July and August 2017...
Dear Friends -
Dr. Isaac Asimov loves to tell its story of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
England was at war with Napoleonic France. To bolster their navy, they seized American shipping and pressed sailors into service for the crown. In 1812 America declared war. When Napoleon abdicated, England turned its attention to the U.S.
The English planned to invade the U.S. from Canada and through New Orleans and land in the Chesapeake, cutting the nation in two. If the plan succeeded the U.S. might cease to exist.
On August 24, 1814 British forces burned Washington D.C.. The only federal government building left undamaged was the post office. Dolly Madison refused to leave the White House without the portrait of George Washington. As the city bearing his name burned, Washington’s image was carried to safety.
The British then moved on Baltimore. Fort McHenry’s guns and the 1000 men who manned them defended the harbor.
A lawyer, named Francis Scott Key boarded a British ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner. The captain agreed but required the two Americans remain on board through the battle. So Dr. William Beanes and Key watched Fort McHenry from on board an attacking British warship.
At dusk they could see a flag over the fort. When the bombardment began, the flash of bursting shells illuminated the night sky and the flag. But toward morning the bombardment ended. Beanes and Key didn’t know why the shelling stopped. And without the flash of shells the flag could not be seen. First light would reveal either the American flag, or the British flying in victory.
What they saw at first light is recorded in the second verse of the nation’s anthem.
“On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep, Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream. ‘Tis the Star-Spangled Banner. Oh! Long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
What the song doesn’t capture is the memory of 1000 men who defended the fort. It wasn’t glory that kept them there. It was a willingness to sacrifice for their nation and their neighbors. We are here because of a long, thin line of brave men and women who have stood and protected us. Our anthem remembers and honors their gift to the nation. Remember and honor them this 4th of July.
~ Pastor Byron
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