July 4, 2008
The following is a devotional thought from our Living Hope Update exactly six years ago. It brings back memories and rekindles emotions from a particularly tragic time in our nation’s history, a time filled with fear and anxiety. It also serves as a reminder of where our focus should really be as we celebrate our country’s birthday. I came across it as I was preparing to once again volunteer as a police chaplain for our local 4th of July celebration. I pray that it will once again bring a blessing to you.
Whoosh! Pow! “Oooo…aaaah!”
I love watching fireworks; I always have. I remember as a child how hard it was to wait all day for darkness to arrive so we could go to the park, find the best vantage point, and watch the local fireworks display. The sparkling flashes of light, the brilliant colors against a dark sky, the loud noises of exploding rockets, the growing clouds of smoke, the excited spectators with heads lifted upward “ooo-ing” and “aaah-ing” at each new display; I enthusiastically absorbed it all with wonder and awe. I especially enjoyed the “grand finale” when the entire sky would erupt with a profusion of exploding colors accompanied by a patriotic, musical fanfare blaring from loudspeakers and the triumphant cheers of the jubilant crowd. What a wonderful way to celebrate our Independence Day and rejoice in the freedoms we have in this country!
So when I was asked this week to once again help out with the local 4th of July celebration I eagerly agreed. It was another opportunity to be involved in this magnificent holiday tradition. As a volunteer police chaplain I would be part of the uniformed force patrolling the crowd of thirty to forty thousand revelers. I had drawn similar duty for the past two years so I knew pretty much what to expect. The routine was the same, but this year…this year something was different. This was the first 4th of July after the tragic events of September 11th.
Amidst the looming threat of terrorism the atmosphere at the police department pre-event briefing was less jovial and more intense. For the first time ever I was asked to say a prayer before the briefing began. And for the first time ever in my 3 year history as a police chaplain, I decided to wear body armor under my uniform. The body armor is bulky, makes it look like you’ve gained 30 lbs., and is extremely uncomfortable to wear especially in hot weather. In the past I had declined to use such protection, believing it not to be worth the hassle. This year, safety won out over comfort.
As I walked amongst the noisy throng of joyful celebrants gathered to rejoice on the anniversary of the birth of our freedom, I began to reflect on the limits which infringe upon that freedom and upon my own growing uneasiness. It’s true we have been set free from the tyranny of unjust rule and given the privilege of self-government. We have also been largely set free from slavery, racial discrimination, and class warfare and given the privilege of self-determination. And, like no other nation on earth, we have been set free from poverty and given the joys of material abundance. But we have yet to be set free from fear—fear of terrorism, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of the past, fear of sorrow and loss, fear of the consequences of our sins, and fear of death and judgment. Only in the Kingdom of God does such freedom exist, and only our reigning King, Jesus Christ, can offer it to us. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36.
Freedom in Christ, now that’s something to really celebrate. And we do every time the church gathers together. Even so we understand that our freedom is still limited in this life. We remain hemmed in by a limited lifespan, limited knowledge, limited vision, and limitations brought about by our persistent sinful nature. But a day is coming (and possibly very soon) when our long wait will be over and our ultimate freedom will finally be realized. It will be the greatest “Independence Day” ever and all creation will celebrate—all, that is, who belong to Christ. The sky will darken and we will see the most magnificent “fireworks” display in history.
“I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.” – Acts 2:19. “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man…The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken…They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” – Matthew 24:27-30.
Whoosh! Pow! “Oooo…aaah!” How’s that for a pyrotechnic extravaganza! There’s no need to worry about finding the best vantage point because we’ll all have a front row seat for this one. But wait, there’s more. Don’t forget about the blaring musical fanfare and the shouts of triumph. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God…” – 1Thessaloninas 4:16. Just think of it: No more tyranny, slavery, warfare, or poverty; no more terror, sorrow, death or tears; and no more need to wear body armor! It is the ultimate “grand finale!” But it will only be the beginning of this eternal celebration of true freedom! So keep looking upward, my friends, with wonder and awe and get ready to start “ooo-ing” and “aaah-ing.” Happy Independence Day!
Bill, a child of God, free indeed