American Providence

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.  Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” – George Washington

Occupying my thoughts is a coincidence related to experiences from this morning, inspiring the idea for a blog through which the kids in the youth ministry at my church can share their own thoughts relating the Hebrew and Gospel Scriptures read in each Sunday’s service.

It all started immediately before the late-morning service, with a member of the congregation announcing an opportunity for adults without children to get involved with the youth ministry.  We then participated in what was otherwise a routine worship service that included a reading from Exodus 32:7-14 and a prayer commemorating the anniversary of September 11, 2001.  Returning to my residence after receiving encouragement about developing a blog for the youth ministry, I consulted The Jewish Study Bible to get a feeling for designing the website and proceeded to read the following about this week’s passage from Exodus, read as part of a predetermined cycle once every three years:

In Jewish practice this passage and 34:1-10 are read in the synagogue on the public fast days that commemorate national disasters and near-disasters.

Please don’t get the impression that I think this seemingly trivial coincidence between the verses from the book of Exodus that happened to be appointed for today’s reading and the anniversary of September 11 has anything to do with me being special.  If my wicked behavior were responsible for anything positive, the last few years of my existence wouldn’t have felt like I’ve been dragging my own cross through the streets to an imperfect sacrifice.  However, in addition to reinforcing my faith in a creative force greater than myself, this morning’s events do remind me of 1776, in which author David McCullough describes weather conditions at critical moments during the year of our American independence, seemingly trivial coincidences, but nonetheless attributed by George Washington to Divine Providence – like the northeastern storm that hid the Continental Army while crossing the Delaware on Christmas night.


John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 vols. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), 30:293.

Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael Fishbane, eds., The Jewish Study Bible: Featuring The Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 184.

The Episcopal Church, The Book of Common Prayer (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), 920.

David McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 275.