Summary: Communion meditation for Sunday, July 5, 2009

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In January 1941, when the flames of war were consuming Europe and the Far East, President Roosevelt addressed Congress. In that address, he said some things about freedom that has echoed down through the years.

The address, now known as the “Four Freedoms” address, contained these words:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want -- which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear -- which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-- anywhere in the world.

Roosevelt’s hope for these freedoms would be tested 11 months later when Pearl Harbor Naval Base in the Hawaiian Island would be attacked and our nation would become involved in World War Two.

What makes someone seek freedom at any cost? I can remember hearing stories of people who risked life and death to cross the Berlin Wall. I can recall the images of the boat people back in the 80’s and 90’s who built flimsy life rafts to help them leave the shores of Cuba. But why? Why not stay?

What drives people to flee in the middle of the night from the place where they were born; from their work; from their families?

To me, freedom is a light that attracts those in darkness seeking to be free, and free in different ways.

And the link between freedom and light is a common theme in our national rhetoric. The late Ronald Reagan said, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

This image of the “shining city upon a hill” is Biblical in origin as Jesus said to the disciples in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

This image was also reflected in a sermon written by Governor John Winthrop aboard the ship, Arbella, in 1630. In this sermon, ‘A Model of Christian Charity,’ Winthrop lays out a vision of how Christian charity (or love) needs to operate in the ‘new world.’

He speaks of the need for justice and mercy to be at work in the affairs and relationships of those who seek to live in a “new” England. And he concludes with the challenge and caution that “we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” This image has since become a part of many Presidents and presidential contenders’ remarks and vision.

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