Tag Archives: Fourth of July

Jesus’ Parable: Light under the Basket


Recently Jimmy Fallon shared that France is sending another Statue of Liberty to the United States.  I had not heard that in the news, so off I went to double check the reference, and sure enough, there it was in news reports from NPR, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and other news sources.  Granted, Fallon was including the story as part of his opening monologue and was able to put the news into a humorous twist, but the news reports provide the details:

“The smaller statue, based on the original 1878 plaster model by the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was installed just outside the museum’s entrance in 2011. This statue was cast using a 3-D scan of another model in Paris, the news release said. It will be exhibited on Ellis Island from July 1-5, facing its much bigger sibling on Liberty Island. Then, it will be moved to the French ambassador’s residence in Washington, where it will be on display from July 14, France’s Bastille Day, until 2031.”

Today is this country’s birthday, it is 245 years old, and France gave us the first Statue of Liberty 135 years ago; the statue represents the values this country has long held for the people who have journeyed into this country and today, we can read the words inscribed on the tablet that speak to not only the immigrants who have made the trip to be Americans, but also to all Americans whether native or multi-generational citizens.

The inscription is the concluding lines of the poem “The New Colossus” created by Emma Lazarus:

. . .  ‘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!'”

As Americans we celebrate our freedoms, but with freedom comes responsibility.  Our founding fathers understood the significance of respecting one’s freedoms and include them in the documents that serve as the very foundations of our country: 

From the preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

From the preamble of the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The challenges to the choice of words has expanded as our culture evolves through the centuries.  Through the shifts in our society we know that the historical use of “men” is now “humans” in every shape, size, culture, gender, age–each human has all the legal rights of any other human.

Our Bible has provided us the same foundation for us to love one another unconditionally.  We have watched the language be adapted through the various translations as we work to assure the value of each human, as we strive to treat one another with grace, respect, compassion, and love.

John Wesley, this denominations founder, was an activist for the individual.  He stepped out of the cathedral and went to the streets to do all he could to share God’s love in any way he could.  He focused on sharing God’s message, but he added to that the very actions that demonstrated that Christians do love one another.  

Today, the rule has not changed.  The methods of serving one another now have global reach, but the work we have to do is as critical right here in our own community as it is anywhere the connectional church can reach.  

I ask you to join with me in repeating the social creed which is reviewed every four years and remains part of the United Methodist’s doctrine 

We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.

We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.

We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.

We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.

We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.

We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.

As we prepare to review how we take the parable, “Light under the Basket,”

I hope you have your favorite translation of the Bible, but maybe more importantly your notetaking supplies.  We need to consider how we, as Americans, but more importantly as Christians live as the light in today’s culture.  Please join in an opening prayer:

Dear loving Father, 

As we look to the Statue of Liberty,

we see the raised torch lighting the way

for those seeking a new life in a new world.

Yet we know you are the light

and we are the way that you shine

right here in our community.

Be with us, speak to us, guide us

as we seek to shine brightly 

in all the ways we can.  –Amen

The Message

As we focus on Jesus’ parables, we learn how we can live our faith in community with each other.  This week’s scriptures have shared various ways light is used as a symbol as we tackled the parable, “Light under the Basket,” Matthew 5:14-16. 

The first three gospels are considered the synoptic gospels.  The message presented in each of them is written for a different audience, and yet they agree on the theme:  we are the light of Christ and we must not hide the light.

The scripture from Matthew was written to the Jewish people.  The language is specific for those who were familiar with the Law of Mosses, with the prophecy, the expectations for the Messiah, and now how they are to live their faith openly.  

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

As Americans we are free to be the light in our communities.  There is nothing that prohibits us from seeing the needs of one another and finding a way to be God’s light in the world.

John Wesley was an activist in his lifetime–his understanding of God’s love for us led him to love all individuals not just those who were members of the Church of England.  He stepped into the streets, into the coal mining communities, to do whatever he could to take God’s message to them.  He started working to feed and to address the medical needs of those people.  He was God’s light in a dark world.

In Manfred Marquardt’s book, John Wesley’s Social Ethics, Wesley’s standards for social ethics are based on his understanding of God’s grace which is given to all people at birth.  Marquardt states

[Wesley] attributed to everyone the possibility of responsible action.  . . . The Christian has been given biblical commandments to guide moral behavior.  However, because of historical conditions . . . the commandments vary in their applicability.  . . .[and] in light of the ethical demands of a new situation, to see standards that can provide a basis for ethical action in different social settings.” (p.103)

Being the light of Christ in the world is how we share God’s love.  We receive his love unconditionally and he asks us to love one another unconditionally, too.  Jesus uses the parable to strengthen the disciples’ confidence to go out and serve one another in love–to be the light.  The question is how do we shine our light.  

In the Life Application Study Bible, one of the notes outlines six ways that we fail to shine our light:

“Can you hide a city that is sitting on top of a hill?  Its light at night can be seen for miles.  If we live for Christ, we will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like. . . . “  (p. 1652)

I challenge us to consider in our own lives and as a church whether we are the light in our community.  There is no reason for us to hide as Americans, either.  We are free to be the light and to let it shine.

Let’s stop and ask these questions:

Q.  Are you quiet when you should speak up?

A.  As a church, we tackle difficult topics.  In Missouri, the conference has identified topics that are addressed by the social justice mission:  [insert the icons]

Missouri Social Justice programs:

  • Disaster Response
  • Festival of Sharing
  • Journey 4 Justice
  • Next Generation Ministries
  • Open Hearts, Open Books
  • Planting Academy
  • Restorative Justice Ministries
  • Rural Missouri Connection
  • Soul Connections
  • Special Advance Giving

Global Social Justice programs:           

  • Global Connect
  • Haiti Water Plus
  • Mozambique Initiative
  • Ludhiana Christian Medical College and Hospital
  • Imagine No Malaria

Q.  Do you just go along with the crowd?

A.  We try to teach our youngsters not to just go with the crowd, but in our adult lives do we just go along with the crowd?  

Q.  Do you deny the light, do you deny God?

A.  This particular question is personal.  How well do we openly share about our faith?  Do we testify that God is part of our life.

Q.  Do let sin dim your light?

A.  When we sin, do we go to God and ask forgiveness?  Do we find ways to change our lives so we sin no more?  Do we seek help?  Do we join small groups so we can be held accountable and continue to grow in our faith journey?

Q.  Do you explain your light to others; do you explain God to others?

A.  Confirmation Class.  Do you serve as a mentor for a confirmand?  Do you encourage your children to be learn more about faith?  Do you just show up for service and then go home without learning more or volunteering to teach/to lead others in their faith journeys?

Q.  Do you ignore the needs of others from the rest of the world?

A.  Monthly Disciple Gifts:  Jamaica Medical Mission, Open Hands, Open Books,

UMCOR, CROP Walk, Heifer International, Survival House, Undies Sunday no in July and five more months to complete the calendar year.

As Methodists, we agree to support our local congregation.  We are asked two questions:

  1. As members of Christ’s universal Church, will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
  2. As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gift, and your service?

We must honestly reflect upon our behaviors as Christians asking ourselves if we are the light of Christ not hidden under a basket.  

If we agree to the two membership questions, we are being the light of Christ.

If we honor our Christian responsibilities and try to actively serve as God’s hands and feet, then we are the light of Christ shining brightly from the hilltop.

We are fortunate to live in a country that legislates the freedom so we can be be the light of Christ.  Therefore, today, the Fourth of July, as citizens of the United States, we answer God’s call to be the light of Christ right here in our own church, in our own community.

As we close out our morning service, we will join in the sacrament of communion.  Communion is a uniting act of worship that all Christians, regardless of the denomination, use to affirm our belief that God has loved us so much that he gave his only son so we can be forgiven of our sins.  This is why we choose to shine our lights rather than hide them under the basket.

Please join me in a closing prayer:

Dear loving Father,

Thank you for all the freedoms we have

and for the grace you have given us.

May we find your light within us

so we may do all we can to shine that light

even on the darkest of days.  –Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lifestyle, Religion

A few personal notes in lieu of holiday-focused rhetoric

Plowing on through the year-long Bible study, I am now into Deuteronomy and Acts.  I am struggling with remaining open-minded enough not to get bogged down by the minutia of the Old Testament laws.

