If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10
One-hundred and fifty years ago, the fall of 1863, was a busy time for President Lincoln. In October he became the first president to decree a day be set aside for National Thanksgiving. The following month, on November 19, Abraham Lincoln stood up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and delivered a speech which lasted a bit more than two minutes.
On this American Thanksgiving Day, I pray you will forgive me if this devotion concentrates on the second of those two events.
Weighing the president's words by the pound, they were a poor and undeveloped thing, especially when they are compared to the oration of that day's featured presenter, Senator Edward Everett of Massachusetts. He droned on for more than two hours.
According to the Chicago Times, Lincoln's words were less than outstanding. It reported, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the president of the United States."
Another newspaper, the Patriot News, (back then called the Patriot & Union,) out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, wasn't much more complimentary. Suggesting the speech was motivated purely by party politics, it described Lincoln's message as having been nothing more than "silly remarks" and "shortsighted."
Now you and I know that history has been far kinder to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address than those papers. Indeed, those 272 words are considered to be among the most beautiful, profound and insightful presentations ever written in the English language. Today I am pleased to tell you the Patriot News agrees. Two weeks ago they published an apology and retraction for their critical editorial, which had been penned a century and a half ago.
Now it occurs to me that if a hard-boiled East Coast newspaper believes it's never too late to repent of an error, Christians ought to feel the same.
Unfortunately, repentance over past transgressions is something which is often left undone, and if it is done, it shows up pretty low on our list of priorities ... sort of like ... thanksgiving.
I imagine that is because we Christians rejoice in the fact that Jesus has done all which was necessary to save us. Washed of our sins by His precious blood we are able to stand before the judgment seat of God without blemish. In other words, if we're forgiven already, why do we have to repent?
A few good reasons can be given. First, because the Lord said we should. If there were no other motive given, that would be enough. Second, because the Lord likes to know we are conscious of the wrong we have done and the right the Savior has accomplished. Third, because all of us need to acknowledge our sins lest we become overly comfortable with who we are.
So, if you haven't done so in a while, why not take some time to repent of those old sins and, as long as you're at it, include the new ones as well.
An apology and a retraction, and a whole lot of thanksgiving to our God of grace -- that's a fine recipe for Thanksgiving.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, my sins are many, which is why I give thanks for Your grace which is boundless. For all You and my Savior have done, I give thanks. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
To Download Devotion MP3 to your computer, right click here and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" or "Download Linked File As"