Todd and I just got back from our vacation to Maryland. It was a wonderful time, filled with many new and different experiences. On our way back home to Michigan Todd and I made a discovery, which sadly says something about our education. We discovered Antietam. O, we knew about it, in a very textbook fashion, but we had no idea it was in Maryland. Upon learning how close we were (1/2 hour away) we decided we couldn’t pass this opportunity up to visit. I will be forever grateful that we made that short drive.

For those of you who don’t know, this battle was a turning point in the Civil War and not because it was a great military victory for the Union – it wasn’t. It did stop the Confederate advance into the North and the threat to Washington D.C., but the day was overshadowed by the significant loss of life – on both sides. By the end of just one day, September 17, 1862, 22,717 men were either dead, wounded or missing. In that one day, in only 12 square miles, a staggering number of men died. It was said that after the battle the dead lay as thick as fallen leaves. Let me repeat that number – 22,717. To put that into perspective it is estimated that in the 8 years this country fought for its freedom 25,000 Revolutionary Soldiers died. In just one awful day that number was nearly reached. At Antietam you are able to walk the battlefields, and as I stepped out into the cornfields and walked the Bloody Lane I did so with the realization that with every step I took I was standing where men had bled and died.

We were told the story during an orientation about an event in 2005. A visitor was walking in one of the cornfields when he came across a gopher hole and looking inside he was able to see bones. They excavated the site and uncovered the remains of an 18 year old New York Infantry soldier. One hundred forty-three years after his death that young man was finally taken home.

At the end of this month we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Lots of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green beans (but not on my plate) and pumpkin pie. I like to spend this month counting my blessings and giving thanks to God for each one. But this year, I have a new item to add to the list. I am grateful for the men who died at Antietam. In just a little over three months from the Battle of Antietam President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, changing the legal status of more than 3 million salves. He was able to do that, in part, because of what happened on that horrific day. One hundred forty-three years later their deaths are still making a difference in the lives of people and I am humbled.

The battle is not over against injustice. Poverty, racism, hatred, slavery and degradation is still with us. The call to imitate Jesus and walk in love (Ephesians 5:1,2) still sounds forth. Leaving the battlefields of Antietam I am left with questions that I am still struggling with. But, I am also left with a prayer that I would like to share with you, Father, help me to follow you through fire and flood, bullet and stone to reach the ones who need Your love. Help me to stand true and be used by You.  

 

Because of Jesus,

Your Pastor