The Journey of Discernment

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

The dictionary defines discernment as “the ability to judge well.” There is also a Christian context to discernment listed in that same dictionary, “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.” Discernment, in a spiritual context, is a journey of discovery and understanding. It is a journey of listening to God and others for a sense of direction. I am embarking on such a journey.

Discernment is or should be a lifelong process. The Scripture from John’s first letter that I quote above lays out why Christians should be of a discerning mind. “Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” Sometimes we think we hear God’s voice, but actually, it is our voice that sounds like God’s voice. Discernment is a way to determine where that voice is coming from.

Discernment also involves other people. It has been said that God calls, but the church confirms. I may think God is calling me to this or that, but there needs to be a confirmation of that call. It is that confirmation that I am seeking. That confirmation also is a way to determine if it is God’s voice or my voice.

I am embarking on a journey to discern where that voice of God is leading me, but this is also a journey of self-discovery. Self-discovery involves patients, as this journey will not be a short one—patience with the process and trust in those who will be on this journey with me. As with any journey, especially spiritual ones, one has to be willing to go where the spirit leads, and I pray that I am open to that direction. I would ask that you hold me in prayer during this journey.

Artistic Expression and the National Anthem

I consider myself a patriotic American. I fly an American Flag in my yard. But I do not think that if you chose not to, you are less patriotic. I am a veteran of the United States military. But I do not feel you are less of an American because you chose not to serve, nor do I believe it gives me extra patriotism. I guess I am just an average American when it comes to this stuff.

I am also of a mind that appreciates artists and artistic expression. An artist’s ability to tell a story comes through their expression of that story and how it speaks to them. This sort of expression makes the story, or the music, or the painting come to life. But certain songs do not need any expression; they speak just fine all on their own. The National Anthem of the United States of America is one of those songs.

I am not a big fan of the words of our National Anthem. It has always sounded very war-like to me, and it has to be one of the most challenging songs to sing but, it is the song that represents America. I get it that music and art evolve over time, but some things need to remain as they were; they are the foundation for all the rest. Our National Anthem’s singing for any event should be looked upon as a great honor and should be treated as such. Respect the song.

Before the Super Bowl this past Sunday night, I had not heard of the two musicians who were given the honor of singing the National Anthem. Musically their talent was very apparent, so it is not their ability that I take issue with. I take issue with their interpretation of a song that needs no interpretation.

Many years ago, Whitney Houston walked out the field and sang the National Anthem, and it is still, in my opinion anyway, one of the best performances I have ever heard. She sang it straight, and she respected the song and what it stands for.

A few weeks ago, at the Inauguration, Lady Gaga sang the National Anthem and did a fantastic job. I already mentioned that I am not a big fan of the Anthem’s war-like words, but when she pointed to the flag as she sang, “the flag was still there,” it sent chills up my spine. With the sing action of pointing to the flag, she reminded us of the importance of symbols and why they matter. She sang it straight, and she respected the song and what it stands for.

I am sure many of you will disagree with me, which is fine; I do not think you are any less patriotic or any less an American because of that belief. I just think that a song of that importance, a song with so much meaning written into it, should just be sung the way it was written.

Express yourself in the half-time show but leave the Anthem alone.

Jeep and Unity

I will admit I was a little surprised by the Jeep commercial with Bruce Springsteen during last night’s Super Bowl. I was surprised in a good way. It is not often a commercial truly moves me and makes me think, but this one did.

The ad is called “The Middle.” It begins with a voice-over from Springsteen talking about a little chapel at the center of the lower 48 in Kansas. He mentions that this chapel is always open and welcomes everyone. I am not sure how everyone would feel about entering this chapel with its overtly Christian symbolism, and I was a little uneasy about the Cross on top of a cut out of the United States in the color of the flag.

Springsteen goes on to talk about our fear and the fact that fear has “never been the best of who we are,” and I would agree fear is not the best of emotions, and many of us have been operating out of fear these last few years. Fear very often divides as one side has to make the other side afraid. Fear becomes the wedge driven between two groups, and it is very often irrational.

