A Musing about Freedom
National holidays have always been very special days in my family. My grandfather was a very proud World War II veteran. He loved his time in the service and could tell story after story. He was honored to have defended America and its ideals of freedom.
I do not remember a time when an American flag was not flying in front his home.
He instilled in me the importance of voting and using my voice.
And while he loved our nation, he would also call our government out when he saw injustice. As I said, he loved the ideals of our nation and appreciated its history, but he also knew we did not always live up to those ideals; that truth saddened him.
And on more than one occasion, he and a couple of his buddies (I think from his Sunday School class) writing their representatives with concerns.
Now he certainly was not an "activist.” I do not recall him marching in protests or going to a sit in, but he definitely was an active citizen who wanted to play his part…whether he was working as a precinct manager at the polls or was just growing as an educated citizen who loved learning about both the good and bad parts of our nation’s history or better understanding current events.
If my grandfather “Grandaddies” was an activist about anything it would have been two things:
First—his self-sacrificing love for his family.
And second—his faith.
While my grandfather was a proud American, he knew his ultimate citizenship that had been claimed at his baptism was in heaven—in God's Kingdom. And more important than anything for Grandaddies was his love for God and God's church. That love of God was the ultimate authority in his life.
My grandfather had no doubt God loved all people equally, and he and many others instilled this value in me. And while my grandfather loved this nation and embraced being an American, he also knew God claimed no human citizenship or race or gender or any other human characteristic or identity.
That way of believing, thinking, and living has always stuck with me. In fact, while I rarely remember him criticizing other churches, I recall once when he and I were watching TV around the time of either Memorial or Independence Day. We came across a church service of a large congregation in Atlanta.
The preacher wore a custom-made suit that made it seem he was an American flag. Behind the pulpit where he stood hung a huge flag covering all but the top of the cross, whose outline you could barely make out behind it. And instead of the liturgical colors on the pulpit, we saw the stars and stripes with the statement “God Blest America!”
My grandfather was not amused with this display and called the whole thing “sacrilegious.”
I asked him what he meant. He said, "Clay that would be fine at a patriotic performance but not at Church. We worship God, not America." And with that he had me flip to the next channel.
(By the way I did this channel flipping by hand as my grandparents did not yet have a TV with a remote control and thus, I was the remote whenever I was there.)
I guess I share this walk down memory lane to have us all look at the 4th of July and our time in worship a bit differently.
I do hope we will all take time to celebrate our nation and its freedoms. That we remember all those men and women from diverse backgrounds—who helped us to become the beacon of hope we still strive to be for others. And that we especially recall all who “gave the last full measure of devotion” for our nation.
And I hope we will use that freedom to help share the good news of the freedom we find not just as Americans but as disciples of Jesus Christ.
So, celebrate your freedom today and every day! Bask in the light of God’s grace that offers you freedom from the bondage of sin and fear of death.
How might you celebrate beyond barbecue, watermelon, fireworks, and parades?
Perhaps you might make a decision to share the good news of the gospel that there is true independence in Jesus Christ with someone who needs to hear it.
Perhaps you celebrate by thanking God for the freedom you have to worship without fear, and you commit to pray for those who worship in spite of threats and possible harm.
Celebrate the fact that America is a free country and that you have been gifted with everything you have, including liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
How shall you celebrate?
After thanking God for the gift of being able to live in America, resolve to be more informed and involved in your own government—whether that be serving on the local town council or voting in the next election.
Resolve that you will work to promote justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God in the hopes that justice will flow like the waters and righteousness like an ever-mighty stream.
Celebrate by using your freedom for the glory of God and in hopes that the kingdom of God will one day come to all the earth as a blessing for all people, even as it already is in heaven.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia Amen.