The essay below was originally published in September 2016.
“For You formed my inward parts. You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16
Father, we who are your children, salt and light in the earth, lift our voices to You. Forgive us, Lord, for our many trespasses against what is good and wholesome and right. Forgive us for the lives of our children, of America’s children. Cover them in their mothers’ wombs. Protect them and give them a future. Forgive our selfishness and our callousness. Forgive our narcissism. Most of all, by the blood of Jesus, bring peace to the innocent blood that cries out to You, even now, the blood that is on our hands and on our land.
Help us to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.
You have made Your people a beacon. Give us wisdom so that we do not cloak Your light in our dim opinions and prejudices and ignorance.
Help us, Lord, to fulfill the vision and the sacrifice of righteous men and women who have gone before us. They might lose faith if they saw us now, but help us not to lose faith.
America is not the Kingdom of Heaven. But like God’s household, we American citizens have been a nation of poor wretches cemented together and made great by the grace that is in Jesus. We have been a nation of people who look different, but share a commitment to Liberty, to each other, and to outsiders in need. Help us honor the words Emma Lazarus penned more than a century ago. In the poet’s mind, a New Colossus symbolized America:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Lord, help us to understand the source of our greatness. Help us honor the law of God, always, above our own laws. Your law is written in creation, and it is written on the conscience of every human being.
Help us steward the great trust You have placed in our hands and not squander the freedom we enjoy. Lord, we cling to President Lincoln’s words now, finding them even more meaningful than when they were first spoken a hundred and fifty years ago:
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 battle-field 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.
Lord, in this season we join our voices to our late President’s, who though dead yet speaks. We offer ourselves to You, heart and mind, soul and spirit, that the dead shall not have died in vain and that the righteous shall not have suffered in vain. That this nation, under the holy Father, the only true God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and most of all that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.