July 3 - Guest Thoughts from Pastor Fred
Our Guest Thoughts Contributor...
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed,
he has prepared a city for them.” – Hebrews 11:16 (NRSV)
One of my favorite holidays has always been the Fourth of July. To be honest, it began when I was a kid. Not because I was such a great patriot, but because I loved firecrackers. Back in the day over 60 years ago, we could set off firecrackers, and did we ever! We also blew up things. For example, my big brother got into big trouble because he and my cousin blew up my uncle’s commode with a TNT firecracker! Later on, I learned all the celebrating was due to observing our nation’s independence. In other words, it was a patriotic holiday.
Now you would think that someone who has served briefly as a U.S. Air Force Chaplain would be patriotic – and that’s true to a certain degree. I also remember protesting the Vietnam war with a group of Seminary Students out in front of Robert Carr Chapel at TCU. So I’m not a blind patriot. I also happen to be the child of parents who immigrated from Mexico and faced a certain degree of discrimination here in the United States. And though it made life a little bit difficult for them, there’s no way on earth they would ever return to their home country. One of the reasons they left was because many of their relatives had been killed by military police, municipal police, bandits and greedy businessmen. There wasn’t even a mild attempt at any cover-up – it was done openly and brutally. My parents were so patriotic that when the national anthem was played on television, we were required to stand up and place out hands over our hearts!
As we enter this holiday with all kinds of bad things happening around us, I can’t help but remember my childhood buddy, Eddie Vela. Eddie and I grew up in San Antonio in a neighborhood named Loma Park. We rode our bicycles all over the neighborhood, attended Loma Park Elementary School and loved to play baseball on vacant baseball diamonds, empty lots and even quiet streets. Eddie and I were even in the junior high school marching band. However, we ended up going to different high schools and only saw each other sporadically after that. Unfortunately, Eddie fell in with a bad group of guys and one day they robbed a store in downtown San Antonio. The police chased them and caught Eddie, whereupon they beat him up. Eddie said he would never forget the beating and the officer’s badge number. We had several Hispanic policemen who lived on our block and I asked them to look into it. They reported back several days later and simply said, “He had it coming”.
Later on I would leave San Antonio to attend TCU in Fort Worth and occasionally I would hear from Eddie. It was in my sophomore year that I got a letter from my mother telling me Eddie’s mother had called her to tell her (and in turn have Mom tell me) Eddie had died. And of all things, he died serving his country in Vietnam. Go figure. Resisting authority one day, obediently offering up your life for your country another day!
Well, that’s the life and the country we live in today. Please take time to read all of Hebrews 11. Our ancestors in faith such as Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, Samuel and countless others lived with the hope of things unseen. They died in faith not having received the promises of God. And so it is with us. We live in a temporary, imperfect country and as Christians are called to do all we can to seek something better. And so, I will be a proud citizen of the USA and I will also critique and call out any inequities that may abound. After all, this is an earthly and temporary country. I believe with all my heart there is an eternal, heavenly country awaiting me. And when I get there, I can’t wait for the meeting and reunion I will have with my childhood buddy, Eddie Vela.
Have a happy and blessed Fourth of July and God Bless America!
Daily Lectionary Readings, July 3rd: