Feb 2013: Mary Todd Lincoln

As several of you know, the past few weeks, I have been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals. It chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s path to the presidency and how he formed a team of leaders who helped him preserve the nation during the critical days of the Civil War. While it is a massive book at 916 pages, I am enjoying reading the insights of history that Goodwin details. (Those who know me, read that sentence again!) In one section, Goodwin describes the efforts of Mary Lincoln in the summer of 1862 to begin making daily visits to the casualties who were brought to Washington, DC. Hundreds of men from a nearby battle scene were brought in by boat each morning to makeshift hospitals made from converted hotels, churches, school buildings and even private homes. Mrs. Lincoln went about her work in a humble manner and brought food, fruit and fresh flowers to many injured soldiers who did not know that the kindly woman was the first lady.

In noticing Mary’s efforts, William Stoddard, Secretary to the President, wondered why she didn’t publicize her efforts, carrying around a number of newspaper correspondents to take notes of what she said to the sick soldiers and what they said to her. If she were to do this, Stoddard suggested, the reports would give Mary credit for providing comfort to the injured men and in the process counter prior reports which criticized the first lady’s White House receptions and expensive renovation projects.

Even though she might gain from her actions, Mary did not seek credit. Instead, Goodwin says that “she found something more gratifying than public acknowledgement.” Where we Christians might respond to the soldiers’ need out of compassion or the love of Christ, in her work, Mrs. Lincoln sensed the soldiers’ deep belief in her husband and in the country for which they fought. That buoyed the first lady’s spirits who was just coming out of a depression over the death of her son, Willie.

Although our approach to service is through a faith perspective, our situation is comparable to Mary Lincoln’s. Our faith calls us to be about acts of service and love. Our response to God’s work in our life invites us to serve our fellow human beings acting as Christ’s hands and feet.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been encouraging those in worship to make a list of how they use their God-given skills and talents in serving the church and the community. This is not bragging on our part nor is it letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. More, it is taking an informal stock of how we work together as the body of Christ to serve others. Several persons have already made a list and dropped it in the box in the church lobby. As the lists are compiled, we are seeing the reach of our church and how God is using us to meet the need in Fort Collins and the world. My hope is that as we see the variety of ministries that we are involved in and consider their impact, some of us will be encouraged and moved by the Spirit to join in these activities or discover new opportunities.

So, if you haven’t had a chance to get your list in the lobby box, I encourage you to do so in the next few weeks. If you serve as an usher or contribute school supplies, list those things. If you have a prayer ministry you’re involved in or you participate in worship, list those things too. As we see how God is using our church, we can be very thankful that God has gifted us, individually and corporately to be about his work in helping to serve those in need and establish God’s reign.

— Pastor Bill

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