Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How Thankful Are We Now, Really?

The following was written in the depths of the Civil War; the greatest war in American history. More than 3 million fought - 600,000 died. I have a great-great grandfather who fought for the Confederacy.

As I reread this amazing proclamation (really a guide to prayer, I think) I am struck at how very little has changed in the human condition in the last 144 years.

Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

The year that is drawing toward 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 can not 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 theater of military conflict, while that theater 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 defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our 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 battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness 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 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 imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility [sic], 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 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Picking Up Trash For Jesus

The other night I took a long walk in the fog, and listened on my Ipod to this conversation. Listening while walking felt like moving into an unclear, scary, yet new and exciting paradigm.

I need to share some with you. The future is not going to be like the past, and those of us older than about 30 better get ready for it, or we will be left in the dust, with our mouths open, wondering what happened to the church we loved. Get ready:

"What would it look like, where I live, for the Kingdom of God to come a little more?"

"Jesus does not use language of build the Kingdom, advance the Kingdom, impose the Kingdom. He uses the language of receive and seek..... enter."

"We pull people out of our PTA, our communities, and get them involved in our churches."

That last one is an "ouch" for me. How much time have I sacrificed from involvement in my local town to be involved in countless church committees. Yikes.

Brian told the story of a pastor in Costa Rica, who got the people together in his village (mostly women), "What would it look like, in this village, if the Kingdom of God was more fully here?" And so, his people said in reply, "Our village is really dirty. If the Kingdom came here, people would pick up the trash." The people of the church even went down into the polluted stream in the village (surely you can imagine how messy this was) and cleaned up the stream. Then, the church folk got wagons full of flowers, and planted flowers with their neighbors in their yards.

Imagine that. What messes are there, around us, and in our greater world, that simply need us to lend a hand, to clean up.

And finally, for those who want more, read a wise review of Brian McLaren's new book
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