Tuesday, July 6, 2010
there is a hill ...
There is a hill just north of San Diego CA that overlooks the pacific ocean, and towers over the other hills in the area. It is not only taller than the surrounding hills, it also towers over them in meaning and significance as well. For at the top of Mount Soledad is a memorial to war veterans, and at the very peak is a large white cross, brightly shining for all to see.
Mt. Soledad is a sacred place for most people in the San Diego area, but there are some, including the ACLU and others, that have tried for years to have the cross taken down. Fortunately, all of their efforts have come up short so far, and the white cross still stands as a beacon of hope for all. These groups may get their wish someday, but taking down that cross from Mt. Soledad won't change the reality of truth upon which it stands, and the power that it represents.
For amid all the changes we see around us here in the United States of America, the message of the cross is one thing that will never change. The message of God's Grace and Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation, Hope and Peace, True Freedom and Liberty for all in Jesus Christ.
As I stood atop Mt. Soledad last week, I thought about some other important hills in our story as Christians in America.
I'm reminded of the important hills in our nation's history.
There is a hill just outside of Boston that played a crucial role in our nations's independence. It was the site of one of the most famous battles of the Revolutionary War - The Battle of Bunker Hill. Although the British thought they won the battle by taking Bunker Hill, they suffered many more casualties than the Americans, and it became a turning point in the war. As word of the battle reached General George Washington, who was on his way to Boston as the new commander of the continental army, it gave him hope that his army might prevail in the conflict.
I'm reminded of the great mountains in the Old Testament.
Mt. Moriah ... Mt. Sinai ... Mt. Zion ..
I'm reminded of the hills that play an important part of my own story as a Christian in America.
There is a hill in Northern Germany, overlooking the Teotoburger Forest, upon which stands Hermann's Denkmal, (or Hermann's Memorial) a memorial to a battle that took place there in the year 9 A.D.
It is where an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius (or "Hermann"), fought back three Roman legions, and kept their lands of Germania free from Roman rule. This was an important victory because it kept the Romans from taking over the rest of Europe at that time. They never did get past the Rhine River.
It is reported that upon hearing of the defeat, Emperor Caesar Augustus back in Rome was so shaken by the news that he stood butting his head against the walls of his palace shouting - Give me back my legions! Give me back my legions! From that time on, Arminius or Hermann, became known as Hermann the Liberator.
This memorial can be seen from miles away, and is within walking distance from our relatives farm in Germany. I visited this site when I was 10 years old, not knowing of course of the great significance for Western Civilization, and for me personally. You see, this is not only Germany's story or America's story, the story of freedom and liberty is your story and my story.
For these German ancestors of ours would later be freed from the shackles of the Roman Church by the hands of another liberator named Martin Luther at the time of the Reformation in the 1500's. These same people would leave Germany in the 1800's because of religious persecution, and sail to America in the hopes of freedom and a brighter future for their families. These same people would travel across the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, to New Orleans, come up the Mississippi River, land in St. Louis, find work, buy land and finally settle in Perry County, in southeast Missouri. This is where, in 1839, they built the first German Lutheran church and school and seminary. This is where it all began for us in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod here in America. We who gather here today in freedom and liberty on this 4th of July, stand as a testimony to their faithfulness, diligence, and perseverance.
And the message we proclaim today is the same message they preached back then.
Forgiveness of Sins, Eternal Life, and Everlasting Salvation, True Freedom and Liberty by God's Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
There is a hill outside of Jerusalem that overlooks the surrounding Judean wilderness.
Although it is not the tallest hill in the area, it towers above all others in meaning and significance. It is the most important hill in the history of the world. Mt. Calvary, the hill upon which Jesus Christ our Savior died on the cross for the sins of all the world.
And though Satan and his minions thought they had won the battle on that dark and dreary Friday afternoon, Jesus won the war for us by rising form the dead 3 days later on Easter Sunday.
There is a hill with a church built on top that is is at the highest point in a small town in America. It is filled with people God brought together to be His people in that place at that time for a specific mission and purpose - to proclaim the Good News Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
That's who we are. We're part of the divine drama, the great salvation story of our God, the story of God's great rescue mission to bring freedom and liberty to people in slavery and darkness. We are the church on the hill, the light of the world, a candle in the dark, a star in the night.
Matthew 5 - You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.