Tonight we come together on Thanksgiving Eve to celebrate in a Community Thanksgiving Service at the Silver Valley Worship Center (7:00 p.m.). It is fitting that churches from various backgrounds, Lutheran, Congregational, Baptist, Assemblies of God and non-denominational unite under the banner of Christ to proclaim thanks. In coming together as people of faith we proclaim that something bigger than our individual denominational preferences guides us all. Together we proclaim that the one who created us, sustains us, and redeems us, is worthy of our praise and thanks! In coming together in unity of spirit we define the best of community.
This unity of spirit is what defines this most unique of all holidays. It is this holiday which uniquely recognizes our dependence upon the Lord who sustains us as a nation. At the time of the first presidential thanksgiving proclamation the nation was looking at a very bleak future. The civil war had been dragging on. The Battle of Gettysburg had been fought. The numbers of war casualties rose precipitously. The country, once whole but now divided, saw little hope for its future as a united people. Into this void of hopelessness, President Lincoln dared to step and in November of 1863 sought to call the nation back to its core beliefs. The president reminded the people of many blessings the country was even then experiencing. The nation was continuing its expansion across the continent. Material prosperity was occurring though the areas of commerce, agriculture and mining. Yet the realities of war and division were also acknowledged. In his proclamation for a day of thanksgiving unto the Lord and Creator of all, Lincoln acknowledged all of this. Yet he would go beyond reflection to call upon the people to look heavenward. Consider this excerpt from Lincoln's proclamation:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
The first presidential proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving was a call to come together in unity. Recognizing blessings and confessing national sins can forge a heavenly unity that nothing else can match. Lincoln's intention it seems was to help the nation experience all of the blessings of what community can be. Perhaps that is the purpose of community to begin with!