Sunday 19th November

On this date 160 years ago Abraham Lincoln made a short speech at the funeral of those who had died in battle at Gettysburg.
In the aftermath of Remembrance Day we could do worse than revisit these words:

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 cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot 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.

Note the simple ‘under God’ in this brief but powerful text. With policies (and politics) here and elsewhere in some disarray, we should all pray for such humility on the part of contemporary leaders. ‘Poppy day’ is not enough.
Freedom for some (usually for those we identify with) at the expense of others is not God’s will. Slavery, the just cause of Lincoln’s war, takes many subtle forms and requires us too, under God, to be alert to every inequality.

Revd Peter Brain