I was privileged to speak in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 4th this year on the actual battle field so noted and honored for the Civil War that raged over the hills just outside the small village of Gettysburg. Pastor James David Manning of Atlah Ministries in Harlem, New York coordinated an event in which many hundreds attended from across the northeast. The event was to begin the process of healing and restoration between the races. I sat next to and then followed Mychal Massie to the stage…what a treat exchanging thoughts and ideas with Mychal, and even a few good stories and smiles on matters we both so enjoy – the New York Yankees for one. Mychal cares deeply about our country and the divisions we face as Americans, and his remarks, like those of the other speakers, were remarkably insightful, solid, caring and challenging. It was a treat hearing him share his heart.
Mentioned below is the full and complete text of my message delivered on Friday, July 4th. As I was speaking, not only did I look at the gathered audience, but I looked down and across the plains of battle, and into the town of Gettysburg. To be able to be on such hallowed ground and then to look out over much more was most humbling and thrilling all at once. Gettysburg is still very full of sights and memories of the large battle that raged in the town, and then just outside it on July 1-3 in 1863.
With all the challenges facing our country, I cannot think of one greater than to heal the wounds between the races. The gathering by Pastor Manning this July 4th was to begin this process of forgiveness and healing so we may come together as Americans. I was very humbled to have been a part of such an act of ministry and reconciliation. –LJR
151 years ago today this field of battle suddenly became silent after three days of the most intense fighting the Civil War had known. We stand on ground here today where the smell of smoke, war, and death occupied every square inch and wrapped around every tree and bush. We stand on ground where over 51,000 men became causalities in war that was every bit spiritual as it was bullets, bugles, and uniforms. We stand on ground today where the idea given to our Forefathers by our Creator was challenged and almost beaten down – an idea that all men and women are created equal, and that they have been granted certain unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In these gifts given by God, and breathed upon our Forefathers, to inspire them to shape a nation like no other nation in the world, nor any since, we learned that even God’s gifts can come under attack, and God’s Army of faithful servants need to stand and defend – not only the gifts under assault, but the people to whom the gifts are intended. And after successfully defeating the attackers, God’s Servants need to stand and usher in healing and restoration to those beaten down, wounded, and even discarded.
On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln stood in these fields and ushered in healing and restoration. He ushered in forgiveness. He ushered in a new nation, under God, with a new birth of freedom.
Pastor James David Manning brought us all here today to be a part of this new birth of freedom. Not a governmental freedom. Not a political freedom. Not a freedom dripping with philosophical prose. But a freedom only God can deliver to all who draw close and seek it. Pastor Manning has cried “ENOUGH!” On his radio show, from his pulpit, and here again today, “ENOUGH!” No more hatred filling hearts because of lies, because of festering wounds that were delivered decades ago, but still feeling as fresh as this morning’s sunrise.
Bullets and armies can influence a battle and win a war. But only God’s healing touch can influence a heart deeply scared and in bondage – not able to experience a new birth of freedom.
We each came here today to these hallowed fields still dripping with blood from thousands of men wounded and dead, who fought here, so you and I could be here, to experience God here, without shame, without fear, without penalty. We came here today to stop the raging war within our own hearts, within our own minds, within our own souls. We came here today to seek healing and restoration…to deliberately choose to forgive the wrongs said and done to us. We came here today to seek a new birth of freedom in Christ – not in man!
The War between the States has officially been over for many decades, but the battles promoting bondage and hatred, division and suspicion continue. A Treaty was signed ending the conflict, but the bullets of bigotry continue to be fired in more hidden, and maybe not so hidden, sophisticated ways.
I am here today to apologize to each person who has been marginalized by being called a “minority.” I am here today to apologize to each person who has been beaten down by the ugliness of segregation. I am here today to apologize to each person who has been scored and ridiculed for being anything other than white. I am here today to participate in the process of forgiveness, healing of hearts, and restoration.
Let us shout to God to bring a healing rain down on us; rich or poor, weak or strong, black or white. To the lost and angry with shattered dreams and hopes. Let us shout to God asking for His healing rain to wash away our tears of pain and tears of shame. Let us shout to God so we may be washed in Jesus Name!
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