“Freedom,” says Springsteen, “belongs to us all, whoever you are, wherever you are from. It’s what connects us, and we need that connection.” Freedom is a tricky thing. Pure freedom is a sacrifice that not many of us are willing to endure. Freedom comes with many different perspectives, and there is no one freedom that is American. But he is correct in saying that “Freedom connects us all” it has too. America is at its best when we can express our freedom as individuals and accept the fact that our freedom comes with limits and with a tremendous amount of responsibility.

As I have written about in the past, I am all for unity. I am all for finding the middle ground. However, there can be no unity without justice and accountability. There can be no unity with white supremacists. There can be no unity with people who fly the Nazi flag. There can be no unity with Anti-Semites. There can be no unity with Christian Nationalists. There can be no unity with people who believe it was Jewish lasers that caused the fires in California. There can be no unity with people willing to take by force what they clearly lost at the ballot box and in numerous courts. There can be no unity with those calling people to violence. There can be no unity without justice and accountability.

Springsteen says we need the middle, we need to find that common ground, and he reminds us that “the very soil we stand on is common ground.” Most of America is in the middle. It is the fringe on both sides that have divided us over the years, and it is up to us in the middle to take it back.

Unity is a nice idea, and I applaud Jeep for using two minutes of Super Bowl airtime to remind us of the idea of unity. Yes, together, we can do more than we can apart, but it has to start by holding people accountable. We cannot turn a blind eye to what has happened.

As a Christian, I am all about the idea of forgiveness, but that forgiveness does not include forgetting, and that forgiveness includes holding those accountable for their actions regardless of who they are or the positions they have.

Yes, we need the middle, and we can get there, but it will take more than a commercial to do it.

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:29-39

This week we pick up right where we left off in the story of last week. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when a man “with an unclean spirit” interrupted the service. Jesus cast the spirit from the man, and he was well.

Today Jesus leaves the synagogue and goes to Simon’s house. This is the same Simon who Jesus would later call Peter. Upon entering, he learns that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus goes to her, “took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”

Jesus’ teaching and healing ministries are all part of the same ministry. In the previous verses, Jesus has set the course for his public ministry, and there will be no discrepancy between what he teaches and what he practices.

There is a close parallel between the words “healing” and “salvation.” The last verse of today’s Gospel makes that abundantly clear, “And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons” (1:39).

Jesus rejects the idea that sickness is linked to God’s punishment for a person’s sin. Jesus has an understanding that would be in line with our modern thinking about illness, that it is un-wholeness, and Jesus sees healing as a restoration of that wholeness. When Jesus turned to the woman that has pushed her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment, he said to her, “your faith has made you whole.”

There are a significant number of instances in scripture where touch is used. Jesus took Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand, the angel that touched Jacob’s thigh, Jairus’ daughter, the blind man Jesus touched, and so forth. There is power in touch. In scripture, touch is a metaphor for intimacy, for presence, for relationship. Humanity was created to be in relationship with one another. This has been difficult during the pandemic.

Jesus understood what we are slow to comprehend, the power of a touch, of intimacy, of nearness, makes us whole. Love not expressed, love not felt is difficult to trust. God understands this human condition and humanity’s need for closeness. This is the reason for the incarnation. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love. And it is that love that will make us whole.

Ordinary Time Begins

The Ordo is the liturgical book that sets forth the instructions for the celebration of the liturgical services for each day of the year. The Ordo includes any Saints commemorated on that day, the biblical readings, and the liturgical color, to name just a few. Yesterday, February 3rd, there was a small notation “Ordinary Time begins today.” Liturgically we are in between things.

Ordinary Time is that time of the year that is not connected to the two great seasons of the Church year, Christmastide and Eastertide, or the period of preparation leading up to those times, Advent and Lent. The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, which is celebrated February 2nd, ends the Christmas/Epiphany Season on the Anglican-Episcopal Calendar. This year, Ash Wednesday or the beginning of Lent is on February 17th, so the time between is Ordinary Time.

But Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary. During these weeks, and the weeks that will come after Eastertide, the ministry of Jesus occurs. Jesus encounters ordinary people and has ordinary experiences. Sure, there are miracles in there, but Jesus is with the ordinary during these days.

As with all other things related to liturgical celebrations, the colors have meaning. The color for Ordinary Time is Green. Green represents the Christian life and growth in the faith. Our faith is not just about Christmas and Easter; although those seasons are essential, much of the faith life of the Church happens in those in-between times those ordinary encounters that we have during the year.

I think we lose sight of the fact that we encounter the divine in the ordinary places of our life and not just the special times. The divine is around us in all of creation, and in each person, we meet. Honor those times of encounter and those in-between times. It’s where the real work is.

The Presentation

Today (February 2nd) is the day we start to turn, ever so lightly, in a different direction. Today the Church celebrates our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple, and we turn the page from the Christmas/Epiphany Season and begin to look towards Lent. The Feast of the Presentation is one of the most ancient feasts on the Church calendar dating to the fourth century in Jerusalem.

According to Moses’s Law, forty days after the birth of a male child, the mother had to present him in the Temple while also making an offering of a lamb or two turtledoves. In his treatment of this event, the Gospel writer Luke recounts that the law would suggest that if one could not afford a lamb, then the doves or even pigeons would also be acceptable. Being of limited means, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple with the sacrifice that they could afford. Jesus, the Lamb of God, would be offered as a sacrifice at another time.

There is an interesting connection between this feast and the pandemic that is currently raging in our world. In 541 CE, a plague broke out in Constantinople and killed thousands. In consultation with the Patriarch, Emperor Justinian I ordered a time of fasting and prayer in the Empire. On this feast day, grand processions were held in cities and towns and solemn prayer service for the deliverance from evils. The plague ceased. In thanksgiving for the plague’s deliverance, the feast was elevated and became a major celebration in the Eastern Empire in 542 CE.

Today’s feast has another name, Candlemas, which comes from the actual celebration of the feast itself. Candles and light play an essential role in this feast. The theme of light comes from Simeon’s words when he sees Jesus and calls him “light to enlighten the nations.” Jesus is the true light of the world. In celebrations of this feast, during normal times, each participant would be given a candle as a reminder of the “light of Christ” but also as a reminder to us that we must take that light out into the world.

Candlemas found its way on to the secular calendar in Europe as well. It was the traditional day to remove the cattle from the hayfields and the other fields that were to be plowed and sewn in the Spiring of the year. Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night was performed for the first time on Candlemas in 1602, and Candlemas remains one of the Scottish Quarter Days when debts are paid and courts of law are in session.

As I mentioned earlier, this is also the day when we turn our gaze away from the crib and towards the cross. It has been forty days since the birth of Jesus, and our Liturgical Calendar begins the preparation for the next season. Some years there is a longer gap or “Ordinary Time”  “between the seasons. However, this year that gap is relatively small as Ash Wednesday is only a few weeks away.

Today, as I sit in my study and write this, the day is gloomy and wet. We have just survived a Nor Easter that knocked out our power for a short period last night. We lit a candle to guide our steps around our house and to keep us from stumbling. Candlemas is a reminder that we are to be that light in the darkness that will guide others’ feet and keep them from stumbling. Let us strive this day and every day to be that light.

Almighty and ever living God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-28

One of my favorite sports movies is Miracle. Miracle is about the 1980’s United States Olympic Hockey Team and its win over the team from the Soviet Union. Until that point, the Soviets had dominated the sport, and there was mounting political tension, so this “miracle” came at just the right time.

