Independence Day 2022: The Full Text of America’s National Anthem

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so galantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
‘Tis the star’spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’ver the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confustion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out there foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

—Written by Francis Scott Key, 1814

Independence Day 2022: George Washington’s First Inaugural Address of 1789

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.

Read it all.

Independence Day 2022: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble to the Constitution
Read it all.

Would that God raise up leaders for us who would speak to the vision and ideals laid out in our Constitution’s Preamble instead of creating rancor and division by engaging in partisan and petty politics and playing the shame and victim’s game. There is much talk of justice, but not about justice for all, including those tasked with insuring domestic Tranquility. Where fearless leaders are desperately needed who are steeped in our nation’s history and willing to carry on the many good traditions of this country while addressing the bad ones, generally I see only weak and spineless politicians (I cannot call them leaders because they fail to lead) who cower at the mob because they are clueless about their own nation’s heritage (or even worse, hostile to it). It’s a sad state of affairs and simultaneously infuriating. There has been much blood shed to defend our nation and its great heritage, and those politicians who refuse to honor our Constitution’s Preamble by defending it not only betray those who elected them to office but also bring dishonor to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend this country. May the good citizens of this country condemn this behavior by voting them out of office this November. This Independence Day, pray for our nation. We are in desperate need of God’s blessings.

Independence Day 2022: Lincoln on the Declaration of Independence and the 4th of July

lincoln19

In the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln’s rhetoric was suffused with a profound sense of loss. He considered it shameful national backsliding that a new affirmative defense of slavery had arisen in the South. At the time of the Founding our nation had merely tolerated slavery; now, it was an institution actively celebrated in part of the country.

In a letter in 1855 despairing of ending slavery, Lincoln wrote to the Kentuckian George Robertson that “the fourth of July has not quite dwindled away; it is still a great day–/for burning fire-crackers/!!!”

At around this time, Lincoln fastened on the Declaration of Independence as “his political chart and inspiration,” in the words of his White House secretary John G. Nicolay.

He made it the guidepost by which the country could return to its lost ideals. His example shows the enduring vitality and the endless potential for renewal that is inherent in the Declaration.

Some good stuff here. See what you think.

Independence Day 2022: Today in History

From here:

images

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first volleys of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually encourage France’s intervention on behalf of the Patriots.

Read it all and give thanks to God for this country of ours.

Independence Day 2022: The Declaration of Independence

With the forces of lawlessness and mob rule that are attempting to wipe out this country’s history and identity in order to destroy it, it is critical that we know the principles contained in our nation’s founding documents on which our country is based. Take the time to read and reflect on the Declaration of Independence and give thanks to God for this great nation of ours, warts and all.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The Declaration of Independence

Read it all.

Another Prayer for Independence Day 2022

Lord God Almighty,
you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory,
to serve you in freedom and in peace:
Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice
and the strength of forbearance,
that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and ever. Amen.

A Prayer for Independence Day 2022

Lord God Almighty,
in whose Name the founders of this country
won liberty for themselves and for us,
and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:
Grant that we and all the people of this land
may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Deacon Tucker Messamore: The Scandal of Grace

Sermon delivered on Trinity 3C, Sunday, July 3, 2022 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: 2 Kings 5.1-14; Psalm 30; Galatians 6.1-16; St. Luke 10.1-11, 16-20.

In the name of God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This morning, we’re going to focus on our Old Testament lesson from 2 Kings 5:1-14 about Naaman, a man who is afflicted with leprosy. 

This story is not exactly one of the “greatest hits” of the Old Testament. It’s not David and Goliath or Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I had Noah’s Ark wallpaper in my childhood bedroom, but I’m going to guess there aren’t many parents who opt for a Naaman the Leper themed nursery. As someone who grew up in the church, I didn’t hear many Sunday School lessons, sermons, or Bible studies about Naaman. In fact, I’m not sure that I even know this passage was in the Bible until I was an adult. But I think this text really ought to get more play than it does. You see, in Naaman’s story, we get glimpses of the gospel: We see both the reality of our sin-sickness and the remedy for this malady—God’s gracious promise to heal us through the cleansing work of Christ.

