Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln's Birthday

I must confess that I have been a fan of Abraham Lincoln since I was a kid. I am not sure whether it was the pennies I began collecting at about 7 or 8 years of age, or my first visit to Washington, D. C., at about the same time. (I still collect pennies, and my collection is much more impressive than when I was a child.) I was captivated by much of what I saw in our nation's capitol city, but I was particularly fascinated by the Lincoln Memorial.

As I grew up and began to learn more about our former presidents, I became a great admirer of Lincoln. His words, memorialized in his speeches, were often profound and challenging. Even in his brief addresses he insightfully confronted his hearers with their current realities and called upon them live up to their ideals and values. I guess my greatest appreciation for him lies in his courage and leadership.

Few leaders have confronted challenges more weighty than he did. I believe he sought to speak the truth and do what was right. I am not sure we can ask anything more of our leaders. This is true whether we are talking about political leaders or church leaders. We desperately need leaders today who have integrity and courage. I sometimes wonder what might have become of our nation if Abraham Lincoln had not been elected president. Leaders can and do make a difference. We need church leaders who will call God's people to live out their faith. It is easier to go along and get along, but how the church of the 21st century needs leaders. I wonder how many of our messages will still be quoted 150 years from now.

The Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

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 can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not 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.

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