April 9, 2015

150 years ago today it was a Palm Sunday.  At 3:15 pm Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. 

Bells across the nation tolled in relief and celebration for the end of war.  Many tolled in joy that the Union was preserved. Others tolled in grief for the cause that was lost.  I trust some tolled for in hope for the promise of freedom.  And I know all tolled for the lives that had been lost, for the suffering of the wounded, for the grief of the survivors.  

Today at 3:15 pm the church bell at St. Luke's, and at churches across the nation, tolled for four minutes, one minute for each of the four years of war officially concluded at that hour 150 years ago. It is Easter Thursday.

150 years ago on April 15 it was Holy Saturday.   Six days after war's end, bells across the nation tolled again.  This time for the death of Abraham Lincoln, who had been shot on Good Friday.  

Walt Whitman, America's Poet, wrote:

O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
      But O heart! heart! heart!
      O the bleeding drops of red,
      Where on the deck my Captain lies,
            Fallen cold and dead.

On April 15 at 10 am we will toll the church bell again. In celebration for the victory, in grief for the cost, in hope for the promise, in alarm to keep us awake to the opportunity we share to continue our work for peace.

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen. BCP p 815