Thanksgiving Eve, November 25, 2009
This morning I am again amazed at the glory of God reflected in His creation. Today’s sunrise painted brilliant colors and although winter’s hibernation loomed, the crisp air was full of life. All preparation is in anticipation of Spring and presentment of plenty. His promises are present for our tomorrows. In such I give thanks.
It seems illogical to experience such peace and joy while also feeling such deep ache, fear and anger. Such conflict often leaves me voiceless. How to explain a faith that sustains and provides hope while being fearful for tomorrow? How to explain the majesty of God’s truth reflected in all of creation while being deeply hurt by the inability of the world to see truth and the inability to express truth in a way that is heard? How to be abandoned to God’s calling while being angered at the cost? How to joy at God’s grace and its working in my life while feeling the sting of a world full of judgment? How to be in the world and not of the world?
On this day we are asked to give Thanks to the Almighty for His provision and so we do. Often this thanksgiving is expressed in nationalistic terms focused on national plenty, peace and personal opportunity.
In this day and in this time, however; war rages in parts of the world, Christians are attacked and slaughtered in India, widows and orphans dot our landscape brought by the War Against Terror, the economy is troubled and we celebrate convenience as a greater fundamental human right than life.
Wherein do we give thanks? Yet, in all and for all we are called to give praise to the author of all.
In 1621 more than half of the founding Pilgrims at Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts succumbed to disease and starvation in their first year on North American soil. On December 13th of that year they held a three day feast to give thanks to God for their provision.
From July 1-3, 1863 more than 51,000 Americans became casualties of war at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The soil of our nation was stained red from the bloodshed of brother facing brother in battle.
On October 3, 1863, the same year as the Battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of National Thanksgiving observing:
“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the Source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”
At the time of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, the Union Army was still more than 61,000 casualties away from General Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. The final surrender of the last remaining forces allied with the Confederacy occurred on June 23, 1865. Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, more than two months prior to the final surrender.
More than 89 years would pass before government supported school segregation and consignment of black Americans to inferior education would be declared unconstitutional. It was more than 143 years before America would elect its first Black President. The vestiges of America’s partnership with slavery are still present in anger, color awareness, resentment and paternalistic and overt racism.
For what did Lincoln proclaim thanks? And would he proclaim such thanks if he knew his own end?
Next year, 2009, our nation’s Constitution will protect the intentional killing of more than one million unborn children. Our Constitution has served this end for more than 45 years. Abortion is still largely restricted in South America and was restricted in Canada until 1988 when Canada’s Supreme Court followed the lead of Roe v. Wade and found abortion restrictions unconstitutional. Western Europe still largely restricts abortion with the exception of Great Britain which legalized the procedure in 1967. Today the United States, through its wealth and cultural reach is the primary exporter of abortion services and philosophy.
For this, do we give Thanks?
How are we called to sing praise when God showers His blessings on the unjust and remorseless? Can we not Judge and call upon God’s vengeance on those the world esteems but who profit on the misery of destruction?
While referencing the two opposing forces in the Civil War in his Second Inaugural Address Abraham Lincoln observed: “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces,” and now we may add “wringing their wealth from the tears of frightened women and the blood of the unborn.”
And now how is it that we are to honor the great step forward in our nation’s battle with racism with the election of a black President when that President opposes calling on the great promise of America, a promise that placed him in high authority, to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and innocent the unborn and the unwanted newly born?
How are we to give Thanks to a God of truth in a world of falsehood and contradictions?
Where is God’s hand and where is Justice in such times when evil flourishes?
Nailed to the cross – and therein is our praise.
For though we have suffered from the world as we should not, we can claim eternity through no merit of our own but only and reliably through His grace. Though the world has rejected us, He has accepted us so that through our brokenness we can know the full measure of His love.
Our thanks pours forth when we grow down in order to grow up. As we understand our nature and its dark depths we can rejoice in the grace that sets aside eternal judgment and proclaim, even in the midst of evil, Abraham Lincoln’s word regarding those who protected slavery: ” but let us judge not, that we be not judged..”
For Lincoln celebrated God’s grace for all in the midst of waging and suffering through war to end that which was at war with God’s promises. For Abraham Lincoln knew that God had perfected His love with the cross and the resurrection. Lincoln understood the march of history and the workings of God’s truth.
The questions presented to America in the 1850’s just prior to the Civil War are presented to America now, just in a slightly different context.
How long will America surrender her calling to the mush of convenience and comfort? Is any just cause simple and affirming when change is required? Can America continue to claim to be the world’s last great hope for human dignity when it surrenders its dignity to the cause of political expediency?
Can our great institutions of faith and religion claim righteousness and love when those most needy of the protection of righteousness and love are slaughtered in their innocence and vulnerability?
Can comfort be gained by the foisted evil upon the confused and frightened souls and minds of children facing terrible choices? Can we long claim light as we walk in the darkness? Can a nation that slaughters its young long exist?
When shall the eyes be opened? Will we continue to accept a lie; rather than confront the truth?
For truly, it cannot be said that any nation in human history has had greater resources to confront the tragedy of human frailty than this nation.
A nation unlimited in economic potential and resource; a nation powerful in might and culturally transcending and invasive; a nation to which much has been given and much is therefore required.
Yet America now, as American then, is a nation that trembles before its own injustice; that quakes with fear of exposure and in which an abiding shame terrorizes into silence the voices of righteousness.
The truth is that such a nation roars but is being internally weakened. And unless an awakening occurs, it is a nation that will corrode and fracture and fail.
