Sunday, July 4, 2010

My message for July 4th 2010. Visitors in an Alien Land

Happy 4th!
Today we celebrate the 234th birthday of a nation. A nation founded on ideas and principles never before conceived of. A nation who’s Declaration of Independence begins with these words:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We are a nation that many have felt was blessed by God from the very beginning. A nation that many feel was ordained by God to share the social values and principles of the biblical writers of the New Testament. We are a nation that has indeed been blessed by God with the freedom to worship or not as we choose. We are a nation that has allowed us choices most other nations can only dream about. Those choices, those decisions are ours to make or not as we see fit.  And when we make choices pleasing to God, our nation flourishes. And when we do not… Just as in our personal lives we feel the result of poor decision making, so in our country, we feel that same result.
I find myself conflicted on days like today, because while I love my country, as much I pray, as anyone else, I love my God more. While I would love to be able to say, “My country- right or wrong” I realize that I can truly only say, my God is right and only through God can we do no wrong.
The truth is, while we are living here on earth, even while we are living here in the United States of America, we are not citizens of this land. We are not citizens of this place. We are visitors. Our papers and documents are all in order of course. Our birth certificates and passports all say we are American Citizens- at least those of us here today can boast that. But really, we are just visitors- visitors in an alien land. Indeed, we are longing for a better country- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called our God, for God has prepared a city for us. (Hebrews 11:16)
The times in which we live are never easy times. A thousand years ago, times were not easy. 500 years ago, times were not easy. As the years go by, and we have more insight to what is happening elsewhere in the world, our world becomes smaller and our influence in the world increases. At times our sense of hopelessness increases as well. We worry about the things that are happening halfway around the world, or hundreds of miles from our hometowns. Wars and rumors of war throughout the world keep us awake as we watch the scenes on television and know that our neighbors, our children, our friends are in harm’s way. The ecology of our land- actually of the world hangs in the balance as we watch the horror of an oil spill in the Gulf Coast.
There are those of us who anger over other immigrants trying to find their way to a better place, the place we live.  We worry about the jobs they may take from our citizens and the different culture they bring with them. Sometimes we forget that most of the jobs lost here in the US have been outsourced to other countries due to business bottom lines, not due to strangers trying to find their way in an alien land, like Abraham- looking for the land of Milk and Honey.
The Conference suggested that we pray for our country the first Thursday of this month as it was so close to our nation’s birth date. I did so, and I hope you have been praying too. I pray that while we are visiting here in this alien land, that our freedoms remain intact. I pray that our thoughts are not like those who tested Jesus, those who denied ever being slaves. Jesus told them that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. While we live in the country most celebrated for its freedom, it is the sins that we commit that keep freedom from us and from those around us.
I am conflicted when I receive many, many forwarded emails each day that share someone else’s thoughts on our country, or thoughts on our God. I barely skim over them anymore as I am weary of people believing that forwarding the thoughts of others makes them a patriot or makes them a better Christian. There is almost a threat included with each of those- If you believe- you will send this on- if you love God, you will send this on- if you love  your country- you will send this on… If you love God and you are a believer and trust in salvation through Christ Jesus, send this to all those you love. Those emails enslave the receiver and the forwarder. Those emails take away my freedom and the freedom of those who forward them. My freedom comes from being able to share my heart with another person. My freedom comes from Jesus Christ and if I am truly free- if I truly believe -I will share His story in my life with others, not because someone else tried to guilt me into doing it, as it takes no thought to pass along someone else’s thoughts…and there is no reward or prize in the number of patriotic or religious emails forwarded.
 When we keep our eyes on the kingdom that is yet to come, when we keep our eyes on Jesus and realize that it is His truth that sets us free, we realize that this nation where we live now is truly an alien land. We are to be good visitors in this land. Some say when you visit somewhere you should take only memories and leave only footprints. The footprints we leave should lead to the home we long for. The foot prints we leave should lead to heaven’s gate.
The footprints we leave should lead others to this table. To lead others to communion with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I invite you to come to this table this morning with a quote from the Statue of Liberty.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Our golden door is the gateway to heaven- and our lamp is the light of Christ. All are welcome here.

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