Posts tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln’

Thanksgiving Lessons From Lincoln

Thanksgiving Dinner

Credit: Luminary PhotoProject / Flickr

I have made it a tradition of sorts to read one of Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamations each year during this time.  His proclamations are not only extraordinarily well-crafted pieces of oratory statecraft, they are also genuinely theologically rich.  In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863, Mr. Lincoln recounts the blessings God has bestowed on this nation and then declares:

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.

President Lincoln beseeches the nation to give thanks on its knees, humbly recognizing that anything it has is not due to some inherent civic merit or to some twisted theology of a manifest destiny (a concept Mr. Lincoln resolutely opposed), but to the unmerited mercy of God.  In other words, the president recognized that rather than judging this nation as its sins deserved in wrath, God instead blessed this nation apart from its sins out of grace.  And for this, Mr. Lincoln was thankful.

What struck me the most about President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation as I read it this year was how the president believed divine mercy should lead to concrete action.  Mr. Lincoln concludes his proclamation thusly:

I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to God 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 interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In view of God’s mercy, the president invites the American people to three things:  repentance, remembrance, and restoration.  He invites the American people to repent of their sins, both in the North and in the South, understanding that any snooty swagger of self-righteousness can never receive mercy from God because it does not understand the need for the grace of God.  He also invites the American people to a remembrance of those who are suffering – those who have become widows, orphans, and mourners in the strife of the Civil War.  He finally calls the American people to restoration – to be healed from a wound of division that runs so deep that it has led Americans to take up arms against Americans.

As I reflect on the wisdom in President Lincoln’s proclamation, the words of the teacher in Ecclesiastes come to mind: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Today, as in Mr. Lincoln’s day, examples of delusional self-righteousness abound – both among the secular and the spiritual – which close us off to appreciating and receiving God’s mercy.  Today, as in Mr. Lincoln’s day, widows, orphans, and mourners still live among us, often unnoticed and sometimes even ill-regarded, suffering silently and in desperate need of our help.  Today, as in Mr. Lincoln’s day, America still suffers from a wound of division, which some, almost masochistically, delight in ripping open farther and cutting into deeper for their own cynical political purposes.  The problems that plagued our nation in 1863 still plague our nation today in 2017.  Our problems persist.  But so too does the mercy of God.

154 years later, we are still extravagantly blessed with bounty.  154 years later, our republic has not dissolved, even as it has frayed.  154 years later, God still is not treating us as our sins deserve.  Our sinful rebellion, it seems, cannot thwart the tenacious grace of God.  And for that, on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful.

November 23, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Freedom from Want" by Norman Rockwell, 1943. Credit:  arthistory.about.com

“Freedom from Want” by Norman Rockwell, 1943.
Credit: arthistory.about.com

It’s been all over Facebook.  People are posting all the reasons they are thankful.  My wife has joined in the Facebook thankfulness fun.  As a teacher, she’s organizing her thankfulness thoughts alphabetically – using each letter of the alphabet to call to mind something for which she is thankful.  I wonder what she’ll post about when she gets to “Z”?

As we head into another Thanksgiving holiday this week, I want to share with you, as I did last year, some of my favorite thoughts on thankfulness from Abraham Lincoln:

The year that is drawing towards 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 cannot 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 theatre of military conflict … Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the 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.[1]

These words are from Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation of 1863 and, like so many of the posts I’ve seen on Facebook, offer a myriad of reasons to be thankful.   But what I appreciate so much about Lincoln’s thoughts on thankfulness – and the reason I share these words again – is that his thankfulness reaches its pinnacle not as he is talking about fruitful fields and healthful skies, or the abundant yields of plough, shuttle, ship, axe, and mines, or the population increase among the states.  Rather, President Lincoln’s thankfulness reaches its pinnacle when he speaks of “the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”  In other words, Lincoln is most thankful for what God does through Jesus Christ.

This Thanksgiving, we certainly have many things for which we can be thankful.  But as we give thanks for many things, may we never forget to heartily celebrate and give thanks for the most important thing:  God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  He is the One who gives us reason not only to be thankful for temporal blessings now, but promises us that we will be thankful in eternal dwellings later.


[1] Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” (10.3.1863).

November 25, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Giving Thanks To The Lord

On this Thanksgiving Day, it is important to take some time and reflect not only on what we are thankful for, but on whom we are thankful to.  As Christians, we give thanks to the Lord, for apart from Him and His grace, we would be left destitute.  As James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).  Our heavenly Father provides us with not just some of the things we have, but with all of the things we have.  He gives us “every good and perfect gift.”

In an age where Thanksgiving Day is sometimes reduced to little more than a general and foggy sentiment of thankfulness, Abraham Lincoln, in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation of 1863, offers this helpful reflection on whom we should be thankful to:

The year that is drawing towards 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 cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…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 at sea and those who are sojourning 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.[1]

May we heed Lincoln’s warning and never be “prone to forget the source from which [our blessings] come.”  May we always remember and rejoice that our blessings come from God Almighty.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).


[1] Abraham Lincoln, “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” (October 3, 1863).

November 22, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

A Christian Response to the Death of Osama bin Laden

Concordia’s Senior Pastor, Bill Tucker, has written a letter to the congregation concerning the death of Osama bin Laden and how the Christian should respond to such an event. My prayer is that it is helpful to you as you ponder what this event means not only in the life of our nation, but in your life as a Christian.

My Beloved Concordia Family,

The death of Osama bin Laden was reported on Sunday evening, May 1, 2011.  As news of his demise spread, people responded in different ways.  Some responded with jubilation, happy to see an enemy of our country destroyed.  Others felt sorrow:  Bin Laden’s death reopened painful scars from the events of 9/11 and losses suffered in our War on Terror.  Still others responded with concern: For the evil in this world, ultimately, will not be defeated by human action, but by Christ alone.  Perhaps you, like me, have experienced some of each.

As I have been sorting through my own personal response, there have been many from our beloved family of faith doing the same.  How should a Christian respond to the death of Osama bin Laden?  Hopefully this brief note, with some guidance from God’s Word, will be helpful in your contemplation of that same question.

From the Bible we learn that death, even the death of the wicked, is not pleasing to God, nor is it part of His design.  The prophet Ezekiel states it well:  “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)  God’s preference is always that the wicked – even Osama bin Laden – repent and be forgiven.  This does not mean, however, that God won’t execute His judgment on those who refuse to repent.  In the very next verse, Ezekiel continues, “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.” (Ezekiel 18:24)  The apostle Paul affirms, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  God punishes evil.

We also know that God uses earthly governments to execute His judgment.  Paul writes, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…He is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He [the governmental authority] is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1, 4) We can conclude, in circumstances like this, God uses governments and militaries to bring judgment on criminals.  We remain thankful for our troops and their service on behalf of our nation and respect their God-given vocation as governmental officials.

Finally, as Christians, our response to the death of the wicked should mirror God’s Word.  The wise man of Proverbs wrote:  “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.” (Proverbs 24:17)  These words lead us to respond to this news without reckless jubilation, but with measured sobriety. We thank God for His judgment on wickedness.  At the same time, we keep our hearts and minds humble, so we do not slip into arrogance and sin.

In these times, it seems certain there will be more terrorist plots.  We must pray for these evil efforts to be confounded, for evil men to be brought to justice, and for peace and security to be reestablished.  However, when we pray for peace, it is with the knowledge that our hope comes from the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, describes the Christian’s hope for peace, even in the midst of war, like this:  “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.”  May this be the prayer of us all.

God Bless You!


Bill Tucker
Senior Pastor

May 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm 3 comments


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