“… of the people … by the …for the people “
“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth. ” Abraham Lincoln –The Gettysburg Address – http://www.gettysburg.com/bog/address.htm
I was thinking this morning of the short quotation that I opened this post with and with shame I must admit that I had forgotten that it came from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, I had also forgotten that it was also among the shortest speeches that Lincoln had given (only 272 words and app. 2 minutes in length). But probably the one most remembered; not only for its brevity, and for its solemnity, but for me also for its closing line of which we pull those three simple statements: government of the people… by the people …for the people. But we often take those words out of context in which they were originally spoken and spin them in a way that best fits our personal situation, and does grave harm to their intended focus; which is a nation of people that had/has come together as one united people, or so was the hope of the forbearers of the freedom we now seek/strive to walk in.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth. ”
We tend to forget that the United States, is supposed to be states of a united people, working together for the good of the whole of the state and of the nation. Back then they did not deem it impossible to believe that those of many and varied political ideologies, cultural and religious backgrounds (they knew it would be difficult) could come together and work together as one, for the good of one people, one nation united under God. But these were people of vision who saw the possibility as a possible reality, who saw this new nation being a unified light, a beacon of hope, a city on a hill for all to see.
I believe that they were not unrealistic, I also believe that the world did at one time see our nation in a way that they had envisioned, and that some around the world still do, which tells me that our light has not gone out, though it brightness has been dimming/fading almost from the very beginning; it is indeed still a light of hope.
I believe that the brightness with which that light once shined can be restored and made even brighter, I believe that we as a nation, as a united people can live and work together for the common good of all people. I believe that it will involve sacrifice for all of us, but that sacrifice will be worth it, I believe that we as a people created in the image of our God, are a people who were created to be people who find their deepest needs being met in the realities of being a people who both give and receive of life, I believe that when we no longer do both or those things in equal measure that we are missing something, that peace becomes impossible for us until that balance is restored, sacrifice is the one main tool that we have in the restoring of that balance, of that peace that we all need.
It is when we take on the work that we are all called to join God in; that sacred work of restoration and reconciliation that we may know peace.
This work is bigger than one nation, it is bigger than one people being faithful and working together in this place where God has sent them, but for us, it all starts in the place where we are, in the place where God has sent us. May we all open our minds and hearts to the possibility of living in peace, to the ultimate reality of living in peace, to the peace that only God can provide when his people come together as one people?
But seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its peace you will find your peace. (Paraphrase of Jeremiah 29:7)
“…of the people …by the people …for the people” – People who have learned what it means to live in community and that starts for all of us in our neighborhoods and our local communities, let us teach our children to live in community.
Community is the bridge to our children’s future…
Seeking, working and praying for peace in the place where God has sent us…