As I write this column, the political convention season is in full swing as the two leading candidates for the U.S. presidency are presenting their cases to their parties and the American people. Rhetoric flows. Challenges are thrown down. And promises for a better tomorrow are made, as they are every four years in an endless cycle that has the same refrain. Honestly, take away the faces and you can almost use the same speeches every four years.
This could be called the summer of the American presidency. We have the conventions and candidates gearing up for a tough, acrimonious campaign. But earlier we had another presidential moment, one that does not come too often. In early June America laid to rest its 40th president, Ronald Reagan. America may not have all the pomp and circumstance of its mother country, but when it holds a state funeral, it does so with style, grace and the appropriate majesty. The weeklong remembrance and celebration of this man’s life was a welcome pause in the political season.
June 11 was the day for a national ceremony and burial. The National Cathedral in Washington was set for a gathering of national and world leaders. Dawn brought rain. Watching the soldiers carry the casket from the Capitol Rotunda down the steep west steps, you held your breath hoping they would not slip on the wet pavement. Headlights from the limos cut a path of light through the streets as the procession made its way to the service.
All the living American presidents were gathered for the service. Two of them gave eulogies. The words of the hymn “The Mansions of the Lord” concluded the service.
To fallen soldiers let us sing / Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing / Our broken brothers let us bring / To the mansions of the Lord
No more bleeding no more fight / No prayers pleading through the night / Just divine embrace, eternal light / In the mansions of the Lord
Where no mothers cry and no children weep / We will stand and guard to the angels sleep / All through the ages safely keep / The mansions of the Lord.
The hymn is a call for a time when strife ceases and the pain of war is removed from mothers and children. It speaks to the agelong hope of all peoples. What most don’t understand is that this hope will only be realized when Jesus Christ returns to this earth in the power of the heavens and restores the just and righteous rule of the Kingdom of God. God’s eternal gospel carries that message of hope. I have read enough of the life of Ronald Reagan to know he held a deep desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons and end the possibility of nuclear holocaust. It was perhaps the defining theme of his presidency.
A presidential jet carried Reagan’s body back to California where it was laid to rest later that day on the grounds of his presidential library in Simi Valley. In contrast to the rain of the morning, the day ended with a beautiful western sunset framing the ocean, the hills and the flag-draped coffin. It was a fitting conclusion for a man who looked at America as a “shining city on a hill.” He wished her to have a “bright new dawn ahead.”
Reagan’s wish will come true. Not in this age and not at the hands of today’s aspiring leaders. It will be true in the age to come when those who exercise power will be as those described by King David. “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain” (2 Samuel 23:3-4 2 Samuel 23:3-4 3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
4 And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
American King James Version×). WNP