Pastor Henry's Memo

September 2019

Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer

President Abraham Lincoln set forth three separate days of national prayer and fasting for the United States.  The first one was set for September 26, 1861, 158 years ago.  Presidential proclamations are solemn things.  They are of several types, chief among which are Executive Orders.  Every president issues them and they hold force until rescinded, if ever.  The occasion of Lincoln's first prayer and fasting proclamation was the onset of the Civil War.  It was almost six months since Fort Sumter was fired upon by Confederate forces on April 12th.  Lincoln felt it was time for the Northern States to appeal to God for mercy, forgiveness, and strength that peace might be restored speedily.  The war would rage on for three and half years.  I wonder what national or world calamity would compel any American president to issue a proclamation calling for prayer and fasting?    John Adams, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson are the only four presidents who have issued proclamations precisely for "fasting, humiliation, and prayer."  President George Bush issued a proclamation inviting prayer for the lives lost on 9/11.  No humiliation or fasting.  Perhaps our unity as a nation isn't what it used to be.  To assume there would be some agreeable sentiment for such a religious joining for prayer, humiliation, and prayer is beyond the pale.  That is sad and speaks to a much different national character.  It also points to a place to which we will never return.  Prayer may be common and regular enough, but where does fasting and humiliation fit in any modern culture?   Christian Lent is not what it used to be.  Perhaps only the Muslim Ramadan fasting is observed across the globe.  And being humble before God...Let's not go there today.  Over a century and a half ago our nation was called to prayer and fasting for a massive and worthy goal.  At least we can remember.

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Easy to Please, but Hard to Satisfy

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland has enraptured children and adults since its publication in November, 1865.  Lewis Carroll wrote his children's classic over a period of three years.  His mentor was the Scottish clergyman and author George MacDonald.  Carroll gave MacDonald snippets of his story as it was being written.  MacDonald read it to many of his eleven children, and because they were enthralled by the tale, MacDonald encouraged its submission for publication.  Perhaps without this young audience of kids, Alice's Adventures might never have made it to print.  In a round about way, this bit of an introduction leads me to the principle notion for my memo.  It was MacDonald who is credited with saying, "God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy."  How true, how true.  God has many laws, 613 to be precise.  We summarize them in the Ten Commandments and in Jesus' concise joining of "Love God and love your neighbor."  One can see how it might be easy to please God by having a loving spirit.  But, how hard it is to live out that spirit all the time.  Might God bless all of us as we love, even when it's not easy.  

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Today marks a rather grim anniversary for the United States and the world.  9/11.  Not more needs be said.  It conjures terror and horror and death on a very expansive scale.  Though eighteen years have passed, our sensitivity to the events of 9/11 remain raw for some and numbing to others.  Almost no one is indifferent.  What seems true in this season of divided government and divided culture and divided selves is this: our political inclinations color how we stand with regard to 9/11.  Red or Blue or Purple or Independent.  We take our sides and we mark our boundaries and we lob Tweets and E-mails at those who differ from us.  We listen to the pundits with whom we agree and ridicule the others.  Civility and public decorum seem to be in short supply.  Each faction is quick to point to the miscreants they declare responsible for this sad state of affairs.  Few are willing to look in the mirror.  I have my own proclivities and passions and prejudices.  I mind my "P's and Q's."  And there is no list of "Q's" for this memo.  I try to keep them under the radar.  Would that 9/11 could do the same.  Maybe it would give us the space and the time to recover.  Don't you think half a generation is long enough?  It's about time.

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This is the Day!

I'm not sure when Labor Day became the unofficial end of summer and the day after which white was no longer an acceptable color for outdoor clothing.  I'm old enough to remember school not starting until after Labor Day.  And the just ended summer vacation was June, July, and August.  Oh, those were the days.  And those days are gone, gone, gone.  Truth be told, all of the days in the past are gone; not just the halcyon days of our youth.  We can remember the past.  But, we are not permitted to live in it.  Though, many try to keep it alive, the past is past and gone from our power.  Our great blessing is today and our hope for tomorrow.  Now is when we live and work and love and laugh and give thanks.  Now is when we can make a change and improve our lives.  Now is when we can forgive.  Now is when it can make a difference.  Today is a precious day.  The Biblical text reads: This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  (Psalm 118:24)  

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