrim Fathers. Now, it would be great to be able to say that everything went swimmingly well but human nature tends to prevent that. There were many injustices that quickly followed the arrival of these Europeans onto American soil. The church has got many things wrong throughout the ages when it has traded a relationship with a living God for oppressive religious systems.

So there you have it, the connection between Firework Night, the Mayflower, King James I of England and the foundations of America. But what about the man on the bonfire and the man on the cross, Guy Fawkes and Jesus Christ? Well both of them were seen as a threat to the establishment, both were charged with treason and both were removed in rather unsavoury circumstances. Guy Fawkes, whose burning effigy is given pride of place on top of a million bonfires was a terrorist but Jesus was declared innocent even by his enemies. Guy Fawkes frankly changed nothing but Jesus has changed billions through his amazing life, his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection. You too can experience the forgiveness and new life that Christ offers us all. A clean slate, a second chance and the hope of eternity with God beyond the grave.

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