We praise God for America’s religious freedom and continue to pray for peace in our land.
Glenn L. Schwanke
The sky is blue, with a few wispy clouds here and there. There’s just enough of a breeze to keep the bugs at bay. The sun is warm on my cheeks, so I close my eyes, tip my head up for a moment, and do nothing but daydream.
But there’s no time to dawdle. I need to finish packing the car, so I double-check my list. Folding chairs: check. Snack bag filled with dried fruit and pretzels: check. Soft-side cooler with juice boxes and a few sodas: check. Mosquito repellent in case the wind dies down: check. SPF 50 sunscreen: check. A sun-visor or baseball cap for everyone in the family: check. A deck of cards to pass the time if we’re early: check.
At last it’s time to pack the whole family into the car. Eagerly, we drive to “Small Town” America. It’s the Fourth of July. And there’s going to be a parade.
Along the parade route, the crowds are already growing. We spot some of our friends and set our chairs next to theirs. After hugs and handshakes, we settle in. Before you know it, someone shouts, “The parade is starting!”
We jump to our feet, straining to look down the street. First comes the sheriff’s car, then a city police car, lights and sirens flashing. Then comes the color guard—all smartly dressed in their uniforms. Then the flag of the United States of America!
Off comes my cap. Over my heart goes my right hand. The high-school marching band begins to play our national anthem, and I lend my tenor voice to the untrained chorus along the parade route.
My eyes grow misty as the sound of the anthem fades into the distance. For I am flooded with thanks over this great nation in which we are privileged to live.
Many of us have ancestors who came to this country in search of freedom—not just the freedom to work hard and earn a living but also the freedom to worship, following their convictions as based on Scripture. In the United States of America, they found such freedom.
We still enjoy that freedom! Ours is a nation where we can open a Bible at the dinner table and have a family devotion—free from the worry that our neighbors will turn us in to the authorities. Pastors can fulfill their calling—free from concerns that they will be jailed for telling someone about Jesus. Our congregations can gather for Bible study and worship—free from the threat of having the state police raid our churches and take us in for questioning.
But America’s values are rapidly changing, and we Christians fear our religious freedoms are slowly being eroded. We worry about the future and our children. More and more we feel like “strangers and pilgrims” (Hebrews 11:13 NKJV) in a foreign land.
But this Fourth of July, instead of worrying, I encourage us to unite our voices in a prayer for our nation. As we do that, it seems fitting to borrow the prayer Jeremiah once urged on those who were exiled in Babylon: “Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7 NKJV).
Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.
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Author: Glenn L. Schwanke
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016
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