But I also admit that I am doing everything I can not to frame the current national status within the context of the Old Testament laws.  I do not understand why we have to make our lives so complicated by complex legislation.

You see, the New Testament law of loving one another supersedes everything else.  As I read through the detailed explanations of the Old Testament Law, I see how even that one commandment encompasses all the initial ten commandments. 

Therefore, I again implore all to use the Golden Rule as a litmus test for all decisions.  Does the decision show love for one another?  Is the decision something I want applied to myself?  Can I apply this decision in my own life that I chose to love one another?

As I listen to the nightly news, I have a tendency to analyze what is going on along the rubric of the Golden Rule.  How could the event or the person been different if the individuals involved really did use the Golden Rule.

I even find myself reviewing the personalities and wondering if they have stopped to consider whether or not they reflect the Golden Rule.

Needless to say that this is an over-simplification of any event I am sure, but if only we could live the Golden Rule as the one and only law that needed to be applied.

And this over-simplification probably will make many snicker, especially when our country is celebrating its independence. But, I fear that our founding fathers would not be impressed by the way our democracy is NOT using the Golden Rule.

Therefore, I invite all to join in prayer for the country, the leaders, and the people. . . 

Dear all-knowing, all-powerful Lord, our God,

Forgive us for our narrow-minded thinking.

Open our minds that we honestly see and hear

     what we say and do to one another.

Guide us to rethink our decisions and actions

     using the Golden Rule as our guideline.

Move us to action to love one another in any way 

     that we can, whenever we can, at all the times

     we can so your love reaches all.  –Amen

[P.S.  The holiday week has been gilled with grandkids, anniversary, and holiday—not to mention excessive rain.  Next week will be busy, too, as I step away for a few days.  I will see you after then.]

Leave a comment

Filed under History & Government, Lifestyle, Religion

God, Bible & Flag: Evidence of your foundation?

given on Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fourth of July Weekend and everything is dressed up in red, white and blue. We cannot deny that our country is celebrating its heritage this weekend, but the heritage is not always easy to preserve or even to understand.

Our hymnal has several selections that reflect this country’s history, but each revision has challenged the validity of some hymns because they are too closely connected to the fighting mentality-or reality–that has insured the freedoms of American citizens.

George Washington’s quote speaks to the founding fathers basic premise concerning the laws of this land: “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” The Judeo-Christian principles that continue to hold this country together are challenged repeatedly, but the law continues working for the citizen.

This week once again challenges our basic American and our Christian foundations. The violence occurring in South Carolina has forced the long time discussion about a flag, the Confederate Flag. Whatever one’s opinion is about this historic flag, it must be remembered that a flag is a symbol.

In the midst of this current and repeated cultural debate, the Confederate flag is remembered as a symbol of a historical event that ended 150 years ago. The political significance in no longer relevant, but the emotional turmoil the flag generates conflict that many thought the country had settled with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Sadly, the emotions demonstrate that Christian principles are not being practiced even though the legal system has created the standards to end the conflict. In our system, we have three branches that are to keep each other in check.

The recent decisions of the Supreme Court have triggered other emotional reactions, but the Supreme Court considers the lower court decisions based on whether or not the decisions are aligned with the Constitution.

In the Bishop Robert Schnase’s open letter concerning the legality of gay marriage, he reminded us that the decision was a civil decision. A change on the United Methodist Church’s position will not be determined until after the next General Conference in 2016, if a decision can be reached.

Living the Christian lifestyle is our individual responsibility. Turning to the verses from Romans 13, Paul shares God’s expectations concerning life under any civil rule:

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. . . the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. . . . do what is right and they will honor you.

The new law from God makes life so simple—do no harm. Love one another, as you want to be loved.

The problems that have developed within this country could be eliminated if all sides had followed God’s law. The problems in Ferguson, the escaped inmates, the violence in Charleston, SC, the threats against women clergy now being made, and the senseless killings in our communities whether inner city, suburb, or rural county.

Christians must speak out for the lifestyle that does no harm. The statics may indicate that church attendance is decreasing, but the number of Christians is still large enough to make a difference in our world.

Look around the community. What can be done that will improve the quality of life? Does a small corner of this huge world need attention? Is there a person with a need that you or we could manage? How can we make a difference right here, right now?

