Today we start part five of Morley's book. This part focuses on surrender. Morley points out that surrender is both a moment and a process. Maybe it would be helpful to consider a different setting for surrender that can provide some context for this idea.
Most Americans are taught that the Civil War ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. The date of that event was April 9, 1865. The National Park Service refers to Appomattox as the place "Where the Nation Reunited." As moving as these words are, though, that really wasn't the end of the war. The nation had not reunited. War continued across the South. On April 26, General Joseph Johnston surrendered to Major General W. T. Sherman near Durham, North Carolina. On May 4 General Richard Taylor surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama. On June 2 General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the Confederate Department of the Trans Mississippi to Major General Canby. Finally, on June 23, General Stand Watie surrendered Cherokee forces in Oklahoma. Almost three months had passed from Lee to Watie. The surrender of Confederate forces did not occur magically with the stroke of a pen at Appomattox, but in a series of events over a span of time.
Don't think that this was the end, though. After the military surrenders were completed, a whole new process of surrender began. This was the process of civil surrender. The former states of the Confederacy had to recognize the sovereign authority of the United States of America. This took a long time. In fact, some southern states continued to challenge the validity of constitutional amendments from the reconstruction era for over a century, and the repercussions of the war are still felt today in many communities.
As long as it has been since the Civil War, every state continues to surrender its independent sovereignty to the United States daily. Some states were always committed to the union. Those states that left have rejoined. Still other states have been added since the time of the Civil War. In each case, every state surrenders itself to the union day after day, year after year. That is why the United States is still a nation.
So it is with Morley's observation. Surrender can be tied to an event, but that event is only the beginning of a process. In our churches, it seems like some people have always been there. Others have left and returned. Others have joined more recently. Together, we are a congregation of Christ's holy church.
Where do we stand? Have we surrendered to Christ? Are we still surrendering to Christ, or are we waging our own "civil war?" If we have not surrendered, when will we? The time to surrender is now, and now is only the beginning.
Gracious God, I give up. I surrender. I submit myself to you. I have pursued what I have desired and found that my desires bring despair. I have exercised my strength and found that my strength is too weak. I have formulated plans and found that my plans are folly. Let me desire what you desire. Let me rely on your strength. Let me know your plan for my life, and give me courage to live that plan today and every day for the rest of my life. Amen.
Grace and peace--