I do love a good miracle story, and apparently, St. Mark did as well. There are eighteen stories of healing in Mark’s Gospel, thirteen of which have to do with healings, and four of those have to do with exorcisms, so clearly, Mark likes to punctuate his stories with miracles. However, the story is very often less about the actual miracle and more about the story behind the miracle.

The miracle in the movie was not the win; the miracle was the work that it took to get there that enabled the victory. The story was about picking the right team and conditioning them to play together as one unit. The miracle was what took place the months before they even took the ice.

Sure, Jesus drove out the “unclean spirit,” and the man was made whole again. But the story is about the shift in teaching that Jesus is bringing to the Synagogue. The Synagogue, unlike the Temple, was the place for teaching and instruction, not worship and sacrifice. The Jewish law stated that wherever ten Jewish families gathered, there had to be a Synagogue. There was no “Senior Pastor” as we think of it today. When the men gathered in the Synagogue, it was the Ruler who called upon someone to deliver the teaching; that is how Jesus was able to deliver his message.

When the Scribes taught, they would refer to Scripture and other writers and commentators, not unlike what I do in sermons. They would not teach on their own authority or interpretation but base it on all that had come before.

If you saw the Movie Yentl, you will recall scenes of a group of men gathered around a table in a room full of books. There was usually an elder who guided the conversation, but the discussion usually was centered around an issue and what had been written about that issue in the past. Although the teaching itself was authoritative, no one spoke as if they had all the answers.

Then Jesus comes along and changes all of that. Jesus taught with personal authority. He spoke with independence. He cited no authorities and quoted no experts. He spoke with the voice of God!

The Unclean Spirit recognized Jesus and called him the “Holy one of God.” In turn, Jesus rebuked him and told the spirit to “be silent” and “come out of him.” He did not cite any authority other than his own to do this. This was Jesus, using his authority as the “Holy one of God” to free the man of this spirit, and those watching were “amazed” at his teaching.

St. Mark places this story at the very start of the ministry of Jesus, so the tone is being set for all that will come next. Jesus is no ordinary teacher but one that needs to be listened to. With this appearance in Galilee, Jesus has ushered in a new way of teaching and a new teaching, which will continue to be revealed.

The people were less amazed that the spirit was removed and more amazed at the power of the words of Jesus. Jesus did not just teach with facts; he taught with authority, and those words caused a change in someone’s life. Jesus’ teaching was not only informative; it is transformative. And that was the “new teaching.”

Sermon: Follow Me

Mark 1:14-20

I have sojourned through many Christian denominations on my spiritual journey. Each one came along at a point in my life when I was searching for something. I stayed with some for a more extended period than I did others, but I picked up something that continues to influence my life to this day in all of those stops. But with all the differences in worship, belief, and fellowship, there was one common element, in every instance when I journeyed into a new congregation or denomination, it began with an invitation.

In this brief passage from the Gospel of St. Mark, we have a few things happening. First, we have Jesus’ proclamation that “time is fulfilled,” and second, we have Jesus calling his first Apostles. Both of these are significant events and deserve a much more complete treatment that I will be able to give, but we shall soldier on and see where we go.

Time is an interesting concept. At a point in history, someone decided that a minute would be 6 seconds and that an hour would be 60 minutes, and that a day would be 24 hours, and so forth. Some project backward to Genesis when God speaks of creation in a “six-day” period and like to put our modern time on that story. But we do not honestly know what time means for God. In the biblical age, time was not calculated as it is today; days were different lengths and dependent on the sun’s rising and setting. People did not have watches or clocks; they looked up into the sky. Today, things are different.

Jesus comes along and says, “time is fulfilled,” but time is he talking about?

Because we know the rest of the story, we know that Jesus tells those following him that he is the fulfillment of all the law and prophets, fulfillment meaning completion. Fulfillment meaning something new is coming. Jesus says I will not leave you, orphans; no, he will give us something new.

St. Mark goes out of his way to place this story after John the Baptist has been put in prison. John represents that last of what we would call the Old Testament Prophets. John comes as a competition of what was and ushers in what will be the covenant of love. John is the bridge between what was and what will be. John is the messenger, the one who has come to prepare the way, but like Moses, John will not live to see what comes next.

