It’t the Fourth of July; the celebration of the birth of our country back in 1776 when the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence announcing our intent to separate from England. Ironically, Janet and I have just made plans to head to Williamsburg, one of the historical marvels we have in this country depicting how life was back in the early days of our country’s existence. Jamestown, founded in 1607 and Yorktown, which figured prominently in the Revolutionary War, are both close to Williamsburg, and together they form what is called the “historic triangle.”
While I love all the history, I also like the pomp and circumstance that goes with the celebration of the 4th of July. Last week, we attended the Summer Festival in Fishers, IN; and watched the parade on Sunday afternoon. It was really terrific. And today, as is our custom each July 4th, we watched the Carmel parade which is really quite long. It was more than an hour in length and we went to a new spot this year. Normally, we watch closer to the end of the route, but with the temperatures reaching the high nineties, we were looking for shade and finally decided on watching from the front lawn of the Carmel United Methodist Church the corner of 126th and Rangeline Road.
Andrew and his family, as well as Kristin and the kids along with numerous friends all attended the parade. I was sitting there this morning and thinking that this is what a holiday is all about. The bands playing, veterans being honored by the crowds lining the streets, local businesses handing out candy and everybody in a great mood. The community coming out in mass and celebrating together. Kids playing in the grass, scouts handing out water and soft drinks, and the church staff supplying popcorn for all who wanted it. It was just plain great. In fact, I think that we may move to this location in the future. I even spent a few minutes with the Senior Pastor of the church, the one who asked me to preach there several weeks ago.
This evening, we were going to head to Connor Prairie to see the annual program the Indianapolis Symphony puts on, but it was almost 100 degrees outside still, and Janet really gets her strength zapped when she is in the heat for very long. On top of that, there is a ban on most of the area fireworks tonight and so it won’t quite be the same at Connor Prairie. I guess it may be the Capitol Fourth on PBS and perhaps fireworks in Carmel late this evening. But the point of all this tonight is that it all started with a parade and community celebration last week, and again this morning.
I was curious about all the celebrations in the Bible and was curious if there was any mention of a parade in the Scriptures. And you know what – I only found one, and it wasn’t anything to be proud of. Because we can talk about the public displays of celebration and even the military parades that we have witnessed during graduations from places such as West Point. But the word “parade” can have a darker meaning as well – as when someone wants to parade themselves around in the hope of seeking attention and becoming the center of attention.
And this is the kind of parade that the prophet Isaiah was speaking about when he announced that God would change the leadership of Jerusalem because of the sin that He saw. Isaiah lets us know that the young would rise up against the old and many negative things would happen to this community of sinners. Our verse for tonight comes from one of the final lines of Isaiah’s prophecy and represents the only time in the Bible that we even find the word “parade.” From Is. 3:8-9, “Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.”
The message that we are given here is quite clear. God will stand for so much and then he will intercede when sin overwhelms our communities. He doesn’t want us to parade our sin around – in fact He doesn’t want us to sin at all. He wants us to parade our best behavior, our obedience and to celebrate the good things we have done to advance the kingdom. My encouragement this evening is to realize that God wants us to do the best we can and to avoid displaying our sinful nature as an encouragement to others that this behavior is fine with the Father. My prayer is that when you feel the need to celebrate, you will parade your God-centered life in front of the community. After all, we are all ambassadors of the Most High God and we should be proud of it. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…