Wednesday, March 05, 2008

#1- Gettysburg Address and Sermon Preparation...

I've certainly got old thoughts on Sermon Preparation, and you can read my MO for preaching here. But last weekend, I had a new thought that came while I was reading Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (as you do). It is not that profound, but still helpful to me. I won't tell you my thought until tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime, you tell me:

What do you notice about the Gettysburg Address as a piece of communication?

Here it is:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Keen to hear your reflection.

Pic on Flickr by stuck in customs.


John said...

It's epic and poetic. It has beauty and substance.

byron smith said...

It's short.

It's not afraid of appealing to tradition and martyrs for the religion of democracy (and the nation). Note the religious register of the language and concepts: "new birth", "consecrated" ground, "honoured dead", "devotion", "shall not perish", living up to ancestral achievement, sacrificial death for others (in this case, "that that nation might live").

It is a classic instance of the ideology of redemptive violence.

It portrays the hearers as characters in the story it tells.

It's self-effacing.

It's wrong (at least so far): The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.

Gordon Cheng said...

Well, I believe you already know my views on this, Justin.

One word. One embedded capital.


william said...

Civic poetry. The United States has never had anything quite like Lincoln's speeches, before or since. The Gettysburg address is a critical piece of the true mythology of the Civil War, and as such holds a great deal of meaning for me.

Have you read Lincoln's Second Inaugural? He turns the biblical language up several notches, and argues that the Civil War was a divine judgment on both the North and the South. Heavy stuff.

CraigS said...

As Byron said, it's short.

It also preceeded a two hour speech on the same topic which has been largely forgotten by history.

michael jensen said...

But, Byron: not redemptive violence. Redemptive suffering, surely? (Never mind that the dead were soldiers of course!)

Anthony Douglas said...

It has lots of dashes, which are my favourite form of non-dull punctuation.

Oh, and that's written as a speech, not an essay.

And it's extremely memorable. I rote learned it back in 1987, and without any maintenance work, can still get underway and rattle off the first quarter of it without strain. That's darn good writing. And he does it without avoiding big words.

Wish I'd sent him the letter that came in the envelope he used ;-)

Megs said...

i can't help but notice the irony in him saying
"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here"

and the hope, in the end bit...