In Jesus, we have the completion of the former covenant and the start of a new covenant, and in this covenant, all are equally loved and forgiven by the God that created them. The “time” of preparation is over, and the “time of repentance is at hand.”

I spoke of repentance a few weeks ago. Repentance, like sin, is a word the modern Church does not like to talk about. In the days of people wanting to hear that God loves them and there is nothing required of them, we do not like to hear about the fact that there is work for us to do that Christianity is not just a spectator sport that has been given to us so we can keep others out. This time of repentance ties in very nicely with what comes next in our story.

I mentioned at the beginning that each time I discovered a new church or denomination, it began with an invitation; we see that here as well. Simon, Andrew, James, and John were all going about their business when Jesus comes by. He does not launch into some long-winded speech about how horrible their life is and that they need a change. He does not offer to send the church bus by on Sunday and pick them up. He does not even ask them to come for a meal. He simply says to them, “Follow me.”

By me and others, it has been said that 80% of people who come to a church for the first time come because someone invited them to come. How many of you watching this on Facebook right now have clicked the little share button at the bottom of this video and shared it to your own Facebook page. No need to raise your hands. I looked just before I stepped into the pulpit, only two. Clicking on the share button and saying something like “Come and join us for worship” is like saying, “Follow me.” We are not asking you to go downtown and stand on a soapbox and invite people to come and worship; we are asking you to click a button and say, “follow me.”

Way back when, when I was sojourning in the fields of the Evangelical Church, I was asked the question, are “you a Christian?” or “are you saved?” Not wanting to be left out of the club, I would always respond by saying yes. I was baptized, I was raised in the Church, so of course, I was and am a Christian. Sometimes I would be asked if I “had found Jesus,” to which I often would respond, “I did not know he was lost.”

The decision to follow Jesus is a decision that we have to make at some point and time in our lives. Even if we are brought up in the Church, there comes a time, for we Congregationalists, that time is Confirmation, when we make a public declaration, we will follow Jesus. But that is only the start of the process.

Simeon, Andrew, James, and John instantly decided to drop what they were doing and follow Jesus. They gave up everything to follow some guy they did not know anything about. In another Gospel, we are told that Andrew as a disciple of John and John, told Andrew about Jesus, but in Mark’s Gospel, we do not know that. They decided to follow Jesus, but that was only the start of their journey.

Here is where it all comes together.

To be a follower of Jesus is to take on a radically different way of life; you have heard me speak in such terms in the past. Repentance is a radical change. Repentance comes from the Greek word that literally means to “change one’s mind.” To repent is to do an about-face, a 180-degree turn. Repentance is a radical change of one’s spirit, mind, thought, and heart. It is a complete reorientation of a life centered not on but in Christ Jesus.

Sure, repentance is about atoning for our sins, but it is more than that it has to be more than that it has to be a reorientation of our lives, how we think, how we feel, and how we act. We cannot profess to love Jesus on Sunday and then persecute people on Monday. We cannot believe and profess to follow the prince of peace while at the same time cheer on those committing acts of violence. We cannot profess to follow Jesus and not work for justice and mercy in every situation. And we cannot profess to love God with our whole heart, mind, body, and soul and hate someone just because they are different than you.

Jesus came as the fulfillment of all that came before. Jesus gave his life as the final sacrifice for the atoning of our sins. Jesus came to show us a new way to live and act, which is the way of love. Jesus calls us to be people of radical inclusion, not radical exclusion. Jesus calls us to repent to change our practices and see things through this lens of love. Jesus is hitting that share button and saying, “follow me.”

Jesus never tells us it will be easy. Jesus never tells us we will not be persecuted. Jesus never tells us to storm the halls of some government to get our way. Jesus never tells us to pass laws that force people to believe the way we do. Jesus never tells us to build big buildings that we struggle to maintain. Jesus says, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people. Follow me, and I will show you a radical way of love.

