Friday, December 19

Meaning It, Believing It, and Living It


It is one of the great ironies of our day that Christians can pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” and not actually mean anything by it. Indeed, it is a stunning paradox that we can live as if such a prayer could not be answered. Even worse, we can live as if such a prayer probably should not be answered.

Thomas Chalmers, the great nineteenth century pastor, reformer, and educator asserted that, “Pessimism about the real, palpable, and demonstrable transforming power of the Gospel in history ultimately engenders doubt in the whole of the culture. It is a doubt that has its naissance in over-spiritualizing the church but that has its renaissance in under-spiritualizing the society.”

If Christians have come to believe—contrary to all our creeds, confessions, and prayers—that the will of God is irrelevant to our culture, is it any wonder then that our culture has accepted that proposition with all the zeal of a new convert? Is it possible that our recalcitrance has led to their irreverence; that our passivity has led to their lasciviousness; that our subjective approach to obedience has led to their objective approach to disobedience; that our pessimism has led to their atheism?

This bizarre twist of fate is the result of an even more bizarre twist of faith. The disconnect between Christianity and civilization is the fruit of a woefully deficient theology of the covenant—which has in turn produced a woefully deficient practice of the covenant. Without covenantal orthodoxy and orthopraxy, it is inevitable that the church—and in turn, the wider culture—will plunge into a pool of concupiscence.

At the root of this covenantal unfaithfulness is our misconception of God’s redemptive purposes in history. Our dreadful pessimism is clear evidence of the fact that we have simply misconstrued the Gospel itself.
Jesus explained to His disciples just how the principles of the curse, with its inherent destructiveness, and grace, with its inherent constructiveness, are manifested throughout history. He said:

“The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them.’ Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:24-30).

Explaining this parable later, He said:

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:37-43).

Essentially what Jesus was saying was that as history moves along, the basic principles of wickedness and righteousness are worked out more and more consistently. Evil matures and becomes ever more evil, ever more distinctive. Likewise godliness matures and becomes ever more godly, ever more distinctive. Tare-maturation will evidence itself in horrid debauchery and unimaginable abomination. As time moves along and men become more and more self-consciously tare-like, more and more self-consciously anti-Christ, the curse becomes more and more evident. They persist in their rebellion to the end, gnawing their tongues, and calling for the rocks to fall on them (Revelation 6:16).

If we knew nothing more than this, perhaps there might be warrant for our persistent pessimism. But we do know more than this. The Biblical perspective of increasing and encroaching wickedness in history comes with a very clear and forthright caveat:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self- control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on my various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be” (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

As history draws toward consummation, evil will become ever more consistently evil. The tares will mature. But notice the adamant caveat: “They will not make further progress” (2 Timothy 3:9).

Why will they not make further progress? Because just as the tares continue to mature, so does the wheat. The church becomes more and more consistent as history proceeds. She becomes more and more self-consciously Christ-like as covenantal faithfulness is worked out more and more consistently. The truth of the Gospel actually becomes clearer and clearer as time goes on. The steadfast reality of the Good News of Jesus Christ becomes more and more of a contrast with the vain fantasy of the philosophies of the world as history unfolds. Christianity in culture ultimately makes a real and tangible difference—both for the good and for good.

May it be that in days to come we will never be able to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” without actually meaning it, believing it, and living it.

Tuesday, December 2

Kippered


The great Swiss church historian, Merle d'Aubigné, visited Thomas Chalmers and his family in Edinburgh during the winter of 1840. Mrs. Chalmers served kippered herring for breakfast. Dr. d'Aubigné, unfamiliar with the dish asked, "What does kippered mean?" She replied, "It means kept or preserved." Later, as he was taking his leave, d'Aubigné prayed a blessing on the household and concluded with a petition that the Lord would "kipper" Chalmers.

Thankfully, d'Aubigné had a better grasp of history than he did of English grammar or Scottish cuisine.

Sunday, November 30

The Battle of Franklin

One hundred and fifty years ago today, Union and Confederate forces clashed for five bloody hours on the fields in and around Franklin, Tennessee. It would be, though they didn't know it at the time, the last significant pitched battle of the terribly uncivil Civil War.

Confederate troops, under the command of General John Bell Hood, had skirmished with Union troops, under the command of Major General John Schofield, for several days from the Tennessee River at the Alabama border, through the towns of Columbia and Spring Hill. And then, with Scofield's men dug into breastworks along the southwest edge of Franklin, Hood ordered an ill-advised charge down Winstead Hill.

