3rd of July, 2005, Patriotic Sunday, P7 A
ince we went about everywhere and saw most of the often visited sites during our sweep through the contiguous 48 states pulling our pop-up camper over eight extended summer vacations, we sure went out to Liberty Island to see our nation's favorite monument, “The Statue of Liberty.” It was a windy day and the bay was choppy and our two year old Lyn had not enjoyed her first boat ride. I cradled her in my arms as we walked the tight iron stairs all the way to the very top and squeezed into the crown a took a look through thick glass at the vista that then included the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on Lower Manhattan. Weaving carefully back down the tight stairs I carefully held the baby tight and Marilyn walked gingerly in front, I suppose she planned to catch the baby if I slipped. At the bottom we had time to stroll the grounds and then we stumbled across the plaque that we came to see:
me your tired, your poor,
“To breathe free!” I typed the motto from memory last Monday for our “Messenger,” and missed it. I typed “to be free.” There is a lot of feeling lost when we do not recapture that line written by that anonymous immigrant who described his first breath of freedom and how sweet the air was as he became a new man full of hope and dreams of a better life.
I hope most folks catch the similarity between the welcoming words on our national motto and the words of Jesus in today's Gospel Lection:
unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,
And the teeming millions found it to be so in this free land. Many accepted our Savior as they found the source of our freedom, liberty and blessings that many millions had worked hard to create in this land of opportunity; to accept the amalgamated new culture based upon the Bible and its presentation of the Good News of Salvation and a new beginning in life.
America has proven to be a fertile ground for the harvesting of millions of souls for the kingdom. Many breathless families came here with very little material goods and having never heard the Gospel story. We Methodists led the way in winning converts and in enabling immigrants to put down roots and become successful. John Wesley recognized that his new slant on evangelical preaching was quickly taking hold on many lives. His organizational ability gave him the vision to send preachers and superintendents who trained lay preachers to ride Circuits conducting worship services in a round of preaching stations. Circuit Riders came to this area and were instrumental in establishing towns like Carrollton . The first public building in what is now Atlanta was a log structure used for a Methodist Church and Sunday School. It was also used for a weekday public school for the Railroad workers laying the tracks west. Catholic missionary priests brought the second denomination in Terminus. Later it was named Marthasville and finally Atlanta , the feminine gender of Atlantis, the fictional city that fell into the sea.
Throughout America this same story was repeated as Circuit Riders established churches and became what we still call “station preachers.” Churches were started in almost all of the towns and cities. It is still said that there is not a county in America that does not have a Methodist Church . However, in our travels we have found several counties where a Methodist church could not be located. In fact, there is one county in West Texas that has zero population, but that's not to say that there may not still be hidden away in a cave someplace just one dry and dusty Methodist, and in his heart there is a church.
In 1969 we took in the “German Methodists” called Evangelical United Brethren and they have been like having more goodie stirred into the soup.
We United Methodists love America ! The Patriotic Hymns have always been included in our hymnals. If Abraham Lincoln had joined a church he would have been a Methodist. He called us “The Great American Church.” We are inclusive to all races and languages and have extended the right hand of fellowship to all people who have landed on these shores. We Methodists have echoed the invitation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we can do no other, “ Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laded and I will give you rest.”
Methodist Presidents, Senators, Congresspersons and Governors have led the way. Many of our leading corporations were founded by hard working, born again Methodist laypersons. I know that I am proud to be an American and a Methodist too!
On this Independence Day weekend we thank God for His abundant watch care over our nation. We are in the midst of an unusual struggle with terrorists who hate us and reject our Savior. Our Twin Towers were toppled but our resolve is to win this conflict and make the world a safer place. Lady Liberty still holds her torch high above the rubble of our World Trade Center , and her beacon still calls out clear, “Come unto me…”
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor