We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. ~Abraham Lincoln, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861
This morning, as we await the inauguration of our next President, I find myself equally sober and hopeful. I am sober today because I am still reeling from the attempted insurrection in our Capitol Building just weeks ago. That event signaled to me how much damage has been done to the fabric of our nation – how divided we have become, how hateful we have become, and how far we have strayed from our baptismal promise to respect the dignity of every human being. I am sober because I know simply changing Presidents will not magically solve the division that took many years of cultivation. We have much truth telling and healing to do.
But my sobriety is balanced with hope. Again, I have this hope not because I think our President Elect is the Messiah – we already have one of those! But I am hopeful because being hopeful is the nature of being made in the image of God. I am hopeful we will find our way back to our baptismal identity, of seeking and serving Christ in all persons, and striving for justice and peace among all people. I know we have a long way to go. Our black brothers and sisters have shown us this year how far we have to go in the movement toward respecting the dignity of every human being. But somehow, seemingly impossibly, I am hopeful.
I was reminded today of the quote above from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, given on the brink of Civil War. He had no idea what the future held and how our nation almost fell apart – and the very long road it would take (and is still taking) to recover. But even then, on the cusp of some of our darkest times as a nation, Lincoln was convinced that we had better angels of our nature. Perhaps that is where my hope comes from today too. I am convinced that we have better angels still, and that, with God’s grace, we will be touched again by the better angels of our nature. That is my prayer for all of us today!