Lights in America (Not What You May Think)
Old Testament Reading- Isaiah 42:1-9, 16
New Testament Reading- Matthew 4:12-17
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -July 3, 2022
We have been truly blessed to be born and live in this beautiful country that God has given us. This is the land of plenty, we have more than enough to eat and drink, and if you don’t believe that look at the stats for Americans and our weight status. Even our homeless eat better than some people in other parts of the world who have roofs over their heads. All these blessings, so why do we have so many problems.
About fifteen years ago I talked to a man who was working for a local landscaper. He spoke with a thick accent and had very dark features, so I asked him where he was from originally. He told me that he was from Iraq and that he had come to this country in 1991. I
asked if he would tell me more of his story, and he continued by telling me that he had been a university professor in Iraq and that he had been imprisoned by Saddam Hussein’s government for speaking out against the regime. Somehow, he managed to escape and to reach his family. They quickly packed the most essential belongings and he, along with his wife and two children, crossed the border into Syria. Once in Syria he managed to find his way to an American embassy to start the process of immigrating to the United States on refugee status. I asked him if he missed his country, “Yes, very much,” he said, “But, I would have been killed had I stayed longer.” I asked him how he liked it here in America? “Very nice, very green, and a lot colder,” he said, but he did like it. I asked him next what he thought of Americans? He chuckled a little, “You are all very nice, for the most part, but I can’t understand why everyone is so unhappy, never satisfied with what you already have, and always complaining about what you don’t have, and nobody wants to work.” Now it was my turn to laugh, “You are very perceptive,” I told him, “And you hit the nail right on the head.”
This man was not stupid, and unfortunately, many Americans think that way of foreigners. They think it mainly because they speak a different language and because we can’t understand them, and because they are in our country, and not speaking our language, they must not be very smart. Not this man, remember he was a college professor in his own country, now because of the language barrier he is a laborer here, but he is working. Also, he had been ten years in America, and I was able to have a full conversation, and I can tell you I don’t know Iraqi. He had left his country in haste, knew no English at the time, but knew that America was where he wanted to go. Imagine that, you have to leave your own beloved country, your own home, leave all your possessions behind that you had ever owned, load up your family, none of whom speak English, but you know that America is the land of the free, the land of plenty, the land of opportunity, the land where it is safe. That is where you want to take your family even though you will have to start from the very bottom, leaving your education behind you, because until you learn the native language, you will have a hard time, yet this is where you come. What a great place America must be. If I were from a different planet and I came to earth and heard this story, I would think, America must be the best place on earth, would I be right?
If you were to watch the national news or read news feeds you might think that it is not the greatest place on earth. You may think it is a land filled with a people that have gotten so accustomed to the land of plenty that they have turned it into the land of excess or the land of extremes, but even though we all think it sometimes, I believe we should look a little deeper.
What we often see on the news is the sensationalism of what is going on. Drama is what sells news, the extremes of the political parties, the constant demonstrating for everything under the sun, the threats of not working if we don’t get a better retirement plan, I could go on and on, but I don’t believe that this is the core of our country. The core of our country is what America is all about, it is everything that is good about America and its people. Not our self-serving politicians of both parties, or our self-absorbed entertainers, but real honest red-blooded American people. The kind of people that get married and start families, that go to work for a living, that raise their children to have lives better than their own. The kind of people that help others and are not concerned about how many millions they will make in their lifetime. Real, honest American people who would never treat someone differently just because they were different than them or push their aging parents away from them because they were cramping their style and taking too much time out of their life. I know this kind of America exists because I can see you all, right in front of me today. You are the salt of the earth; you are what makes this life, and this country the best. You are the reason; people still dream of being an American.
My cousin’s family hosted a boy from Germany in a foreign exchange school program. At a family picnic at the end of the school year I asked him how he liked going to school here? He said, “It was really easy as far as the schoolwork went.” He added, “Education in my country is much longer and harder, but your schools are much more than education, it is athletics, and school spirit, and friendships. It is so much more fun and fulfilling than in my country.” I think that says something about us, that we don’t take everything so seriously that it makes life miserable. Education is important, and I don’t want to make light of how important it is in our lives, but it is certainly not everything. The relationships that we are blessed with are what really matters most.
“Don’t let a few rotten apples spoil the whole batch,” is a saying we use in this country, and I think it has a lot of meaning today. There are people in this country now that would have you believe that America is a failure, that our people are lazy and much less educated than the rest of the world, that all our corporations are composed of nothing but greed, that our people do nothing all day but surf the internet, and our youth do nothing but play video games. These people are good with a pen, or a keyboard, and are quick to let their opinions be known. These people are great at taking lots of pictures with all kinds of people, in all kinds of places to make it seem like they are something they are not on social media. These kinds of people are the type that though they may seem open-minded and good-hearted to all kinds of people, they are really the most hypocritical of all and are completely intolerant of anyone or anything that doesn’t think or act in the exact same way that they think life should be. They are the moral high ground, at least when it comes to pointing the finger at someone else. These people are the mouths that are heard because they scream the loudest, they are the words you read because they write the most, but they are not America, not by a long shot.
“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.” These were some of the words of our founding fathers, good words, wise words, words that spoke for not only their generation, but all generations to come. We are the real America, us right here today, the people that don’t need fame or fortune, the people who know we are fortunate to live in this beautiful land, the people who know we are blessed to be able to worship as we see fit and to pray for others even though we may not agree with them on how they live their lives.
We are Christians and as such we transcend our earthly nationality to claim citizenship in the world to come, the kingdom of God. We should be leaders and role models for people everywhere, but surely in America first. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians 2:14-16,
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”
Be a light to others so that they may see your example and want to act the same, not because you want to show off, or because you are self-righteous, but because Christ compels us to reflect his light to others. He tells us in Matthew 5:14-16,
"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
"Let our light shine out bright against those who would tear this nation apart for their own gain." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
On this Independence Day, let us, as American Christians resolve to be part of the solution for this great country, not a part of the problem. Let us spend less time blaming presidents and government bodies for our woes and spend more time asking God for his wisdom and guidance. People that act as they should, need less governance than those that act as fools. Let those of us that believe, allow Christ’s life to be a model for our behavior and our ideals. Let our light shine out bright against those who would tear this nation apart for their own gain. Let us be a light to those around the world who dream of freedom and justice once again. Let us take the lead, by our faith and our actions, in showing the world that America is still a place where dreams come true and that this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth. May God bless America and its wonderful people. Amen.