ur world has been rocked again this week by the tragic shootings and near misses in our high schools. Ninth Grader Charles Williams opened fire in the boy's bathroom of Santana High School in California killing two and wounding thirteen. Students later commented that he was shy because he was short, had big ears, and a high voice. Some of those commenting were short and had squeaky voices, as do most freshmen, and Prince Charles has huge ears and an ego to match. But later we got a deeper hint of his disruptive family life when his mother was interviewed in her doorway in South Carolina, and his brother lives in Our metro Atlanta area. Our hearts went out to the victims and there families and to the troubled young shooter.
All during the week we have received news reports of more shootings in our nation's schools. Several news services made the observation that America has lost its soul. Some blamed the rash of shootings on the separation of church and state. Some seemed to blame the churches' loss of evangelical fervor in reaching out to troubled teens. Still others observed that many of our citizens had forgotten that life is not just secular but that it is also spiritual.
From our very foundation Americans have uniquely held citizenship on two levels. If we were born here we have pledged allegiance to the flag of The United States of America all of our lives. If we became naturalized citizens we swore to cancel all foreign national loyalties and willingly pledged allegiance to this great nation. Yet, we all spend coins and bills inscribed with another loyalty: "In God We Trust."
Because of our Easter Hope we all have a longing for an even fairer land. In our text Paul, the Apostle, speaks to the Church at Philippi and to us of this other loyalty: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself." (v.20-21, NRSV).
Our dual citizenship is in Heaven and on earth. In fact, we Americans have encouraged this dual loyalty for it has strengthened both. We feel like "Resident Aliens" even in our own nation. We are loyal to America, this "New Israel," but we also feel that we belong to a promised land where we will spend eternity. We are a part of a loving community that has experienced a life changing friendship with God through Jesus Christ and we cling to each other in a common bond. We are made one in Him. Sometimes we feel a restlessness, we never completely settle down. We know that we are going to move someday.
Marilyn and I, and our 17 year old cat Ginger never want to move from our house on the mountainside, but we know that even if we are fortunate enough to live till we are 100+, except for Ginger the cat, we will one day move to that mansion over the mountain.
One day I drove into my driveway and found a dump truck load of sand blocking may garage door. We had not ordered any sand. After a moment I realized that the sand was probably meant for our neighbor who had the same street number but on the next street. I drove to his home on top of the mountain. Sure enough he was expecting a sand delivery. He was proud to show me his vista looking way over into the next county and down on the meandering Chattahoochee River. His yard was manicured and his home was decorated beautifully. As we stood out on his deck I made the half joking comment, "It will be hard for you to give all of this up and go to heaven." He smiled and replied, "I don't expect to move anytime soon."
You may have heard about the Campmeeting song leader who got overly enthusiastic, as they are prone to do, and shouted out, "Everybody that wants to go to heaven, stand as we sing the next verse!" Everybody stood except one old fellow on the back row. The song evangelist said, "Friend, don't you want to go to heaven when you die?" The old boy responded, "Well sure, when I die, but I thought you 'wuz gettin a load up to go tonight!"
This is our situation; we are ready to go, but not right away. And having our vision fixed on heaven has made us better people in the here and now. Our value system has included a higher ideal than merely amassing mammon. Many successful industrialists have combined loyalty to Christ and have amasses great empires too: the Vanderbilts, Biltmores, Rockefellers the Candlers, and many others have kept their eyes on that ultimate reward, as they have labored in this world. However, in many cases the second, third, and fourth generations have become increasingly secular. Many heirs have turned toward selfish interests, and many of our current millions of new millionaires have become secularists. But America has reached its highest and best when we the people have been able to maintain a dual citizenship.
America experienced its greatest era as a result of the shock of WW II. Our parents were bonded together for the war effort and we sensed that if freedom were going to prevail that we needed to call upon God. After the war, our church, and churches all across the country, experienced great growth in membership as our "Greatest Generation" built families, homes, communities and churches.
Some blame it on the Beetles and Elvis' downfall, but whatever the symptoms have been nothing has rocked our moral fiber like the rash of high school shootings. After all, these are the great grandchildren of the "Greatest Generation." We all know that the problem is not boys with big ears and squeaky voices, but it is a moral decay brought on by our losing our way. But the Good News is that the problem is fixable.
Lets let the solution
begin within our hearts, as we re-experience the
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor