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Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

 

70 years ago today the largest fleet ever assembled in world history landed on Normandy Beach, France to invade Hitler’s “Fortress Europe”.  Many brave and frightened men died this day for our freedoms, especially freedom from political tyranny.  Fly your flag today. The results were not a foregone conclusion.

The United States of America fought in order to win and stop tyranny. This seems like such a straightforward thought which seems to elude our leaders in our generation. We can not bargain with tyrants and tyranny, political or spiritual. I think the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia is right on target: Sic Semper Tyrannis. And I give thanks to the Lord for all those on this day, borrowing the Marine’s motto for all, were Semper Fidelis. 

C.S. Lewis, writing at the time, gave us a poignant lesson from D-Day for the Church.  Before the quote below, Lewis is discussing the fact that Faith is not about God having one part of us but He claims the whole and then makes the comparison with D-Day:

 In all of us God “still” holds only a part. D-Day is only a week ago. The bite so far taken out of Normandy shows small on the map of Europe. The resistance is strong, the casualties heavy, and the event uncertain. There is, we have to admit, a line of demarcation between God’s part in us and the enemy’s region. But it is, we hope, a fighting line; not a frontier fixed by agreement.

On Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, the  Lord, Holy Spirit began assembling the invasion force, the militia Christi, the army of Christ  to preach and teach His Word.  The resistance of the flesh, the world and the devil is strong, the martyrs many, and the event uncertain.  Many died for freedom in Christ Jesus against the idolatries of the age.   Our hope we pray is fulfilled in the kingdom come. In The Large Catechism Luther taught that in this life we are only half-way pure (fwiw:  I think he was being optimistic!). I think both Luther and Lewis are teaching that this is, “…a fighting line;  not a frontier fixed by agreement.”   C.S. Lewis uses this comparison as a man who fought in the front lines during the first World War.  This is the strife of the Spirit in our lives, for us and for our salvation and the salvation of many in Christ Jesus. It is bloody, as in the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us all.  It is bloody, as in the blood of the martyrs who witnessed to Jesus Christ.  Luther sang, “…he fights by our side with the weapons of the Spirit”. (See Ephesians 6)  The devil does not take his enemies alive neither do political tyrants.  Tyrants are demonic.  They finally want the soul.  We can not bargain lives with tyrants and tyranny.  Sic Semper Tyrannis because of those who were and all Semper Fidelis. The Lord does take His enemies alive and frees them (see Romans 5:9-11!)   From the Epistle reading for the 7th Sunday of Easter, 1 Peter:

 “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

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By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields 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. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 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. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him 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 in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Two comments:

1. Can you image any President in our day writing such, calling the nation not only to give thanks but to penitence?  

2. A blessed Thanksgiving to you and  to your families and friends He has called you to serve!

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Intro: These are readings from American History.  I read these as part of the Service of the Word on Thanksgiving Eve.  They are edifying.  In our day and time, in which the separation of Church and State has become a Berlin Wall, it has not always been so.  Some have said that religion, especially Christian religion, has fueled much of partisanship and even war.  I think that is historically debatable.  I think it is rank irreligion that is exacerbating the national debates because then man and human society become the ultimate, with no adherence to the ultimate reality, God.  As you read below, even the American philosophe,  Mr. Benjamin Franklin, not a believer, had to intellectually assent to the possibility of a power greater than us.  He and the others below knew that in the light of light of God there was much darkness in human actions and the possibility of humility.

  I.      From The Mayflower Compact, November 11th, 1620:

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN.

We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience

        II.      In May of 1787, some of the greatest minds in American history convened in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention, chaired by his Excellency, the General, George Washington.  The oldest delegate at 81 was Mr. Benjamin Franklin, Printer of Philadelphia.  He was twice the average age of the delegates and it must be noted that Mr. Franklin was a deist, not an orthodox Christian.   These greatest minds fell into rancorous and acrimonious disagreement during the ensuing hot summer months.  From a biography of Franklin by Mr. Walter Isaacson:

“Once again it was time for Franklin to try to restore equanimity, and this time he did so in an unexpected way. Ina speech on June 28, he suggested that they open each session with a prayer. With the convention “groping as it were in the dark to find political truth,” he said, “how has it happened that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?” Then he added, in a passage destined to become famous,                                            “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”

Post Script:  What happened to the resolution byFranklin?  It was tabled.Hamilton thought it would give the wrong signal by the necessity of prayer that things were not going well. But finally, there was not enough money for a chaplain. Mr. Franklin noted on the bottom of his speech” “The convention, except 3 or 4 persons, thought prayers unnecessary!”

 III.      The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1787

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance

IV. From Pr. Schroeder’s Thanksgiving Eve sermon with Quotes from James Madison’s 51st Federalist Paper, 1788:

James Madison in his Federalist Papers pointed out,  “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Then Madison wrote,  “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”  When we forget our propensity to sin, then depths of grace in Jesus Christ, from the Creator of all worlds who gave us everything we see, smell and touch, is not heeded and thankfulness dries up in the dead human heart.  One Samaritan returned to give thanks for the blessings of the Lord God to him a leper, the other nine maybe thought they deserved their healing and life. The one leper is saved by faith in giving thanks on his knees to the Lord.  We live in the other nine lepers’ world, the world of entitlement.  I deserve it.  This is mine.  I am self-invented.  We live by our words alone.

V.       On his journey to Washington for his inauguration in 1861President-elect Abraham Lincoln, spoke separately to each branch of the New Jersey legislature in the state capital of Trenton,. This is an excerpt from his speech to the state Senate of New Jersey:  “May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, “Weem’s Life of Washington.” I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New-Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come; I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.

VI.  From Pr. Schroeder’s Thanksgiving Eve Sermon with quotations from President Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation for National Day of Thanksgiving:

In 1863, President Lincoln issued his Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving, in arguably the most polarized time in our Nation’s history:  the Civil War.  In the proclamation he recounts the horrors of the battlefield and recalls the Nation to the blessings of seedtime and harvest, or the augmentation of wealth, the expanding borders, the good labors of the American people, peace with the nations, all that go on in the midst of the civil war. The President:  “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.”  So he called the Union to set aside tomorrow  “…a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him 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 in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.  Lincoln could speak of our perverseness and God’s judgment and then the undeserved grace and gifts of God and the result is thanksgiving. It was society imbued with the Scriptures, the Word of God.

VII.      Excerpt  from President George W.  Bush’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, at the National Cathedral, September 14th,  2001

Our purpose as a nation is firm. Yet our wounds as a people are recent and unhealed, and lead us to pray. In many of our prayers this week, there is a searching, and an honesty. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral inNew Yorkon Tuesday, a woman said, “I prayed to God to give us a sign that He is still here.” Others have prayed for the same, searching hospital to hospital, carrying pictures of those still missing.

God’s signs are not always the ones we look for. We learn in tragedy that his purposes are not always our own. Yet the prayers of private suffering, whether in our homes or in this great cathedral, are known and heard, and understood.

There are prayers that help us last through the day, or endure the night. There are prayers of friends and strangers, that give us strength for the journey. And there are prayers that yield our will to a will greater than our own.

This world He created is of moral design. Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance, and love have no end. And the Lord of life holds all who die, and all who mourn.

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