by Charles R. Swindoll
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home!
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, takes all its sons away. As never before in this generation, we realize that we are dependent upon God for protection and strength. Though the mountains quake, though bridges fall, though tunnels are destroyed, though ships sink, though lives will be lost, though war threatens to invade, though there may even be terrorists and enemies in our midst, we will not fear. Our resolve is firm because our refuge is based on the eternal foundation of the living God.
In the fourth volume of his immortal work, Lincoln in the War Years, author Carl Sandburg addressed the events that not only led up to our nation's sixteenth president's assassination but also, of course, the events that followed. It's a magnificent account written by Sandburg, a true wordsmith. All who love history know that the assassination of Lincoln took place on the fourteenth of April, 1865. You may not remember that it was Good Friday. The president was officially pronounced dead the following day, the fifteenth of April, the day before Easter.
When Sandburg picked up his pen to write the seventy-fifth chapter, he was searching for a title that would say it best as he attempted to summarize the life of Lincoln in an appropriate way. In doing so, he went to an old, plain proverb that was often used among woodsmen as he titled the chapter "A Tree Is Best Measured When It's Down." As Sandburg measured the tree, he wrote not only of the now-dead president, he also wrote of preachers on that Easter Sunday following the death of Lincoln. He wrote,
On the Saturday following Good Friday, thousands of sermons were laid away as of no use for Easter Sunday. A new sermon had to be written or extemporized after the news arrived on Saturday forenoon or afternoon that the President was dead. The pastor who failed to deal with the national grief heard from his flock.
In great stone cathedrals of the cities, in modest framed churches of small towns, in little cabin churches at country crossroads, in hospital chapels and in at least one state prison, on Navy ships and in outdoor army-camp services, there were Easter Sunday sermons memorializing the dead President.¹
There was an outpouring from thousands of pulpits; pulpits from coast to coast rather uniformly dealt with varied aspects of their grief.
I thought as I recently reread that account, It is amazing how history repeats itself. It was not on a Saturday that the tragic events transpired which brought us to our knees. And the Sunday that followed was not Easter Sunday, but I can assure you that preachers all over the world scrambled to change their sermons for Sunday, September 16, 2001. The series that I was presenting at the time on the life of the apostle Paul seemed strangely irrelevant in light of our times. Like all other pastors around the globe, I changed directions and immediately began to pursue the events in which we found ourselves in hopes of finding some calming words for our chaotic times. I found them in the Book of Psalms.
1. Carl Sandburg, Lincoln in the War Years. Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1939.
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A Prayer for Calm
God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us—Selah.
Lord, we are gathered around our Standard. We are bowed before our great God who offers His peace when so many panic. You are our refuge, our chasah. Rivet that into our minds. Show us how to pause, and let it sink in. Remind us of Your power and presence when the songs in the evening change into the fearful tears of the night. Remind us of that when the shrill ring of the phone awakens us. Remind us of that when we sit down and read the morning headlines. Remind us, oh great God, that You are our refuge and strength. Remind us, even when we don't understand the why of what's happening, that we have no reason to fear, that we need not be moved, and that our future is never uncertain with You.
In the strong name of Christ, our Almighty Lord, Amen.
Excerpted from Why, God? Calming Words for Chaotic Times, Copyright © 2001 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Our Gift to You . . .
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