Summary: 2006 Thanksgiving Service and Communion meditation.
The President had his hands full. The nation was engaged in a war that was increasingly disliked by the nation. Some in the congress thought the loss of civil liberties had gone too far. Doris Kearns Goodwin would write, ‘Amid the clamorous opposition in Congress, the continued threats of intervention from abroad, and the stalemate in the war, Lincoln remained remarkably calm, good-natured, and self-controlled.’ (Slide 1)
It was 1863 and a very historic year for our nation and Abraham Lincoln. Now it in its second year, the tide of the Civil War would turn in favor of the North with key military victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Lincoln would sign the Emancipation Proclamation at the beginning of the year that would change the status of the slaves and begin the long journey toward achieving the full legal status of African-Americans.
Toward the end of that year, in fact, 143 years ago on this very date, November 19, 1863, Lincoln gave a legendary speech that began, ‘Four score and seven years ago,’ at Gettysburg. However, a month earlier, he issued another Presidential proclamation, his Thanksgiving proclamation that would set aside the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. This one began, (Slide 2) “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.
He goes on to elaborate on these blessings and calls them (slide 3) ‘the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.’
And he concludes his proclamation with both an invitation to celebrate… (Slide 4), ‘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.’
… but to also repent (Slide 5), ‘with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience… 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.’
I don’t know about you, but if I would have been Abe Lincoln, I might have had a bit more difficulty finding things to be thankful for in the midst of a civil war, political unrest, and the challenges of everyday life in the White House. But, he did see much to be thankful to the Lord for and I think that contributed to his ability to govern our nation during that difficult and challenging time in our history. Moreover, his call to thanksgiving, praise, and repentance is very, very suitable for us today.
What does ‘thanksgiving’ mean to you? (Slide 6) Is it about family gatherings? Is it about a day off from work? Is it about working in a warm kitchen with the various smells causing your stomach to rumble? Is it about the beginning of the end of your fall diet?