Summary: August 1989, Day of Prayer for World Peace: Making peace in the world begins with making peace with God. It does not mean making peace WITH the world.
Just a few weeks ago they re-enacted, not very far from here, a small but crucial Civil War battle. The Battle of Fort Stevens did not get into a lot of the history books, but it was important in that it turned back the Confederate armies on the very edge of the capital city. Had the South taken Fort Stevens and then gone on to bum or to occupy Washington, the Confederacy might have been recognized as a legitimate power by Britain and France and might have garnered enough outside strength to do real damage to the United States or even to go on and win the war. So while few but those of us who are around 13th and Quackenbos streets know anything much about the Battle of Fort Stevens, and while it was not nearly so bloody as Vicksburg or Gettysburg or Bull Run or all the other famous places, still it had its significance.
One little incident in this battle intrigues me, though, and it becomes something of a starting point for today’ s message. It is said that the President, Abraham Lincoln, having read plenty of dispatches about the war and having made countless decisions over which he had agonized, knowing that he was sending men to their deaths, wanted to see this battle at first hand. And so Lincoln made his way out here, climbed up behind the breastworks with the men, and proceeded to watch the battle, very conspicuous in his famous stovepipe hat and six-feet-plus frame. The soldiers were naturally concerned about the president’s safety, but did nothing about it. After all, he was the president and it seemed no one could tell him what to do or not to do. But when a young soldier was shot and killed barely three feet from where the president stood, the young army captain and later Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes jumped up and shouted impatiently at his commander-in-chief, "Get down, you fool!"
Shouting, "Get down, you fool" is precisely what the prophet Hosea did to the establishment of his day. To the kings of Israel, puffed up in their delusions of grandeur, imagining themselves powerful because they had subdued a few little states and tribes, Hosea shouts, "Get down, you fool!" To the leaders of the nation, priests and elders, teachers in the shrines and holy places, leading the people to think that the way to deal with the old warlike tribes of Palestine was to join them and imitate their pagan practices instead of taking a stand for something different; to priests and teachers who would lead the people to trust something other than their relationship with Almighty God, Hosea cries out, in effect, "Get down, you fool!”
Only he put it like this: Hosea 10:12-15
“Get down, you fool" – Holmes’ warning to Lincoln that his station as president gave him no protection from hostile fire. Not too different from Hosea the prophet’s warning that the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed: Thus shall it be done to you, O house of Israel, because of your great wickedness. In the storm the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.”
Not too different, because the prophet is saying to a people who have come to enjoy war, come to honor it and hallow it, that they have forgotten how destructive it is, that they have lost sight of how corrosive war is, not only physically, but also spiritually. War is hell, said General Sherman, and rightly so; war is hell because not only is it fire and flame and destruction, but also because it marks in the most dramatic way possible the outcome of our separation from our God …which is exactly what hell is, separation from our creator.
On the Sunday nearest the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, each August, Baptists are encouraged by our denomination to engage in a Day of Prayer for World Peace. That we are doing today, and I want us to let Hosea inform us about what it means to pray for world peace and how we may struggle to work for peace.
There are two great lessons I hear from the prophet Hosea on this matter. The first is that making peace in the world begins with making peace with God. And the second great truth is that making peace in the world does not mean making peace with the world.
Now if you and I were to ask ourselves where war and conflict come from, what answer would we give? What sociologists would we turn to, or would it be the economists or the political scientists? Maybe it would be the psychologist: Sir, as you discern the human mind, what lies in it that lies also at the cause and root of human conflict?