Maybe a letter writing campaign (snail mail or email) taking a stand on an issue that challenges the Christian principles could make a difference. By working together, many voices can be heard better than one voice.

We are Christians first, Americans second. This weekend we celebrate our American heritage by honoring the “Stars and Stripes,” with family reunions, by eating ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. As long as we keep God’s law first, we can live under the civil government that our founding fathers created.

Washington’s quote reminds us just how important our Christian heritage is as we continue to celebrate our American heritage. The flag-waving of this holiday weekend is a symbolic action that can do no harm as long as we Christians are doing what is right. American Christians can wave the Christian flag, too, as it represents the very principles that established this country and continues to guide its culture changes over two centuries.

Prayers for our country

Dear God,

Thank you for providing one simple rule:

To love one another.

Thank you for sending your Son

To demonstrate how to live under your rule.

Thank you for Paul and the earliest disciples

Who had to learn how God’s law works under civil law.

For the citizens struggling to live in today’s world,

Open their hearts and minds with your word.

For the Christians maintaining their lifestyle,

Fill their hearts and souls with peace and joy.

For those who are filled with hate and anger,

Let them discover the healing power of love.

May we serve as your emissaries for lost souls;

May we find ways to heal emotional wounds;

And may we do no harm to one other.   –Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Prayers for Our Nation

given on Sunday, June 29, 2014

Words of Reflection . . .

This week will end with a celebration, a birthday for our nation. As of Friday, the United States of American will be 238 years old—a mere toddler in comparison to the age of Christianity.   The history of the nation shows how Christianity has affected the laws and the courts and the leadership. The distance between the two is often only a few words.

Yet we are so afraid that the current path is leading us into chaos that we easily forget that we have the power of prayer and the responsibility to act rather than sit back and watch the chaos grows and grows. Today, we join together to pray for our nation because as Christians we can and we must take action to preserve the very foundation of our nation. We must not let the violence, the leadership, the fear, the economy, or even the land itself destroy the very nation we call home.

As we struggled with all the problems we talk about around our dinner tables or chance meetings on the street or in casual conversations anywhere, we talk about how can we make a change, how can we possibly get the politicians to do something different. We have a responsibility as Americans to speak out, to serve and to vote.

As Christians we have an additional power—the power of prayer. How often do we honestly open our hearts to God and pray for guidance, for help in this nation? With all the evil that is spinning around us, even in our small communities or brought into our homes by the internet or by cable or satellite, we must step up and actively pray.

A prayer for our Nation:

Join in this prayer from Peter Marshall, found in the book, God Bless American: Prayers & Reflection for Out Country,” which was introduced to me by Ms. Edith.

O God, our Father, we pray that the people of America, who have made such progress in material things, may now seek to grow in spiritual understanding.

For we have improved means, but not improved ends. We have better ways of getting there, but we have no better places to go. We can save more time, but are not making any better use of the time we save.

We need Thy help to do something about the world’s true problems—the problem of lying, which is called propaganda; the problem of selfishness, which is called self-interest; the problem of greed, which is often called profit; the problem of license disguising itself as liberty; the problem of lust, masquerading as love; the problem of materialism, the hook which is baited with security.

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for he spiritual understanding which is better than political wisdom, that we may see our problems for what they are. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen [p. 45]

In Chronicles, Solomon asked God to make provisions for the people who sinned. Even as we pray for guidance and healing, we must take responsibility for what we do ourselves. Solomon, in all his wisdom, understood the sins of humanity, and he used prayer to ask God for help. God answered them in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 But they make themselves low (humbled) in my sight. They pray and look to me. And they turn from their evil ways. Then I will listen to them from heaven. I will forgive their sin. And I will heal their land. After all, they are my people. (the NIRV)


The next verse adds even more clarity to the God’s actions in reply for Solomon’s prayerful appeal:

15 “Now my eyes will see them. My ears will pay attention to the prayers they offer in this place. 16 I have chosen this temple. I have set it apart for myself. My Name will be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (the NIRV)

Solomon’s appeal brings the Israelites to God’s attention, and Solomon apparently felt confident that the people would indeed ask for forgiveness know that they would be scrutinized by God. Are we confident enough to ask forgiveness and to be under such scrutiny?

