It’s the 4th of July holiday week-end. Here in the midwest, the weather was beautiful on Friday and nice on Saturday, but today is rainy and we are expecting the same thing for tomorrow, the actual 4th of July. For that reason, Janet and I decided to attend the annual holiday outdoor concert last night. Conner Prairie is a living history museum very close to our home that hosts the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra each weekend throughout the summer for a series of concerts. These programs appeal to folks across the spectrum – from Mozart to Beatles music and we have been a part of this annual summer ritual since we moved here back in 1982.
The highlight of the season is always the celebration that happens on “the Prairie” this holiday weekend. There are Revolutionary War and Civil War re-enactors and the music, usually led by a former member of the conducting staff of the ISO, includes works such the theme from “The Patriot”, a suite of melodies from “Gettysburg” and a salute to the different branches of the U.S. armed forces. During this particular part of the program, as each service theme is played from the stage, veterans from that particular military branch stand and are recognized by the audience and are thanked for their service. You can’t help but get a little choked up as you look around the thousands of people and see the veterans, particularly the WWII men and women, stand to be recognized by the crowd. There is a real outpouring of appreciation to all those who have defended our freedom.
You just get a little more patriotic when you hear such powerful music from John Williams and others that moves us emotionally and for a short slice of time all is right with the world – at least in this little isolated section of central Indiana named Conner Prairie. It’s the kind of festive environment that I imagine occurred right after the end of the Revolutionary War as the U.S. gained its freedom. Of course, the Civil War was a terrible war – inflicting heavy casualties on both the North and the South.
There are picnic baskets, kids running around, vendors selling ice cream and kettle corn; and a host of other activities while the orchestra plays up front. The second half of the program, after a twenty minute intermission, includes selections from other holiday themed music as well as a grand fireworks display timed to the music of the 1812 Overture and three marches from John Phillips Sousa. Usually, we don’t stay until the end – we are fortunate enough to live close enough that we can see the fireworks from our front yard! And that way, we can avoid the huge crowds leaving the concert.
All in all, it is difficult to attend the program without thinking about all those folks, including our own fathers, who have served our country in times of war and conflict. Many Americans have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and it does not go unnoticed on the “Prairie”. Each time a flag goes by, or a group of soldiers from one of the wars our country has been engaged in walks past, people stand, remove their caps and bow their heads in grateful appreciation the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.
Especially lately, it seems that our country is less concerned about history and our past that we used to be. Regardless of your political persuasion, we need to make sure that we remember from where we came as a nation. Places such as Williamsburg and Washington, as well as the homes of George Washington (Mt. Vernon) and Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) are great ways to get in touch with our past.
But long before that, there was another person who made the supreme sacrifice for our freedom from eternal separation from God. Jesus, who came to earth as a human so walk among us and teach us, was sacrificed for us so that we could spend eternity with Him. What a gift. And if you don’t think there was a war going on, you are quite mistaken. Because there was, and still is, spiritual warfare all around us. The forces of evil have been in opposition to the legions of guardian angels for thousands of years. And that war isn’t over yet.
Thankfully, we know that ultimately God and His angels will win. We have that assurance – but that doesn’t mean that we are free from temptation or acts of defiance to God. We must be on our guard and willing to fight evil every bit as much as those veterans who have protected our freedom throughout the years since our country declared its independence 240 years ago Monday.
But God’s ways of warfare are different from ours. Our verse for this evening highlights the way that we are to fight evil in the name of God. We are told, in 1 Peter 3:8-10, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.”
My encouragement this evening is that we have God’s promise that His way will win the day. But sometimes that doesn’t make it any easier for us day to day in the real world. My prayer is that you will stay focused on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and will concentrate on winning the battles in the manner mandated by Jesus and His Father! Have a wonderful 4th of July, and enjoy the camaraderie of millions of others who call themselves Americans. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…