Text: 1 Tim 2:1-4, Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
I hope you didn’t mind the reading from Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation. It’s a little longer than normal and not biblical, but if you have never read it, it is a short classic and an amazing document of vision.
It a vision I think shared by Paul writing to Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy to pray for all people. Ask God to help all of them – and give thanks for all of them. Because God’s vision goes beyond the current strife. God’s vision is that all would be saved and come to know the truth. God’s vision is that all would live under proper authority in peace. That we would live lives marked by godliness and integrity. When you are still angry with your brother or jealous of your sister that vision is real tough to see. When our eyes are clouded by covetousness or envy we miss the good gifts that we have been given.
And that is where Lincoln is amazing in this proclamation. This is from Nov of 1863. Let me list the things Lincoln saw in the preceding year.
– The first military draft leading to the NY draft riots killing hundreds.
– The imposition of the first Income Tax
– The suspension of Habeas Corpus (which if you are a civil rights fan was a dark day making TSA pat-downs look like child’s play)
– Losses at Chancellorville and Chickamauga – the costliest 2 day battle of the war
– The Gettysburg victory at the cost of over 50,000 lives union and confederate, which to Lincoln were all Americans
– The switching of Leading Generals 3 times until finding US Grant
In the midst of all that, Lincoln could still say – “The year that is drawing to a close has been filled with blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies…” His vision was larger than the struggle he was persevering in. “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”
Among those mercies also included in Lincoln’s year were:
– The passing of the Lieber code which ordered respect for private property during times of war; a nation he hoped to restore would not pillage and plunder
– The Homestead Act, the west would be open for settlement and expansion and railroads uniting a continental nation. Some of those benefiting from that act would be my ancestors, and of course the Perry County Saxons who would found the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.
– And the preparation of the Emancipation Proclamation – the nation would live up to its founding documents
Lincoln concludes his listing of graces visited upon this nation where Paul starts – with a call for prayer – a prayer for the other, for the all.
“I recommend that while offering up the ascriptions justly due [God] for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers…and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it…to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.” (Lincoln)
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them. Intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (Tim 2:1)
Thanksgiving is a wonderful vision larger than us. We will not see these things fulfilled in our lifetimes. Lincoln saw the cessation of war, but not the better angels of our nature. We do not see the culmination of all those we pray for. But we thank God for them and for their work. Thanksgiving is a wonderful national day set aside to look at the larger picture. The “peace that has been preserved… and the harmony that has prevailed.” And to give thanks for the ultimate peace that has come to us and to all people. Peace with God, a cessation from our strife through that man on the cross. Thanksgiving invites us to find our place in that larger vision – our place marked with dignity beside our neighbor.