French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting the United States of America for the first time in 1831, said, “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!”
I know as a nation and people we have many societal problems, but today on this Fourth of July let us all celebrate the richness of our democracy and the continuous love of a good and unprejudiced God! I wish you and your friends and family a jubilant commemoration of what it means to be a country committed to the ideals of liberty and justice for all!
Please allow me to share this prayer for this important day written by The Rev. Edward Hays:
We lift up our hearts, O God,
on this day of celebration in gratitude
for the gift of being Americans.
We rejoice with all those who share
in the great dream of freedom
and dignity for all.
With flags and feasting,
with family and friends
we salute those who have sacrificed
that we might have the opportunity
to bring to fulfillment
our many God-given gifts.
As we deny all prejudice
a place in our hearts,
may we also clearly declare
our intention to work for the time
when all people,
regardless of race, religion, or sex,
will be granted equal dignity
Come, O gracious God,
who led your children Israel from slavery,
keep us free from all
that might hold us in bondage.
Bless our country and join
our simple celebration
that we may praise you,
our Source of freedom,
the One in whom we place our trust.
I wanted to also let you know that I am on summer vacation this week enjoying a time of rest and relaxation before the start of a busy Summer Institute of Religious Studies on July 11. Rev. Greg Foust, Asbury’s Minister of Discipleship, will be preaching for me this coming Sunday, July 8 in both the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. Traditions worship services. Pastor Greg will be continuing my current summer sermon series Hymns My Mama Taught Me by focusing on a song from his childhood that was vitally important in his spiritual formation.
I look forward to being back in the pulpit preaching on July 15. And I will let you in on a little secret: my daughter, Kaitlyn, and her husband Patrick will be my special musical guests on July 15! Many of you will remember when they served as music interns at Asbury while they were students and Birmingham-Southern College. They are looking forward to singing together once again for us!
See you soon!