For such is the march of history and the measure of truth. The spirit that burns within; that yearns for purpose; that calls forth great causes and great sacrifices; that pains in the face of injustice; that separates man from beast; that is the yearning for and also evidence of the presence of God in the soul; shall not die in the face of rationalizations, moral cowardice and deception.
But rather, that spirit of truth will become more stark, more illuminating, more sacrificial, more leading and thereby more influential and more inspiring.
Lincoln knew this. That the greater noise generated by evil and the louder man’s rationalization of evil, the closer to God’s grace for all ends at the foot of the cross. For only in the wilderness is our pride and the pride of a nation broken and do we cease proclaiming ourselves as god and only then can we hear the true God calling our name. For His grace has hemmed us in so that the truth of His promises may be delivered.
And so in the midst of such suffering in his Second Inaugural Address Lincoln stated:
” 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 bondsman’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.”
For Lincoln understood that God so loves the world that He will break nations to redeem man and that through His son on the cross, God will heal a nation humbled through brokenness to His truth.
The only control held by those who oppose the forces of truth are the control over the degree of violence and hardship that will accompany their defeat – but their defeat is pre-ordained.
All of us of faith witness and wonder at God’s inestimable patience at evil. His brutal and silent walk to the cross; His forbearance of man’s destructive ends.
We can claim righteousness in His cause; but claim no righteousness in self but that imparted by His grace.
For who are we to judge God’s timing when absent of the patience of His love we stand condemned? For did not the patience of God make our decision for God more plain? More understood by a depraved heart? Did not God’s leading us to the wilderness of brokenness of pride and designs serve to instruct us that we are not God and that all of the work of our own hands and designs is futile? Did not God meet us there in our need and restore our souls in fellowship with His – through grace, forgiveness and love?
Then how are we to doubt his timing with a nation or a cause? Are we to nail His mighty hand to the tree of political ballots or expediency or pyrrhic victory? Or are we to be ever vigilant to His call and stand firm in humility to His truth and to consistently and with integrity in all we do and engage proclaim Him? We have a duty to engage and what is right but our measurement is not of the world.
Why measure His presence by elections; rather than having faith that that which he rendered in our hearts He desires for all hearts?
So we must not grow weary and weak in the battle – but rather take heart and courage in the promises of our Lord.
And for those who claim God yet rationalize evil in a false hope of extending healing through cheap grace – how dare you doubt the power of God to forgive. Such stand condemned for seeking the comfort and accolades of man rather than seeking God with all of their hearts, mind and soul. Man’s rationalization does not ease the heart; nor calm the spirit but only sets both against God. Such a heart darkens and such a spirit dies as it seeks comfort of other men.
Yet even in the face of the truth that the act of killing one’s own child; or acquiescing in the killing of a child for self comfort is a sin condemned by the truth of God’s word; God offers healing and forgiveness by taking the consequences of such sin through the provision of His son. Under such powerful love is the only basis on which any of us can stand. The hypocrites who proclaim God’s love but ignore the need for His love, walk the path of destruction and lead others thereon.
Just as those who proclaim God’s truth, yet claim that they are above the need for His love walk the same destructive path. Those who love to condemn but forget the cost of their own sin. Those who see truth as their personal weapon and grace as a sign of weakness. Who cheaply say hate the sin and love the sinner while not allowing the sinner to stain their pews – to them God’s judgment will be swift and certain.
For what greater cause His love than to save lives and souls? To cure poverty – the poor shall be with you always He proclaimed.
To secure borders – be gracious to the alien he proclaims; to defeat science and the age of reason – my truth is manifest and visible he has stated; to protect and regenerate the family? What God has joined no man can put asunder. Even to save innocent life? God’s redemption reaches all.
And so what to make of all the causes? Do not abandon causes for we must engage – most importantly, seek Christ with all of your heart, mind and soul and stand firmly in His presence and then be called to His will. Do not substitute your ministry for election results, or causes or accolades – but always preach and live that Christ was; that He willingly laid down His life for us and that Christ is risen and thereby He is. Proclaim Christ – and in such your duty shall become clear in causes; but leave the results to God.
We must not measure our victories by elections or earthly accolades. Rather we must measure our walk by our relationship with our Savior while recognizing that such a relationship calls us to be in the world while not of the world.
We are not to flee or shirk our duty; but rather to engage our duty with the joy that comes from the knowledge that His promises are true and therefore, will be delivered.
And so I give Thanks! I praise that the author of truth has declared victory: that through His grace I have been blessed beyond measure – with family, with friends, with an eternal hope – in all things blessed beyond I deserve. I praise the power of His promises, the very promises which this nation called upon in its founding and the promises which we as a people have struggled and are still struggling to understand. Such promises that shall be delivered for in His grace and love the darkness of midnight is always the eve of light.
And so I pray that His hand of judgment be stayed; yet that righteousness shall have a new birth through His grace.
And though I pray that Almighty God spare this nation the division that looms; I know that God’s love and grace have not entered the world to save man’s creations or institutions but rather to redeem man. For if it be His will that this course, so clearly before us and so evident in end; shall be trod over a span of months or centuries; if it perfects His will, so be it done. Yet, if man’s heart will be pierced by the obvious truth of the injustice of infanticide; then I pray that this nation will restore itself through righteous and compassionate action and end its complicity in such destruction.
I pray that we rise above our self-interest and self-absorption to once again stand as a shining city on the hill – that all who come; whether forgotten or powerful; disenfranchised or respected; elderly or unborn; male or female; of whatever race or creed; may enter these borders and be recognized as wonderful and miraculous creations of a loving God and therefore afforded dignity and respect by just and righteous laws.
May your Thanksgiving be full of praise and joy.