On most days, I wouldn’t be quoting President Abraham Lincoln. At a different time, this atheist might not be looking for solace in scripture, though I am often comforted when I do.
Today I’m doing both and offering their consolation to you.
Lincoln, this country’s Civil War President, authorized a day of “national prayer and humiliation” in the midst of that war. His proclamation reads, in part:
I do … designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite … in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
Humiliation fits for this time, too, just after the storming of the Capitol. Fasting fits, as is expected on the annual Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Self-reflection is necessary. Humility and prayer create the appropriate attitude and mood for the occasion.
People are dying. Loneliness overwhelms many, poverty and joblessness terrify, sadness covers the homes and the hearts. Then came the mob.
Yet, there is hope.
Lincoln’s leadership continued under even more challenging circumstances.
As the Civil War neared its end, the President offered these lines in closing his Second Inaugural Address of March 4, 1865. His message was one of reconciliation between opposing sides:
With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln knew our job is always to repair the world.
Reverend William Sloane Coffin, 100 years later, knew it, too. He offered this in prayer:
Lord … Number us, we beseech Thee, in the ranks of those who went forth … longing only for those things for which Thee dost make us long, men for whom the complexity of issues only serves to renew their zeal to deal with them, men who allieviated pain by sharing it, and men who are always willing to risk something big for something good — so may we leave in the world a little more truth, a little more justice, and a little more beauty than would have been there had we not loved the world enough to quarrel with it for what it is not — but still could be. …
The top painting is called Woman at Prayer by Harry Wilson Watrous. Next comes The Morning Prayer by Ludwig Deutsch. The final image is the photo of a Nomad Prayer taken in an African desert, sometime between 1931 and 1936. The photographer was Kazimierz Nowak.
William Sloane Coffin’s prayer can be heard near the end of the award-winning radio collage/documentary created by Studs Terkel and Jim Unrath, Born to Live: https://beta.prx.org/stories/118275
Praying for you, Dr. I’m so thankful to hear that God’s word gives you comfort. May you be blessed by the Good News of Jesus!
To say that you will pray for me is one of the kindest things one person can say to another. Thank you, Lydia.
I have been stress eating these last few days after watching the events unfold at The Capital. Since the 2016 election, I have been waiting for something horrible to happen, and I thought separating refugee babies and children from their parents would be horror enough, but Trump must always keep upping the ante. Losing our democracy terrifies me and now the talking points on the extreme right is that this act of sedition is being over-blown by the libs. If this is the attitude by the right, then there never will be any healing or resolution because their beliefs are proving to be that they can take away voting rights from black and brown people, that truth are lies and lies are truth, and they will be the victor of any election even if it means stealing it because a Republican victory is the only one that is valid.
This is indeed a trying time, Nancy. Hang in there. Polling I read this morning suggests that 70% of the American people want Mr. Trump to leave office immediately. The work for justice goes on. We are not at the end of the story. I believe it is reasonable to expect 2021 will be a better year from this point, though there will be turmoil along the way. I’ll be thinking about you.
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Thanks for your inspirational post, Dr. Stein. We’ve got lots of repairing to do in the days and months ahead.
Indeed. Thanks, Rosaliene.
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