Sunday, November 27, 2016

2016.11.27 Remember and Do LIkewise...........

The Gettysburg Address has a familiar ring. President Abraham Lincoln, November 19,1863 delivered it in a matter of minutes. Nice brief homily! Lincoln was a Republican. This beautiful speech was delivered to a divided nation at war with itself. It inspired hope and remembrance of who we are as a nation. Does it still?

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. 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, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Thank you, Mr. Lincoln. We, 1,153 years later, are also in the midst of civil strife in which much blood has been spilled, most of it senseless.

Many Christians believe that Jesus Christ shed blood to save us. I believe that Jesus’s death was a crime of epic proportions that occurred in a system in which all parts contributed to its happening, including those who loved him. But they did not forget what he stood for. They kept talking and remembering this brilliant life and this useless death—over and over until they derived hope in resurrection. Today, Christians remember this founding event regularly in order to call us back to God who created us equal—all of us—and whose desire it is that no more blood be spilled for Christ’s sake, or anyone else’s either. 

As we enter this liturgical season of Advent, we soon will say goodbye to Barack Obama, our president of eight years, and to his family, most handsome and bright. He is the president who ran on a platform of Hope. He is our first brown-skinned president. He is the president who entered office with dark brown hair and leaves with gray hair. He is part of what makes American great.

I hope we will remember all that he has stood for and all that he has accomplished on our behalf.

I hope we will encourage our new government to stop shedding invisible blood and take time to evaluate Obama’s reforms with care as changes are made.

I hope all of us Americans, citizens and  citizens-in-waiting, will make extra efforts to get to know each other's stories.

I hope we will be able to see each other beyond our politics, our skin colors, our genders, our religions, our physical or financial status, whether we were born here or not. I hope we will have respectful conversations, listen and talk with open hearts, rather than looking to convert anyone to one single point of view—our own. 

I hope we will honestly try to be true to our founding vision, the one we still dare to call these United States, a country in which ALL people who live here may dream and work and, yes, enjoy equal access without fear to all the many resources available—economic, social, educational, spiritual, agricultural, legal, cultural, natural—from sea to shining sea.    

We the people do not know who we are, nor who our neighbors are, so steeped are we in our own positions, fears, values, and judgments. We are not the land of the free until we can share that freedom—and help each other hope. 

I hope that if there is another speaker as eloquent as Lincoln that person will recall us to our founding values. 

The apostle Paul in his famous love letter to Love in the Bible (I Corinthians 13) declared the three top spiritual gifts to be faith, hope, and love. But alas, he then rank-ordered them to say that the greatest of these is love. In my experience, the three are of equal value, inseparable, and ceaselessly interacting. 

Hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

May the God of hope bless us, keep us, and shine upon and from within us, that we may abound in Hope, Faith and Love—this day and always.