First, we’ll see that Naaman’s account shows the reality of our sin-sickness (v. 1) 

In the opening verse of this passage, there is a clear contrast between Naaman’s status and Naaman’s sickness. In v. 1, we’re told Naaman is “a great man.” He has a very impressive resume. He’s in a position of authority and is probably well known. Naaman was “commander of the army of… Aram,” another name for Syria. Now, this was not some rag-tag band of volunteer soldiers; Naaman led one of the most powerful military forces on the planet. At that time, along with Assyria, Syria was a major world power intent on building an empire, and Naaman was quite successful in this enterprise. We’re told that “by him, the Lord had given victory to Aram.” Because he of his military prowess, Naaman was well-regarded; he was held “in high favor” by his boss, the King of Syria.

But for all his prestige, power, and accomplishments, Naaman had a problem: he was sick. After this list of all Naaman’s credentials and achievements, the other shoe drops at the end of v. 1: “But he was a leper.” In the Bible, “leprosy” was an umbrella term for several skin diseases, some that were temporary and minor—like a rash or an infection—and some that were chronic (even life-long), painful, and debilitating. Based on the lengths that Naaman goes through to seek healing, it’s likely we’re not talking about a touch of eczema or a mild case of psoriasis. Whatever the exact nature of his condition was, it’s clear that it seriously impacted his day-to-day life.

Being afflicted by such a disease would have been a source of great suffering. Not only could leprosy be painful and irritating, but it also isolated the one who had it from anyone who didn’t have it. According to Mosaic Law, a leper was considered “unclean as long as he has the disease… He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:46). Because some leprous skin diseases were contagious, in Israel, lepers had to live apart from their loved ones until their condition cleared up (if it ever did). Lepers were required to remain distant from others and shout, ‘Unclean, unclean!” when approaching another person (Leviticus 13:45). To make matters worse, lepers—and those who came in contact with them—were considered ritually unclean; they were not allowed to enter the temple for worship (2 Chronicles 26:21). For these reasons, lepers were considered outcasts. They were avoided and despised.

While Naaman was not an Israelite and was not subject to the rules and regulations of Jewish Law, it’s likely that his condition dealt some sort of a blow to his relationships and his status in Syrian society. The bottom line is that leprosy in biblical times led to all sorts of suffering—physical, social, and spiritual. It caused painful skin lesions and separated those infected by it from their family and from the public worship of God.

For this reason, leprosy provides a fitting image for the sin-sickness that afflicts all of humanity. Scripture tells us that sin is like a genetic illness—we inherited it from our ancestors Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). We all have within us a sin nature that inclines us toward evil rather than good. Left untreated, sin grows and spreads within us like a cancer, corrupting our actions, our thoughts, and our motives. Like leprosy, our sin impacts our relationships with others. It can cause heartache, suffering, and harm to those who are in our orbit. Our sin also separates us from a perfectly holy God. As Romans 3:23 tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Ultimately, our sin-sickness is terminal. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin”—its prognosis, it’s outcome—“is death.,” and not just physical death, but eternal death—separation from God forever.

This is a grim diagnosis. But thanks be to God that in Jesus, the Great Physician, there is a remedy for our sin-sickness, as Naaman’s story illustrates for us (vv. 2-14). 

Naaman learns of the possibility of healing through an Israelite, a little girl who “worked in the service of Naaman’s wife” (v. 2). She tells her mistress about Elisha, a prophet in Israel who, by the power of the one true God, could cure Naaman of His leprosy (v. 3). But even though the little girl has given very clear advice about where to go to seek healing, notice that Naaman takes matters into his own hands, turning to the tools and methods he probably always employed to get what he wanted—his connections, his wealth, and his power. 

Instead of seeking a lowly prophet, Naaman goes straight to the person he thought was really in charge—the King of Israel; he brings a letter from the King of Syria demanding Naaman’s healing (vv. 4-6). But this plan backfires: the king of Israel recognizes that he is powerless to heal Naaman, and he fears that this is some sort of sneaky plot by Syria to reignite tensions with Israel and start a war (v. 7). Naaman’s riches also do no good. He makes a ridiculous display of his wealth, bringing about 750 lbs. of silver and 145 lbs. of gold (v. 5a), not realizing that neither God nor His prophet can be bribed or bought. Naaman’s attempts to wield his might likewise fail. When he finally goes looking for Elisha, he brings his horses and chariots (v. 9), sending the threatening message that he is important powerful. But Elisha is unmoved by this spectacle. Instead of speaking with Naaman face to face, he sends a message through a servant (v. 10).

