Thoughts on the Fourth of July for Sunday July 10
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
Today is the Fourth of July - a big day in the life of this small Western town. We have a parade, a buffalo barbecue, and rodeo. Fireworks of all sorts up to almost "dynamite" size are available - so it sounds like a war zone all weekend. On Saturday evening the local orthodontist put on a fireworks display to rival many towns. We can sit on our deck and watch it across the valley. Tonight the town will have another display. We can watch it from our back deck. We are surrounded by festivities celebrating our country's birthday. This year, however, I don't feel like celebrating - I just feel sad. To me the country seems to have gotten off track. We are mired down in a war that was started on false pretenses but cannot really abandon now. We can't leave the people whose lives we have changed until there is more stability and infrastructure in place. We seem to be sliding backwards in the founding ideals of the Declaration of Independence - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some seem to feel that safety comes from restricting rights of individuals and their ability to make personal choices. The current taxation policy is growing the gap between rich and poor, and financing our lavish spending by selling our selves to the Chinese and others willing to lend us money. Health care is a scandal. Basic preventative care is unavailable so people wait until they are desperate to go to the doctor. Children are growing up - sick, uneducated and hungry. What kind of future does all of this portend? Is there Good News anywhere? Does the hope foretold in the passage from Isaiah exist or is it just wishful thinking?
Jesus tells a parable in the lesson from Matthew for Sunday
"Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!"
"Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
I have always believed that the "soil" of this country was good - with abundance for all. It seems this year that the soil has become hard and rocky. I think it is going to take some tilling and fertilizing - the difficult work of gardening to get the soil back in shape. The promise of the Statue of liberty burned brightly for my maternal grandmother's family form Scotland and my father's family from Norway as they stepped off the boat just a generation ago. I hope we can continue that legacy for those who have always been here, for those who came unwillingly and for those yet to come.