More ferocious, more protracted, and more deadly than even Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, the assault continued long after dark amidst freezing rain and withering fire.  The slaughter was horrific. There were more than 7,000 casualties.  The Confederates lost 55 regimental commanders and 6 generals.

Though they technically won the battle, the losses were so great that their capacity to continue the war was effectively ended.

Tuesday, November 25

Five Kernels of Corn

The first few winters in the New World were treacherous for the new American colonists. In the Plymouth colony, the settlers died in droves from both sickness and starvation. Nevertheless, from the beginning the settlers expressed their thanksgiving for the evidence of God’s good providence in their lives—despite all the hardships they faced, they recognized the peculiar opportunity they had been afforded. Thus, they outwardly affirmed their fealty to God and His ways. Many years later, the patriotic poet and balladeer, Hezekiah Butterworth attempted to capture that remarkable paradox of faith in his lyrical verse, Five Kernels of Corn. The necessity of rationing the meager food resources is set alongside the abundant moral reserves of the people.

Twas the year of the famine in Plymouth of old,
The ice and the snow from the thatched roofs had rolled;
Through the warm purple skies steered the geese o'er the seas,
And the woodpeckers tapped in the clocks of the trees;
And the boughs on the slopes to the south winds lay bare,
And dreaming of summer, the buds swelled in the air.
The pale Pilgrims welcomed each reddening morn;
There were left but for rations Five Kernels of Corn.

Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn!
But to Bradford a feast were Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn! 
 Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye people, be glad for Five Kernels of Corn!

So Bradford cried out on bleak Burial Hill,
And the thin women stood in their doors, white and still.
Lo, the harbor of Plymouth rolls bright in the Spring,
The maples grow red, and the wood robins sing,
The west wind is blowing, and fading the snow
And the pleasant pines sing, and arbutuses blow.
Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn!
To each one be given Five Kernels of Corn!

O Bradford of Austerfield haste on thy way.
The west winds are blowing o'er Provincetown Bay,
The white avens bloom, but the pine domes are chill,
And new graves have furrowed Precisioners' Hill!
Give thanks, all ye people, the warm skies have come,
The hilltops are sunny, and green grows the holm,
And the trumpets of winds, and the white March is gone,
And ye still have left you Five Kernels of Corn.
Five Kernels of Corn! Five Kernels of Corn!
Ye have for Thanksgiving Five Kernels of Corn!

The raven's gift eat and be humble and pray,
A new light is breaking, and Truth leads your way;
One taper a thousand shall kindle: rejoice
That to you has been given the wilderness voice!
O Bradford of Austerfield, daring the wave,
And safe though the sounding blasts leading the brave,
Of deeds such as thine was the free nation born,
And the festal world sings the Five Kernels of Corn.

Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn!
The nation gives thanks for Five Kernels of Corn!
Five Kernels of Corn! 
Five Kernels of Corn!
To the Thanksgiving Feast bring Five Kernels of Corn!

Long a part of the traditional New England holiday tradition—before the turkey is carved, each member of the family is served a mere five kernels of corn after which this inspiring poem is recited—the remembrance of Plymouth has become a symbol of the incredible blessing of this land.

Monday, November 10

Our Proper Business


“O, let the sacred obligations of this generation sink deep into our hearts. A great trust has descended to new hands. Let us apply ourselves to the great task now present: the task of preserving what our forbearers gained at such great cost. We can win no laurels in a war for independence. Earlier and worthier hands have gathered them all. Nor are there places for us by the side of Solon, Alfred, and other founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us the great duty of defense and preservation. Our proper business is the advancement of liberty. And so, by the blessing of God, may our country become a vast and splendid monument, not of Oppression and Power and Efficiency, but of Wisdom, of Peace, and of Liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration forever.” Daniel Webster’s Bunker Hill Oration

Saturday, October 25

TR: The Original Family Values Social Conservative


“Never will I sit motionless while directly or indirectly apology is made for the murder of the helpless." Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt was convinced that the family was the fundamental cornerstone of society. Anything that eroded the family’s strength or vitality, anything that sought to undermine its authority or integrity, and anything that subverted its holy purpose or virtue was a dastardly threat to everything that he held to be good and right and true.

In his State of the Union message in 1905, he highlighted his grave concern for America’s deteriorating moral climate in general and the family’s diminished cultural relevance saying: “The transformation of the family is one of the greatest sociological phenomena of our time; it is a social question of the first importance, of far greater importance than any merely political or economic question can be.”