Try as he might, Naaman could do nothing to earn or secure his healing. I love the way The Jesus Storybook Bible explains this: “[Naaman thought,] ‘I  should do something important so God will heal me’ . . . Of course, you and I both know, that’s not how God does things. All Naaman need was nothing. It was the one thing Naaman didn’t have.” Elisha tells him to simply “go and wash in the Jordan seven times . . . and you shall be clean” (v. 10). Of course, a mere bath was not enough to cure Naaman’s leprosy; if it was, he would have already tried it! Naaman was called to simply have faith—to believe that God’s promise of healing announced through the prophet was true. After some hesitation (vv. 11-13), this is exactly what takes place: “He went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God . . . and he was clean” (v. 14).

And this is precisely how we can be cured of our sin-sickness: by trusting in God’s promise to heal us through the cleansing work of Christ. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, He told them, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8). These words anticipated His sacrificial death on the cross; as St. John says, “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). 

Like Naaman, to receive this cure, all we must do is simply believe God’s promise that Christ has done everything needed to cleanse us of our sin and restore us into right relationship with Him and one another. This truth is beautifully visible in baptism. Cleansing is something that we passively receive; it’s not something we do, but something God does for us: As Titus 3:5 says, God saves “us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

This is the scandal of grace: cleansing from sin is not earned or deserved. This is probably not a revelation to you. If you’re an orthodox Christian, you readily affirm with St. Paul, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is foundational Christian doctrine. But when push comes to shove, do we really believe this? Naaman’s mindset easily creeps in as we consider our standing before God.

I’ve been reflecting on something a friend recently said during our home group: we have a natural human tendency to try to turn the gospel into law. On one level, I know that Christ has done everything necessary to heal my sin-sickness and reconcile me to God, and yet there are times in my life when I’ve thought, “If I am just more consistent with Scripture reading, if I just commit to pray more, then I’ll really be right with God.” Of course, these are important ways that we abide in Christ, means by which we can receive the grace Christ has already secured for us. But they are not ways we earn God’s favor. If we’re not careful, we make these precious gifts a burdensome duty.

Today, as we come to the Lord’s Table and partake of Christ’s body and blood, let us remember Christ’s words from Calvary: “It is finished” (John 19:30). This is the good news of the gospel. May we find comfort and rest in the completed work of Christ, knowing that our standing before God is secure in Him.

As I conclude, let’s very briefly return to an important but easily overlooked character in this story: the little girl who was a servant of Naaman’ wife. In v. 2, we learn that this girl was an Israelite and that “the Syrians on one of their raids had carried [her] off from the land of Israel.” At a very young age, she had been torn from her family, abducted to a foreign land, and made a slave, the property of another person. But in spite of the way she was treated by her oppressors, the girl had compassion on Naaman. She tells him the good news that a prophet in Israel could cure him. If it weren’t for her message, Naaman would not have been healed. He would not have come to know the one true God. 

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we are reminded that although our sin once separated us from God and alienated us from one another, we who were once far off—outcasts!—have been brought near to God and to one another by the cleansing blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13). Our liturgy ends with a call for us to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” As we depart, wherever God takes us, may we, like the servant girl, bring the message of the gospel with us. By the power of the Holy Spirit, may we proclaim to others in both word and deed the love of God and the promise of healing from sin in Christ.

In the name of God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today in Civil War History 2022: The Battle of Gettysburg Ends

images

On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee‘s last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.

Read it all and read about Pickett’s charge, the battle that effectively ended the Gettysburg campaign.

Independence Day 2022: Meet the American Who Wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) gave the United States — and the world — some of the most inspirational words ever written. 

She penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in November 1861, during a wartime tour of Washington, D.C., as Americans realized with gloom that the seven-month-old Civil War would be longer, darker and deadlier than anticipated. 

Howe’s masterpiece has been called America’s fight song. Its lyrics inspired the United States to spiritual resolve and sacrifice. 

The words tell the biblically heroic story of Union soldiers marching to their death in the name of Christ to vanquish slavery: 

As he died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
His truth is marching on

From Fox News. Inspiring. Read it all.