Walking Among the Graves

I recently returned to my home state of Kentucky, to the place of my birth in Henry County, and walked among the graves of my ancestors, including pre-Revolutionary War family members, as well as the burial places of those who were most instrumental in my own life, on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family. My Faure and Dupuy ancestors were French Huguenots, who settled in the Manikin Colony of Virginia near Richmond, on the James river, where I have also walked among the graves of those who fled persecution in Europe, seeking freedom in the New World, including freedom of religion.

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This week I have found myself remembering them, and giving thanks for them, including all those who fought and survived, as well as all those who fought and died; that all those succeeding them (including us) might enjoy the precious freedoms they made possible, in a nation that has been unique among the nations of the world since the time of our national beginnings, “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” However, let us confess we have never lived up to all of our stated objectives from the time of our infancy as a nation. The noble goals and values we find in our founding documents as a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” have caused us to continue the struggle to overcome oppression, to oppose tyranny, to welcome disadvantaged and disenfranchised immigrants seeking a place of safety (where they can find security in building their lives once again). We struggle to seek righteousness (i.e. that which we know is right) and “justice for all” in a land governed by God’s moral law and our sacred writings (which tell us clearly what is just and what is unjust, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil, what is true and what is false) – to show compassion for the poor and powerless, the used and abused, the victims of tyranny and terrorism, of famine, of natural diseases, and of senseless wars, including racial wars, religious wars, and so called “wars of ethnic cleansing” – and to recognize that in a nation that claims to be a “nation under God” diversity should be seen as the will of God, not the work of Satan. The truth is what the best among us should continually be seeking, for as the Apostle Paul tells us, we know “only in part”, for we always only “see in a mirror dimly”  in this life, for as long as we live (I Corinthians 13:9-12).

During this month when we are celebrating our freedoms, let us also pray for freedom from prejudice, freedom from arrogance, freedom from pride, freedom from the lust for power, freedom from greed and covetousness, freedom from injustice and racism (i.e. not just prejudice, but prejudice plus power, the abuse of power), freedom from hunger and homelessness, freedom from suffering due to the lack of the things necessary for health and safety, freedom from evil in all of its many forms, and freedom to live together in peace (that is a “by-product” of such freedoms).

Believers of different faiths, who pray according to the will of God, pray for peace in this broken, fragmented, divided world. However, I do not hesitate in saying that such prayers are futile prayers unless we are also praying for such freedoms as I have mentioned. For example: peace is a by-product of righteousness and justice. So let us pray as God’s prophet, Amos, prayed, for “LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN LIKE WATERS, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AS A MIGHTY STREAM” (Amos 5:24).  Furthermore, let us admonish all those who claim to be “people of god”, people who pray in faith, to go beyond their prayers, to follow through on their prayers (which we so often do not do), and to become “doers of the word (i.e. the word of God, the will of God), and not merely hearers” (James 1:22). “Seek first (i.e. “strive first for”, RSV) the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and these things (i.e. the things you desire, the things you pray for) will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

neil-thomas-4238In closing, the Lord has brought to mind other experiences my wife and I shared through the years when we walked among graves not only in military cemeteries in the continental United States, but also abroad, especially in Manila, Normandy, and so often at “Punchbowl” National Cemetery in Hawaii, when we were privileged to live on the island of Oahu for sixteen years. In all of those places we always felt we were standing on “holy ground”, as we stood there in rapt silence among the thousands of graves marked with white crosses (a silence sometimes broken by the solemn playing of “Taps”) overwhelmed by the thought of so many young men and women who gave their lives to protect and preserve the freedoms we enjoy. Let us remember that freedom is a fragile thing!

Our freedoms are being threatened today, both from without and from within. We must become much more aware of those threats so often disguised as nothing more than changes that are needed in our political system, further amendments to our Constitution (or revisions), the erosion of equal rights, the peril of partisan politics, the integrity crisis in government (also in business), the moral decline (calling evil good, and good evil – not only minimizing sin, but actually sanctifying it), and all of the “isms” that I have mentioned in previous posts, and will probably refer to again and again (“nominalism” in Christ’s Church, the current inflamed“nationalism” that can lead to “isolationism”), dependence on our military might (“militarism”),“materialism” and “consumerism” that is already out of control (greed, as well as covetousness – enough is always more), and a “pietism” in both religious and political circles that is disguised as patriotism.I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, the time has come for those of us who are concerned to WAKE UP! SPEAK UP! STAND UP!  Otherwise, SHUT UP if all you are doing is griping and grumbling, criticizing and complaining! If you have joined all of the “doomsayers” and “apostles of discord,” rather than joining the ranks of those who are attempting to be climate changers, peacemakers rather than troublemakers, agents of reconciliation, instruments God can use to help accomplish his purpose (beginning right where you are right now), regardless of your religion or race, regardless of your political party or persuasion, serving for the common good at every opportunity, “doing justly, showing mercy, and walking humbling with God” for this is what God requires of us (Micah 6:8).

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