Thank you I.T., and good morning gentlemen.
I’m going to begin this morning
by telling you a story about a young minister who was
asked by a funeral director to hold a graveside service
in a new cemetery for a vagrant man who had died while
traveling through the area. The cemetery was in a remote
part of the mountains and this vagrant man would be
the first to be laid to rest at this new cemetery. The
minister was not familiar with the backwoods area, and
soon became lost. Being a typical man he didn't stop
to ask for directions.
When he finally arrived an hour late,
he saw a crew and a backhoe, but the hearse was nowhere
in sight. The workmen were eating lunch. The minister
apologized for his tardiness, but the workers just looked
puzzled. The minister stepped to the side of the open
grave, to find the vault lid already in place. He assured
the workers he would not hold them long, but insisted
that this was the proper thing to do.
As the workers gathered around, still
eating their lunch, the minister poured out his heart
and soul. As he preached, the workers began to say "Amen,"
and "Praise the Lord." He preached, and preached,
like he'd never preached before. He began from Genesis
and worked all the way through to Revelation. He preached
for 45 minutes. It was a long service, but finally,
he closed in prayer and it was finished.
As he was walking to his car, he felt
that he had done his duty and he would leave with a
renewed sense of purpose and dedication, in spite of
his tardiness. As he was opening the car door and taking
off his coat, he overheard one of the workers saying
to another ...
"Ya know, I've been doing this
work for 20 years, but I ain't never seen such a fuss
over putting in a septic tank.”
Those of you who have heard me speak
here before may recall that a recurring theme of mine
has been the Christian roots of the founding of our
nation; and this morning, recognizing that in three
days we will celebrate Independence Day, marking America’s
230th birthday, I think it is entirely appropriate that
I return to that theme.
Perhaps the best way to observe our
nation's birthday is to re-read and re-examine our Declaration
of Independence, and to re-acquaint ourselves with the
principles of our nation's founding document. I’m
not going to take your time this morning to read all
1,337 words of the Declaration, but I am going to focus
on a few lines that reflect our nation's religious roots.
But before I get to that, I want to
comment on the popular, but erroneous, belief that the
author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was anti-religious.
I don’t think so, and neither did the religious
leadership of his day. To illustrate, here is something
you might not have known about him:
On Jan. 1, 1802, President Jefferson
stood, dressed in a black suit, in a doorway of the
White House, watching a bizarre spectacle. Two horses
were pulling a dray carrying a 1,235-pound cheese—just
for him. Measuring 4 feet in diameter and 17 inches
in height, this cheese was the work of 900 cows.
More impressive than the size of the
cheese was its eloquence. Painted on the red crust was
the inscription: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience
to God.” The cheese was a gift from religious
leaders in western Massachusetts.
In the modern context, the most remarkable
thing about the cheese is that it came from evangelical
Christians. It was the brainchild of the Rev. John Leland—a
Baptist. Even though Jefferson was labeled anti-religion
by some, he had become a hero to evangelicals—not
in spite of his views on separation of church and state,
but because of them. Because Baptists and other evangelicals
had been persecuted and harassed by the majority faiths—the
Anglicans in the South and the Puritan-influenced Congregationalists
in the North—these religious minorities had concluded
that their freedom would only be guaranteed when majority
faiths could not use the power of the state to promote
their theology and institutions. They knew that Jefferson
was one of the nation’s foremost advocates of
freedom of religion, and he respected the religious
beliefs of all. Here, for example, is an excerpt from
a letter he wrote to Miles King:
“…we have heard it said
that there is not a Quaker or a Baptist, a Presbyterian
or an Episcopalian, a Catholic or a Protestant in heaven;
that on entering that gate, we leave those badges of
schism behind … Let us not be uneasy about the
different roads we may pursue, as believing them the
shortest, to that our last abode; but following the
guidance of a good conscience, let us be happy in the
hope that by these different paths we shall all meet
in the end. “
In the Declaration of Independence,
Jefferson made several references to God, and I would
like to review them with you.
In the very first paragraph, the Declaration
mentions God as a law giver, as the author of "the
laws of nature and of nature's God."
The second paragraph begins, “We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness...”
So God is acknowledged as the "Creator" who
made us all equal. This means equally endowed with unalienable
rights. It does not mean that we all are born with equal
capabilities, as obviously we are not. Nor does it mean
that all of us can be made equal, as Communist dogma
alleges. The Declaration proclaims that life and liberty
are the unalienable gifts of God - natural rights -
which no person or government can rightfully take away,
and it affirms that the purpose of government is to
secure our God-given unalienable individual rights,
and that government derives its powers from the consent
of the governed.
In the final paragraph, we find God
acknowledged as, "the Supreme Judge of the world."
And in the last sentence, the Founders
pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred
honor, in support of the Declaration and, “with
a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”
Concerning the specific religious affiliations
of the Founders who signed the Declaration, here’s
how they break out:
1 Roman Catholics … and
The last thing I’d like to share
with you this morning about the Declaration is, a quote
from one of the signatories, Samuel Adams, who said,
"Courage, then, my countrymen,
our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be
free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an
asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty."
Every time I have been before you I
have concluded with a prayer for our military, and I
would like to do the same today. Please bow your heads
and join me:
Today there are about half a million , American men
and women –
stationed in 150 countries around the world.
We pray You keep them safe,
we pray You keep them strong,
we pray You send them safely home ...
Bless those who await their safe return.
And Bless the friends and relatives
who mourn the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan:
And Bless the friends and relatives
who mourn the casualties in Iraq: The MIAs, the more
than 18000* wounded, and the more than 2500* Killed
In Jesus name we ask ... Amen.
Click here to return to Men's