He went on to describe a rather simple agenda for protecting the family against the encroachment of those men and women he called “the foes of our own household.” He said: “There are those who believe that a new modernity demands a new morality. What they fail to consider is the harsh reality that there is no such thing as a new morality. There is only one morality. All else is immorality. There is only true Christian ethics over against which stands the whole of paganism. If we are to fulfill our great destiny as a people, then we must return to the old morality, the sole morality.”

His analysis was utterly scathing: “All these blatant sham reformers, in the name of a new morality, preach the old, old vice and self-indulgence which rotted out first the moral fiber and then even the external greatness of Greece and Rome.”

In a very real sense, Roosevelt was the original family values social conservative.

It is not surprising then, that when a new wave of Eugenic Racists and Child-Killing Abortionists made their way onto the American scene and into the public arena, Roosevelt was one of their chief opponents—in fact, apart from the hierarchy of the Catholic church, he was one of their only opponents.

He railed against their “frightful and fundamental immorality,” calling their cause a submission “to coldness, to selfishness, to love of ease, to shrinking from risk, and to an utter and pitiful failure in sense of perspective.” As he argued: “Artificially keeping families small inevitably involves prenatal infanticide and abortion--with all its pandering to self-indulgence, its shirking of duties, and its enervation of character.”

But he did not simply hurl invectives their way--he acted. He was instrumental in mobilizing Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives against the awful specter of Eugenic Child-Killing—building a solid coalition that was to resist the siren’s call of abortion for another three-quarters of a century. As he said: “The foes of our own household are our worst enemies; and we can oppose them, not only by exposing them and denouncing them, but by constructive work in planning and building reforms which shall take into account both the economic and the moral factors in human advance. We in America can attain our great destiny only by service; not by rhetoric, and above all not by insincere rhetoric, and that dreadful mental double-dealing and verbal juggling which makes promises and repudiates them, and says one thing at one time, and the directly opposite thing at another time. Our service must be the service of deeds.”

He went on to assert: “The most dangerous form of sentimental debauch is to give expression to good wishes on behalf of virtue while you do nothing about it. Justice is not merely words. It is to be translated into living acts.”

The infamous Eugenic Racist, Margaret Sanger, who founded the vast Planned Parenthood abortion network, rightly saw Roosevelt as “a holdover from the old Christian religion,” and thus a serious obstacle to her revolutionary program which called for “no Gods and no masters.” She railed against him as “a disgraceful blight upon any modern scientific nation’s intent to advance.”

For a leader who had staked his reputation and risked his career for the sake of traditional family values, that was high praise indeed. For, no commendation can be greater than the condemnation of one’s fiercest sworn enemies.

Wednesday, September 10

Love: A Manifesto of Optimism

As affecting as is the image of terrorists crashing into buildings in an effort to take as many lives as possible, the image of firemen rushing into those same buildings in an effort to save as many lives as possible is more affecting still. The worst that evil can do is no match for the best that love can do.

The horrors of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington transfixed the nation—and ultimately changed the nation. But the stories of rescue workers, co-workers, family members, friends, and strangers were even more arresting—and in the end, changed us more. Who could ever forget the poignant sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives while helping to save others? Or those who ignored their own exhaustion, hunger, and safety to continue their desperate search for survivors? Or those who searched the hospitals, the shelters, and the police stations for some word of their brothers, mothers, neighbors, or friends? Or any of the other evidences of love that suddenly transformed New York City and Washington D.C. emblems of enduring faith and courage? Or any of the demonstrations of compassion, generosity, sympathy, and charity from across the entire nation in the weeks and months afterward?

Evil intended to deal a death blow to our national spirit. But love was a healing balm because it always “bears all things and endures all things.” Evil intended to destroy life and smother hope. But love was enlivening and invigorating because it always “abides in hope.” Evil intended to crush freedom under the rubble of tragedy and despair. But love was able to triumph even in this because it always “covers a multitude of sins.”

We must never lose sight of the fact that evil is a very present reality in this poor fallen world. But we must never lose heart. Love remains. And love prevails. Love is the greatest force in the world.

There is no power, no authority, no influence, and no achievement greater than the affection of love. There is no emotion, no desire, no vision, and no aspiration more potent than the sentiment of love. There is no priority, no precedence, no incentive, and no enthusiasm more significant than the motivation of love. There is no fervor, no zeal, no passion, and no inspiration more dominating than the enthusiasm of love. There is no thought, no idea, no concept, and no dream more transforming than the revelation of love.

