Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

We wish you Blessed and Safe Fourth of July!

clip_image002The Independence Day that our nation celebrates on the Fourth of July is a day filled with significance and meaning for all the citizens of the United States of America. In reality, however, for some that holiday has become just a “feel good” holiday, an extra day off work.

I don’t know how that happened; I only know that it did. Many of us will go to the beach or to picnics with friends and family where most of us will eat and drink (quite often to an excess), put up with bug bites, excessive heat and sunburn and then enjoy fireworks in the evening. The Declaration of Independence, history and traditions of the holiday, the freedoms that we enjoy, or what it means to be a patriot and a citizen of the United States of America rarely comes up at picnics or at the beach.

As I look around, currently I see two versions of patriotism. The first version deals with protecting our country from powers that might otherwise harm us. On a simplistic level these are foreign powers threatening our shores and borders with aggression. These powers may be sovereign nations, terrorist cells or organizations, or drug cartels that view our country in terms of market share and battle for influence and control. We need to be able to protect ourselves against these forces.

The second version of patriotism that I see and hear around me deals with all of us coming together as a nation for the common good. That might mean contributing to a bake sale in the local church or civic organization, raising money for the local school, taking an active part in issues that affect our nation (the latest debate concerning the confederate flag comes to mind), volunteering in a local homeless shelter or in Hope Dining Room in the basement of our church building. It also means that all of us need to do our share so that our nation and our individual communities have enough resources to meet their needs, protect its citizens and ensure freedoms that we have learned to take for granted.

The first version of patriotism places the burden of its understanding on the government and armed forces. The second version of patriotism recognizes our responsibilities to each other as citizens of this nation and as each other’s friends and neighbors. Both understandings require collaboration, tolerance, flexibility, adaptability, common vision and willingness to negotiate and to listen to each other. In other words, it requires love that is a sum of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Unfortunately, in many cases these two very different understandings of what it means to be a patriot clash with each other. The reality is that we need both. We need to maintain our sovereignty as a nation and the ability to protect our citizens, our infrastructure and our lands. We also need a vision and a set of common goals that unite us into one nation. We cannot hide from hard truths that we face as a nation; it is our responsibility to name these hard truths and to own up to them. Jesus taught, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Only when we are able to define and verbalize our common problems, will we be able to face them and find workable solutions. Willam J. Clinton, the 42nd president of our great country said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

Today, all of us are proud to be citizens of the USA because throughout our common history our ancestors had the courage to face hard truths and were willing to stand for and do what was right. It is our turn to bear the standard, to dream of a future and work toward making it a reality.

As Independence Day 2015 approaches, I want to leave you with a couple of questions to reflect upon, “What are you doing to reach out to our neighbors whose views you may not necessarily share and to facilitate dialogue that will result in better understanding and cooperation? What are you doing to help our community of Kingswood United Methodist Church develop a vision for the future where all can feel free to express their opinions, safe in doing so and where all will be treated with love, justice and respect?”

May God Bless America to be a blessing to all of God’s Creation!

May God Bless Kingswood United Methodist Church to be a continual blessing to our neighbors!

Philos

Asher

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