This past summer my wife and I were able to be in Gettysburg on the 150th anniversary of that terrible Civil War battle. This week marked the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. One of the shortest speeches ever made established Lincoln as a great orator, evidenced by how often that speech is recited and quoted: "Four score and seven years ago…" The speech was at the dedication of the military cemetery, and Lincoln reminded the crowd that this nation was "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…" Powerful words that went right to the heart of the matter. Less than two years later, that President was assassinated.

This past summer my wife and I were able to be in Gettysburg on the 150th anniversary of that terrible Civil War battle. This week marked the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. One of the shortest speeches ever made established Lincoln as a great orator, evidenced by how often that speech is recited and quoted: "Four score and seven years ago…" The speech was at the dedication of the military cemetery, and Lincoln reminded the crowd that this nation was "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…" Powerful words that went right to the heart of the matter. Less than two years later, that President was assassinated.


This week marks another sad event in our nation’s history, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. He is also remembered as a gifted orator. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."


Both of these presidents were important figures in the history of the United States. They were killed by individuals who disagreed with what they stood for, what they believed.


Some things never change. Two thousand years ago there was a man who was proclaiming a message that was contrary to what many believed. He was not a political leader, but a man that wandered from town to town sharing God’s love and a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. He was calling people to renewed spirituality and honest, sincere worship of God. The religious establishment was threatened by Him and His message, so they made arrangements to have Him killed. He was put to death by those who disagreed with Him.


At least, that is how it looks from the human perspective. In actuality, He came here to die. God knew that we could never get ourselves out of the problem caused by our sin. Even though He gave us His Law, we were powerless to keep it well enough to merit anything. He had said as much: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law. (Romans 3:20) So God sent His Son to make the payment for the sins of the world and accomplish our forgiveness. Jesus would do that by offering His life for ours.


In dedicating that "hallowed ground" at Gettysburg, Lincoln asked those gathered to "highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain." Those who follow Jesus should have the same resolve about His death. When you live as though you must earn whatever eternal reward there is, you are rejecting the salvation Jesus earned for you and making the death of Jesus "in vain." …if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21)


However, with trust in Jesus as your Savior, you make sure that for you, His death was not in vain. I hope you will join me in praying that for more and more people in our world His death was not in vain. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)


Rev. Michael Mattil is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Denison.