Love sets the poet to rhyming, the musician to singing, and the artist to painting. The vocabulary of love seems to be overwrought with sentimentalism and cliché—but only because its height and breadth and depth so transcend even our best attempts to describe it that we inevitably resort to the obvious and the familiar. Even so, no other subject has served to stir the imaginations of creative men and women quite like love.

It was divine love that inspired Augustine to write Confessions. It was beatific love that inspired Dante to write The Divine Comedy. It was patriotic love that inspired Chaucer to write The Canterbury Tales. It was romantic love that inspired Shakespeare to write his Sonnets. It was love of justice that inspired Dickens to write Hard Times. It was love of the sprawling American frontier that inspired Mark Twain to write Tom Sawyer. It was love of Christendom that inspired Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings.

Love has not only always been the most important element in great literature, but in great architecture, great music, great philosophy, and great art. Love is an essential aspect of the human psyche and a central feature in human sociology.

According to the great German philosopher and poet Schiller, “Love can sun the realms of night.” Indeed, he argued that love was the single greatest gift to fallen men and nations because “by God’s grace, it alone can overcome every obstacle and solve every dilemma.” It will, he said, “always find a way.”

Love always finds a way to complete that which is lacking in us. Without love we all remain rather unbalanced. Love enables us to tie off the loose ends of our experience, to straighten the rumpled corners of our personality, to darn the frayed gaps in our expression, and to hem the edges of our interest. Love makes us better because love makes us whole. No man is an island—or to the extent that he is, he suffers. Wise men and women have always known this only too well.

Love always finds a way to see us through the darkest days and the most difficult dilemmas. There is no greater solace in times of trouble than the comforts of a love. Somehow those who know us best and love us most can console us without the easy resort to maxims, bromides, or hackneyed stereotypes. Often they can comfort even without words. That is because they really do know us. They understand us. They care for us. All too often the great men and women through the ages were able to achieve what they did only because they had the recourse of love in times of adversity—as their enduring legacy gives vivid testimony.

Love always finds a way to lend us solace and security. A beloved friend or family member is someone you can call in the middle of the night when panic over your new job suddenly sets in, or when the dullness of your old job finally becomes unbearable, or when your diet has just brushed aside by a late night binge, or your bald spot has at last brushed aside your few remaining filaments of dignity—or even when you just need to prove to yourself there is someone you can call in the middle of the night.

Love always finds a way to inculcate diligence. Love doesn’t just happen. It must be nurtured over time. It requires a substantial investment of time, energy, and affection. As a result, it ultimately alters who we are and what we do. Relationships require effort. Close families, healthy marriages, solid friendships, and vital communities take work. We must be vigilant. We must be watchful. We must take care not to let the bonds of care to suffer from either the suffocation of too much attention or the degeneration of too little attention. Men and women of accomplishment have thus always taken great pains in initiating and sustaining their relationships. In inculcating and maintaining love they fully comprehended the vital import of diligence.

Love always finds a way to create integrity and transparency. Family members and friends are honest with each another. They hold each another accountable. They stand together through thick and thin. They care for each another despite all the years and all the miles—years and miles that might cause mere acquaintances to drift apart and lose touch. Those who love us are not wowed by the razzle-dazzle or deterred by the dreary-dismal. They take their relationship with us seriously. In short, love is a responsibility. It is a duty. It is something that we do not merely something that we have. It commitment, sacrifice, and diligence—a fact that wise men and women through the ages have always known.

Love always finds a way to sort through what is significant and what is insignificant. There are no perfect families or friendships or communities because, alas, there are no perfect people. All of us have irritating habits, idiosyncrasies, wonts, dispositions, proclivities, manners, demeanors, and quirks. Those who love us must of necessity bear with us in charity and patience. They must have generous forbearance. Likewise, we must reciprocate. Through the ages, the most beautiful expressions of love have not been when men and women have been especially well suited, one toward another, but where they have been especially well accredited, one toward another. They are those instances when love was able to distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t.

Love always finds a way to bring joy into our lives. To have someone we can laugh with is a great gift. A dear brother, a kindred sister, a beloved husband, a precious wife, or a true friend is thus a welcome companion in this poor fallen world—a companion we can have fun with. Fellowship is an essential element of a healthy, well-balanced, and productive life. Happy then are the men and women who have known deep and abiding love.

Love always finds a way to engender the best in us. Love is built upon the foundation of sacrificial kindness. Common interests, shared backgrounds, coincident aspirations, and like minds go only so far in weaving the bonds of intimacy. More important than all these assumed attributes is an evident and demonstrable tenderheartedness. We will sacrifice our all in all for those we love. We will risk our lives with nary a thought. We will give up fame and fortune; we will alter our habits and expectations; we will change our appetites and desires; we will pursue virtue and fidelity.