Friends, Jesus is calling us to live our lives in such a way that if the bible were to disappear tomorrow, if church buildings were to be torn down tomorrow, people would still know that God loves them. The time is at hand, the time has arrived for that 180-degree turn, and the time has come for that radical way of love.

Amen.

Prayer for the President of the United States

O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Episcopal Church. (1979). The Book of common prayer and administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the church : together with the Psalter or Psalms of David according to the use of the Episcopal Church. New York :Seabury Press,

Binding up Wounds

The last few nights, I have had trouble sleeping. My mind is racing with thoughts, and I cannot seem to quiet them. I can still see the disturbing images of the Capitol on January 6th, and I cannot seem to shake them. In some ways, we have all been traumatized by those events, and it is going to take some time for us to remove those images from our minds.

I have also been thinking a lot about Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was quoted quite a bit during the Second round of Impeachment hearings, especially his Second Inaugural Address from April of 1865. However, the problem is that passages quoted were taken out of the context of the larger speech, and like with Scripture, that can often change the meaning altogether.

The speech is short, so you might wish to read it before moving on in this essay.

The Civil War had been raging now for four years, and there truly was no end in sight. Lincoln lays out his case that some wanted war and some who did not, but when war came, it was an all or nothing proposition. Lincoln puts the cause of war squarely on the institution of slavery. There is the now-famous line, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.” Lincoln says that both sides cannot be just but that neither side’s prayers have been fully answered.

But Lincoln is not giving in and believes his cause to not only free the slaves but bring the Union back together is just and will continue to press on.

“Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said f[our] three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

The last paragraph is the portion of the speech that was quoted and misquoted during the impeachment trial. This is the paragraph where Lincoln speaks of “malice toward none” and “binding up our nation’s wounds,” which is lovely imagery but take out of context with what came before it, it means something completely different.

After tossing and turning the other night for what seemed like hours, I got out of bed and turned on the TV. I searched for something to watch and landed on the Netflix movie The Two Popes. Now, I have seen this movie before, twice actually, but I watched it again. I will not go into great detail about the film other than to say it is about the most recent two popes Benedict and Francis.

The two men are in the garden; Benedict is Pope, and Francis is a Cardinal at the time of this conversation, and they are speaking of the abuse that has gone on in the Church. Francis mentions that a few “magic words” of confession might help the person confessing, but it does not help the victim. He speaks of sin not as something to be wiped or washed away but as a wound that needs to be healed. Beautiful imagery.

The Church likes to use the imagery of sin being washed, cleansed, or wiped away. We use water as the vehicle for washing sin away in Baptism and, in Evangelical circles anyway, the “Blood of the Lamb” that will wash you clean. But this only deals with what is on the surface. I am no medical professional, but I know that sometimes the wound has to be healed from deep within itself, and sometimes making the wound larger to heal it is necessary. Sometimes the area around the wound needs to be cut away before healing can begin. This, I believe, is what Lincoln was getting at when he spoke of “binding the nation’s wounds.”

Lincoln was not advocating giving up; in fact, he had just said that “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword” he was saying that to “bind the nations wounds,” there has to be justice. There has to be accountability, and without that, the healing cannot begin.

Putting a band-aid on the wound is what we have been doing for the last 245 years. On the surface, the wound looks healed, while underneath, it is foul and festering. It is time to dig deep and begin the process of healing.

America is in desperate need of healing, but healing cannot begin until we, as a nation, are ready to take a long hard look at what has brought us here. There needs to be an honest acceptance of the wrongs of the past and a sincere desire to not return to that past. Healing begins with an acceptance that we are sick; it is time for all of us to accept that we need healing and not just surface healing.

At the end of his speech, Lincoln said, “let us strive on to finish the work we are in” and that we must “do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with the world. all nations.”

Yes, we need to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” but that binding needs to be justice, or the wound will not heal.

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