Summary: God has indeed spoken to our nation, but are we listening?
This week America buried our 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan. For many of us, Friday, June 11th was an ordinary day. Although the day was set aside as a national day of mourning, life went on as usual. Perhaps the only interruption of our day was the trip to an empty mail box, or closed Post Office. The only other reminder the day was not an ordinary one was the images and sounds of the funeral services on the evening news.
The events of a man’s life and the events in the life of a nation do not go unnoticed by God. God ordained the days lived by Ronald Reagan from start to finish. The Bible says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 NIV), and “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NIV). God set the day of Reagan’s birth and his death.
John Hinckley tried to end Reagan’s life prematurely, but March 30th 1981 was not the day set by God for the death of Ronald Reagan. God looked ahead to another day in Reagan’s life. Saturday, June 5th 2004, a day after a 10 year struggle with Alzheimer’s was the day God chose for Reagan’s life on this earth to come to an end.
Why was this the time God picked? I believe it is because God wanted to use Reagan’s death to speak to the heart of America. “The Great Communicator” Ronald Reagan was gone, but could God use Reagan’s death to communicate a message of eternal significance to the people living in the United States of America?
God has indeed spoken to our nation, but are we listening?
God delivered a timely message at Reagan’s funeral through Senator Danforth of Missouri who is also an ordained Episcopal priest. Danforth read from the Sermon on the Mount, Reagan’s favorite Biblical theme, “You are the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hid.” These were words Reagan often quoted to project his view of America as a beacon of freedom and hope.
In Reagan’s farewell address to the nation in 1989 he reflected upon the “city on a hill.”
The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.
I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.
Reagan knew the world was watching the United States of America. The awareness of a watching world affected how he governed the nataion.
Reagan also made these comments in his farewell address:
And in all of that time I won a nickname, "The Great Communicator." But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.
A great rediscovery, a rediscovery values, a rediscovery of common sense—values and common sense are certainly two things America could stand to “rediscover” again today.
Our nation has change a great deal since the days of Reagan’s presidency. In these days God is calling our nation to again remember our world is watching us. We have turned away from the values and common sense that made us into the great nation we have become. Likewise we have turned away from our God.
For the next few moments I want us to consider what it means for America to be “a city on a hill.” Granted none of us have the ability to change our nation, but as citizens of the United States of America we can bring change one person at a time. What is our roll in being a light, a beacon of hope and faith to a watching world?