Nineteen years ago, I had an unforgettable experience. Carol and I were returning from a trip abroad. We had accompanied World Methodist Evangelism on a trip to Greece and Israel where we had traced the footsteps of Jesus and the beginnings of the early church. We left in the middle of June for the two week trip and returned on July 4, 2000. Initially, our return flight landed at Kennedy Airport in New York and later that evening we started the final leg back to Atlanta.
By the time our flight took off, the sun had just set and darkness blanketed the sky. As we made the final two hour flight home, we saw the most amazing sight. Looking up from our window, we saw the stars above us. Looking down, in city after city all across the east coast, we saw fireworks exploding below us. I have always seen fireworks from the other angle; from the ground looking up. Seeing them from above looking down provided an entirely different perspective.
Even after all these years, I remember my wife and I discussing the fact that while as a country there are many things we disagree about, on this one day, we are reminded that as a people we are still tied together by a dream—a dream of a nation where all people are created equal and free.
Personally, I consider myself the most blessed person I know. One of the many reasons for that is the privilege to be born in the United States of America. I know as a country we have our issues. There are times when it seems we can’t agree on anything. Political diversity, poverty, crime, racial relationships and many other things challenge and threaten to divide us. Yet, these things pale in comparison to all that we have going for us. It’s not that we should ignore them – of course not. We need to give our best efforts to solve these concerns and move closer to our long held dream of equality and freedom for all.
However, I continue to believe that this is the greatest country on earth. We have the freedom to go where we want, when we want and do whatever we want, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. We have a government that seeks to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” We have a legal system that allows us to be judged by our peers. We have the freedom to worship God in the way we choose—or not to worship at all if that is our choice. As a whole, we are a generous and big-hearted people that can and do raise literally billions of dollars every year for charitable organizations. And this only begins to scratch the surface of what we have going for us.
This Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., our Chancel Choir will be presenting a concert in which we celebrate our freedom. I hope each of you will be able to make it. On the 4th of July, I also want to encourage you to come out for the Dunwoody parade. DUMC will have a float and our Boy Scout Troop 266 will have their annual barbecue. But however you choose to celebrate; I pray you will also remember that the greatest freedom of all comes to us from Jesus Christ who gave his all for us.
See you Sunday, if not before. Until then…
Rev. Dan Brown