Tuesday, July 01, 2008

How to Preach the Fourth of July

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:27-30

This poem of Emma Lazarus' with its stirring words always seem to me to be an odd echo of Jesus' words in Matthew 11. The promise of rest for the weary -- of the easing of burdens. They are both words of hope.

I've been pondering about how to preach the Fourth of July in my new appointment. I think that I will stress the idea of freedom causing responsibility. We, as Americans, have many freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to worship as we wish, freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, the freedom to petition, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and compelled self-incrimination.

Yet these freedoms come with responsibility. A parent can be held responsible for their careless storing of a firearm if their child comes to serious harm. Yes, the parent is free to have and bear that firearm, but they also have the responsibility to take care with it.

Yes, we are free to say or to publish just about anything we want to say; yet you can and will be held responsible for your words; especially in the case of libel and slander. Words are power; words are powerful. Words can make or break a relationship.

More stuff here.

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist who had been arrested by the Nazi's during World War II. Frankl was a pioneer of modern day Psychotherapy. He had spent years researching his theories and writing a book. When the Nazis came for him, he knew that he probably would never go home again. He had hidden the pages of his book in the lining of his coat. He was processed with other prisoner and was very upset when his coat was taken away by his captors. They replaced his coat with the ragged clothing of another inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber. Frankl said, "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Shema, the daily Jewish prayer. That is the prayer that goes, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might."

All his work exchanged for those words. "Hear, O Isreal!"That page became the turning point for Victor Frankl. It gave him strength to go on. He endured 4 years in the concentration camps. Since he was Medical Doctor, he was put to work treating other prisoners. And he survived that awful imprisonment. "Love the Lord your God."

He decided to use his experiences in the camp to do new research. He became determined to survive the experience and so he could record his findings.

He was thus able to use his theory about the importance of meaning in life in order to survive. That is, he gave meaning to his life even though he was living under the most miserable circumstances imaginable. Despite the near-certainty of death, the beatings, the hunger, and the cold, Frankl found a reason to go on.

This is the core of the human spirit, according to the theory. If we can find something to live for – if we can find some meaning to put at the center of our lives – even the worst kind of suffering becomes bearable.

The last of human freedoms - the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.

In fact, meaning can even be found in our reaction to difficult circumstances. By being determined to preserve some measure of their humanity, in spite of the Nazi’s efforts to steal it away, many were able to survive the concentration camps.

While serving in that capacity, he had an opportunity to observe people under the most trying of circumstances. He saw people as they lived. And he saw them as they died. He had expected that people who were weak would die and those who were strong would survive.

However, that wasn't always true and it caused Frankl to wander if there wasn't something else involved. What he observed became the source of his "Logo Therapy." He noticed that those who live had one thing in common: they had chosen to live rather than die.

He found that when everything else had been taken, friends, food, dignity, health ... the one thing their captors could not take away was choice; the choice to live.

According to Frankl, the last of man's inalienable rights was the right of individual to choose how they would respond in any give situation. Victor Frankl said:" You cannot control your circumstances, but you have the power to control your response to your circumstances."

In other words, you can have peace because you choose peace... you pursue it. But the bible also teaches us that while lust and sin and hate are in the world there will never be universal peace until the prince of Peace comes.

In the meantime however Gods purpose for the human race is that men and women may know a personal peace an inward peace made possible through the redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In fact, political freedoms really are shallow when compared to true freedom -- real freedom and this freedom, given to us by God, lays upon us the ultimate of responsibility.

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. -- John Diefenbaker.

The last of human freedoms - the ability to chose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.

Lord Jesus, thou who art the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right.
Peter Marshall, Before the U.S. Senate.

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