We talk of "division" in our time and especially our nation. We may well be coming to other days of infamy in our nation which is deeply divided over many issues this day!
Today marks the day that is arguably the most bitter and divisive in our four century plus history - April 9, 1865 in Appomattox, Va when General Robert Edward Lee (commander of the Conferedate army) surrendered to General Ulysses Grant (commander of the Union forces).
It may be a little known fact that General Lee had the opportunity to command both armies. President Lincoln asked him to command the Union army and Lee declined. He felt God was calling him to stand with others in the clarion call for state's rights (NOT slavery as many have been taught and think). All that is bitterly arguable to this day among certain people and is NOT the point of this blog even though I have deep Southern roots!
I want to fast forward to another day in another place not too far from Appomattox, Va. It is a hot Sunday in June 1865. It is time for communion to be served to the worshippers at St. Paul's Episcopal church. Two men were in the company of worshippers: Gen. Lee and a freeman (name unknown). It was the custom for worshippers to rise, come forward and kneel at the front of the church to receive communion directly from the hand of the rector. Undoubtedly the worshippers were shocked when the black man made his way down the aisle and knelt at the communion rail. Some say he was tall, well-dressed and respectful - but no matter!
No one else in the church moved! It was as though a sudden paralysis had overtaken all the other worshippers. Then an elegant older man rose and also made his way down the aisle to the communion rail where he knelt beside his fellow worshipper.
After Lee knelt then the rest of the congregation slowly rose and made their way to the rail as well. The rector conducted communion and served his black brother along with the other worshippers that day in Richmond, Va.
Since this story is not included in Douglas Southall Freeman's four volume biography of Lee many do not believe it ever happened. Be that as it may, this is the kind of man Robert E. Lee was. He lived and died coram Deo ("before the face of God")!
This is a story of the character and heart of Robert E. Lee but it is also a parable of inclusion. When all are not included in worship and the life of the church, then the whole church suffers! We need all of the parts of the body to be whole as a church to change our culture! Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 to get the big picture and also reflect on:
Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable!
It's not us and them; it's we! Robert E. Lee understood that and so should we!