May I ‘speak’ to you of two things this month? The first topic is the subject of (Presidential) truth, mentioned in part because President’s Day is celebrated in February. The second topic is about love – especially offered to you moms and grandmothers in the month of love.
Back in the 1950’s – those pesky folks in Washington were ‘messing’ with trying to combine the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And, they were also trying to establish a yearly national calendar for government observation of holidays. That’s how we came upon the relatively recent idea of a President’s Day celebrated in February.
Given that all men and women are flawed – we look to our leaders – most especially our presidents to speak truth to us. Most of us have heard the old tale that Washington told his father, “I cannot tell a lie – I chopped down the cherry tree.” That may be a myth, but I read that General George Washington carried with him, in his field notebook, twenty four pages of personal prayers that he had written. No guarantee – but our feeling might reasonably be that Washington was a man oriented to truth and guided by his understanding of God. One of Washington’s personal prayers asks God to gift us with ‘that charity and humility which were characteristics of the Divine Author of our religion.’
About President Lincoln and truth – he warned the South in his first Inaugural Address: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.
The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.” How’s that for facing truth without equivocation? Lincoln thought secession illegal, and was willing to use force to defend Federal law and the Union. When Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter and forced its surrender, he called on the states for 75,000 volunteers. Four slave states joined the Confederacy but four remained within the Union. The Civil War had begun.
Lincoln never let the world forget that the Civil War involved an even larger issue. This he stated most movingly in dedicating the military cemetery at Gettysburg: “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.” The spirit that guided him was clearly that of his Second Inaugural Address, now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds… ”
Let us honor our leaders – our presidents and pray that they will lead us in truth and love. And love is my second topic. For many of us – love can be a factor which elevates our minds and draws us closer to God. Purely human love can be a factor that doesn’t elevate us to thoughts of God – and may in fact lead us away from a relationship with the Lord.
Have you ever heard of the composer Robert Schumann? He wrote a piece called Wiedmung. Wiedmung means Dedication.
And the beautiful song of dedication was composed to the woman he loved. Affairs of the heart played a large part in Schumann’s life. By 1835 he was in love with (a successful pianist) Clara Wieck, but her father did his best to separate them.
Robert and Clara pledged themselves in 1837 but were much apart, and Schumann went through deep depressions. During this period of stress and turmoil from 1838-1839, Schumann created a brilliant piano work for Clara to perform. In 1839 the young couple took legal steps to make her father’s consent unnecessary, and after many trials they were able to marry in 1840. Clara entered into her diary that their marriage was the most beautiful moment of her life.
Wiedmung (Dedication) is a very popular song in Germany. It was written by Schumann as he awaited his wedding day. These tender words are offered to you in honor of Valentine’s Day – however, please see these as words you might also pray to Almighty God. Here is Widmung: “You are my soul, my heart, my delight and sorrow. You are my world wherein I live; You are my heaven into which I soar. Oh, you are my grave, where deep down I have forever laid my sorrow! You are my rest and my peace; Heaven has destined you for me. Because you love me makes me feel worthy. Your gaze has transfigured me. Your love lifts me above myself; You are my good spirit, my better self!”
Let us thank the Good God for His undying love for us – a love neither merited nor understood. Perhaps we can send the Lord a Valentine’s Day card with the words of Dedication – these words of the composer Robert Schumann.
Dear moms, I don’t have the talent of words such as Robert Schumann, but I pray for you regularly. And for Valentine’s Day, I wish for and send you love. And that is the truth!
Copyright 2009 Deacon Tom Fox