East Berlin & First Meriden UMC Campuses of the New Room – 2 July 2023

Psalm 90:13-17 “O Say Can You See!” by Pastor Ric Hanse

In the summer of 1814 (during the War of 1812) the British are burning Washington D.C.  President James Madison leaves the city – narrowly escaping capture. His wife Dolly Madison, having been abandoned by her security detail pries a picture of President Washington from the White House wall and barely escapes capture. Soon after Dolly Madison’s escape British soldiers raid, vandalize and burn the White House. After destroying Washington, the British march toward America’s third largest city – Baltimore. By attacking from land and sea they hope to crush this hub of our country’s economy.  (Encyclopedia Smithsonian Online. “Star Spangled Banner & War of 1812)
While leaving Washington D.C. British soldiers arrest Dr. William Beens and charge him with organizing the arrest of British stragglers and deserters who lingered in D.C. after the attack. Dr. Beens’s friends ask Washington Lawyer Francis Scott Key to secure his release, which he does. Fearing that Mr. Key will tell the U.S. government about Britain’s plans to invade Baltimore, the British military detains him on a truce ship eight miles downriver from Baltimore’s Fort McHenry for the duration of the battle. (Ibid.)
At 6:30 in the morning on 13 September 1814, Admiral Cochrane of Britain begins a twenty five hour bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. Throughout the bombardment, rockets whistle through the air and burst into flames wherever they land. Mortars fire ten- and thirteen-inch bombshells that explode in midair, raining deadly, fiery shrapnel down upon the Americans. (Ibid.)
American Major Armistead orders the soldiers of Fort McHenry to return fire, badly damaging British ships and forcing them to pull back. Throughout the night Major Armistead’s men hold Fort McHenry, refusing to surrender. At 7:30 in the morning on 14 September 1814 British Admiral Cochrane calls off the bombardment and the British fleet withdraws. Baltimore’s successful defense marks a turning point in the war of 1812. (Ibid.)
As the British begin their early morning retreat, Major Armistead calls for the lowering of the storm flag (that had been flying over the fort because of rain) and the raising of the larger garrison flag. This 30-feet wide by 42-feet long flag was visible for miles around. In fact it could be seen by Francis Scott Key who was on that British truce ship anchored eight miles downriver from Fort McHenry.  (Ibid.)
Mr. Key spent an anxious night watching the battle and hoping for a sign that Baltimore and his beloved nation might be saved. When he saw by the dawn’s early light the great Star-Spangled Banner soaring above Fort McHenry, Mr. Key knew that the Americans had not surrendered. So moved by this sight, Francis Scott Key writes a four-stanza poem on the back of a letter.  (Ibid.)

Upon his release from the British truce ship, Francis Scott Key checks into the Indian Queen Hotel and spends the night revising the four verses he wrote of America’s Victory. (Ibid.)


Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists 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 in 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!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more! Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave! 

Difficult Nights
Francis Scott Key knew well what it was like to endure a difficult night. Throughout history, God’s people have endured difficult nights. Many of these trying nights lasting far longer than one evening.  Joseph endures the difficult night of imprisonment in Egypt for years after being sold into slavery by his own brothers. Moses endures the difficult night of forty years in the wilderness leading the Israelites to the land God promised to them. Elizabeth endures the difficult night of barrenness that lasts until she is an old woman. Mary endures the difficult night of watching her beloved Jesus die on the cross. 
We too endure dark and difficult nights in our lives when it seems like the bombs bursting in air will destroy us. During these dark and painful periods our hearts cry out, “Relent, O LORD!  How long will it be?” 
When we find ourselves in dark places God calls us to pray verse fourteen of Psalm 90, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love.” As Francis Scott Key wrote in the fourth verse of “The Star Spangled Banner”, “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”