Love always finds a way to sober, deepen and mature us. It leaves a lingering, lasting effect on our character. Its sundry benefits and kindnesses remain with us always. It inspires us. It continues to impact our thinking. It intrudes upon our daily concourse with a gentle but certain regularity. It causes us to ponder and reflect. It provokes us to remembrance. It is a kind of eternal trophy of a gracious endowment.

Love always finds a way to point us to the ultimate source of love. We can only love because we were first loved. Our love, as powerful as it is, remains but a dim reflection of the divine love which reached out to us while we were yet unloving, tended us while we were yet unlovely, and saved us while we were yet unlovable. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Indeed, love always finds a way. Edmund Spencer, the great English poet wrote that “such is the power” of love, “that it all sordid bases doth dispel, and the refined mind doth newly fashion unto a rarer form, which now doth dwell in his high thought, that would itself excel, which he, beholding still with constant sight, admires the mirror of so heavenly light.”

The Apostle Paul memorably wrote to the Christians in the first century Corinthian church saying, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but wheter there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether tere be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

The Scottish statesman and reformer Thomas Chalmers said that this passage revealed “a manifesto of optimism for every movement and a constitution of sanguinity for every nation that wished to work toward a free, happy, and certain future.” As it was for so many of the brightest innovators and most insightful leaders of Western Civilization, he considered love to be an absolute that stood above all other absolutes. Indeed, as Lord Byron asserted, “All of human experience testifies to the fact that love is an absolute which trumps all others. Thus, to build a life, a family, a community, a nation apart from this central defining reality is to invite evil to prevail and disaster to dominate.”

There is little doubt that we will face great challenges in the days ahead. These perilous times are fraught with evil. Difficulty lies in wait at every turn. Indeed, Indeed, in the 13 years since 9/11, there have been 23,780 separate deadly terror attacks carried out by Islamic Ji'hadists.

Even so, love is sufficient for the task. Love never fails.

Tuesday, September 2

Awaiting the Master's Call


“Man of God, if you want to serve God and cannot find the propitious occasion, wait awhile in prayer and your opportunity will beak on your path like a sunbeam.  There was never a true and valiant heart that failed to find a fitting sphere somewhere or other in His service. Every diligent laborer is needed in some part of His vineyard. You may have to linger, you may seem as if you stood in the market idle, because the Master would not engage you, but wait there in prayer, and with your heart boiling over with a warm purpose, and your chance will come. The hour will need its man, and if you are ready, you as a man, shall not be without your hour.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Friday, July 25

The Ji'hadi Holocaust and Gospel Scandalon

Nuun (نis the first letter of Arabic the word Nasara (نصارى or Nazarene). Since the beginning of the Islamic invasion of the Christian world in the 7th century this letter has been used by Muslims as a pejorative, a mark of shame, a scandalon  Today in Syria and Iraq, a new generation of invaders use it to stigmatize and persecute the few remaining Christians in the region. In the same way the Nazi's used the Star of David to identify Jews for persecution and eventually extermination, these Muslim terrorists use nun for their new Ji'hadi Holocaust.

Therefore, many Western Christians now display nuun as a mark of Gospel hope and a demonstration of solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in the lands where the Church of Jesus Christ was born. We gladly bear the scandal of the cross.

And so, with this sign we joyously declare that together with the faithful all around the world, we belong to the Resurrected Nazarene, the Savior of the World, God Almighty, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.  And one day, we know that "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

Thursday, July 3

Every Stanza of the Star Spangled Banner


During the night of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, a Washington attorney was sent to the British command to secure the release of a prisoner when the fleet began to bombard the placements of American fortifications in Baltimore at Fort McHenry. Though the battle raged through the night, the defenses stood firm. The sight of the flag still flying over the fort the next morning inspired the young lawyer to pen the immortal words of The Star Spangled Banner. Set to a popular English song, Anacreon in Heaven, it was officially declared to be the American national anthem more than a hundred years later, just before the First World War. 

Though the first stanza is very familiar to us today, the rest of this great hymn is sadly neglected. This July 4, let's rectify that unwarranted slight:

O! say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming:
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming,
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:

O! say, does the star-spangled banner still wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mist 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’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is the band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country would leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their 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 cloth 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 loved homes and the foe’s desolation;
Bless’d with victory and peace, may our heaven‑rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it 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.