The picture and the quote are different wars that is WW1 at Verdun. The quote is Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural. Notice Lincoln’s use of providence, vocation for the nation and the recalling of the widow and orphan, both in great supply. After 11 years of war what are our reflections on the purposes of the Almighty or the just judgements? I pray that come 2014 when the last troops are out of Afghanistan that Mr. Obama can be so poetic, and that he would take the opportunity that will be given.
The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.
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As with so much else in America, if you want to cut to the soul or the bone of a matter you need to listen to Lincoln. (And Silent Cal Coolidge, but he didn’t live in exciting times, but his Autobiography and letters are deeply full of wisdom and heart.) But Lincoln instinctively knew the limits and failures of the civic religion. In the Gettysburg address:
…We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…
The civic religion is part of the law. And the law has no power to save, to grant life. The sure hope is in Jesus Christ who grants eternal life which will surely not be snatched away.
So at St. Mark we juxtaposed the Sept. 11 memorials and our Church’s 110th anniversary. The one is good and proper, the other proclaims life and hope.
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Posted in John, podcast, Sermons
Tagged 9/11, Anniversary, civic religion, gospel, hope, John, law, Lincoln, sermons
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.