In James 2:12-13, we are again held accountable, but remember this is well over 2,000 years after Solomon talked with God about the sins of men. But James, Jesus’ brother, in now talking to the newest Christians, and these are his words to them about how they were to act one to another:

12 Speak and act like people who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. 13 Those who have not shown mercy will not receive mercy when they are judged. To show mercy is better than to judge. (from the NIRV)


“To show mercy is better than to judge.” These words were radical during the first century of Christianity. In a culture where one of the greatest Israelite leaders Solomon was known as a wise judge, Christians were asked not to judge but to show mercy—to love one another, to love unconditionally.

In today’s crazy society, many complain how this person or that one does not live by our standards.   Comments can be heard that demonstrate how difficult not judging really is, how difficult it is to show mercy to others who do not fit into the comfortable expectations we have for a productive, happy life. We judge before we walk the proverbial mile in the shoes of others.

As Americans began developing the foundations of this country, the leaders quickly learned that the Constitution really did not delineate the the citizens’ freedoms. The Bill of Rightswere written to correct this oversight, and as Americans it is the standard by which we are to live:

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government of a redress of grievances. (approved December 15, 1791)


Simply applying the Golden Rule can preserve these rights: Love one another as you want to be loved. Showing mercy for each individual regardless of circumstances, race, gender, station in life, broken family or not, is living out that rule. Even two of our most Midwestern Presidents understood this in the very midst of the 20th century:

Harry S. Truman: We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. (p. 156)

Dwight D. Eisenhower:There must be justice, sensed and shared by all peoples, for without justice, the world can know only a tense and unstable truce. (p. 156)


We need to consider the type of person we elect to serve as our leaders from the local, through the state, and throughout the federal governments. We need to accept our Christian responsibility to elect the officials who will preserve and promote the values that represent us honestly.

Martin Luther: A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to all.

Even during the Reformation Movement within Christianity, when some of the most horrific acts were carried out by Christians on other Christians, the reformists maintained that Christians were free because only God could judge and God was merciful.

Wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such an hour?

Christians outnumber the villains, so why do we not stand up and take action to stop the violence of one against another. Why do we watch rather than act? Why do we feel so overwhelmed, so frightened when God is with us?

Again, we all can pray. We do not have to step into the middle of a battle and hold up our hands demanding it all stop; instead, we can, we must pray. Only God has the authority to judge, and God can intercede; but he needs to hear from us.

A second prayer for our nation

Marshall has a second prayer that can help guide us in saying what our hearts really wants to say. Join me in his prayer:

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.   There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such an hour?

May thy wisdom and thy power come upon those whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee. Give to them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know what to do. Only then can thy lead us as a nation beyond humans wisdom to thee, who alone has the answer.

Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that a “mighty fortress is our God”—not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood. (God Bless America, p.41)

Our worship could be concluded right now, but there is more to say. In our nation, community has long demonstrated a strength that shows how loving one another in true Christian spirit. In the little book, God Bless America, a section titled “Community” helps define this concept:

Daniel Webster: There is no solid basis for civilization but in the Word of God. If we abide by the principles in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper. I make it a practice to read the Bible through once every year.


Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. . . . Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. (Webster at the bicentennial celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, December 22, 1820)


In closing, amidst the frustrations of a 238-year-old country who some feel that the foundations are cracked and crumbling, there is hope. In fact, there is a real opportunity for Christians to join in prayer and ask for God’s help.


A final prayer for the nation and its citizens

One of the world’s most respected citizens lived her life so fervently, fighting for the wellbeing of each and every child of God she could reach, has written our closing prayer. Join me in Mother Teresa’s prayer:

Make us worthy, Lord, o serve our fellow men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.

Jesus came to give us the good news that God loves us and that he wants us to love one another as he loves each one of us. And to make it easy for us to love one another, Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least, you do it to me. If you give a glass of water, you give it to me. If you receive little child in my name, you receive me. So whatever you do to the least, you do it to me.”

And where does this love begin? In our own families. How does it begin? By praying together. The family that prays together stays together, and if you stay together, you will love each other as God loves each one of you. So teach your children to pray, and pray with them, and you will have the joy and the peace and the unity of Christ’s own love living in you.” [Amen.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion