Click Here to listen to Pastor Hans Lillejord sermon August 28,2017.
One of the most interesting and most captivating experiences of government in the last sixty years has been the exploration of outer space. I was reminded of this fairly recently when I again visited the Space Center in Houston Texas. At the time of this writing, the space program seems much less active than it once was but there is still a lot of interest in the mystery of outer space. And while there is so much to examine in outer space, there should also be a deep interest in our inner space, the seat of our thoughts, emotions, our inner soul. There is a great need to pay attention to this mystery as well. When we talk to each other about ourselves, we most often talk about ourselves as physical beings and forget that our spiritual self even exists or needs constant monitoring. We need to care as much for our inner selves as much as our bodies. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul."
We do need to make our lives more simple, to slow down, to handle our problems, one day at a time so that we do not become overburdened with all the adversities that life throws at us. We need to learn how to be alone with our thoughts and with ourselves. We can look for places as a refuge from the world but none is better than the retreat within ourselves and to find immediate tranquility there. As the hymn suggest, no situation can be too tough when "All is well with my soul".
We Are Great When We Are Good
Over 200 years ago, America was still an experiment, a French philosopher named Alexis de Tocqueville came to examine and report back home the status on this new land and new government.
He made the comment that any society needs some kind of "glue" to hold it together; customs, history and faith. He said that any society needs a common bond. If the bond doesn't grow naturally, it is taken over by a totallitucian government that holds people together whether they like it or not.
In our land we have a wide open country with various nationalities, customs, tastes, and faiths, a people had a deliberately set out to leave their cities free. The idea was exciting but dangerous. The Frenchman and other people wandered what would keep this brew of freedom from turning every citizen into a government of his own. What would hold these states together? What would keep the powerful from imposing their will on the weak if there was no strong central authority to hold them in check? Why hadn't Americans split into a thousand squabbling factions? Or why had they not been locked into the iron grip of a dictator? Why were they succeeding so well?
De Tocqueville searched for an answer and this was the one thing he said, "Not until I went to the churches of America and heard the pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good and if ever America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." De Tocqueville noted that it was this "goodness" that bound Americans together. Not a fiery fanaticism that turned one people against another, but love, concern and consideration of one American for another. He found a public and private acceptance that this was a nation voluntarily committing itself to the protection and guidance of others.
For Our Graduates
Every year, about the last of May or first of June, our country witnesses the annual rituals of graduation ceremonies - a time which often signifies the end of formal education. But after graduation, many graduates soon realize they are freshmen again. The good life is a series of learning experiences. As the graduates enter college or the professional world, they would do well to build careers on a solid foundation of steady learning experiences and steadily developing talent. These are great satisfactions for the individual whose job is under control. There is only anxiety for the person whose job is not.
If schools or other learning institutions have done their jobs well, graduates will have developed habits of mind that will be useful in new situations throughout their lives - curiosity, open-mindedness, objectivity, respect for evidence, and the capacity to think critically. If society has created an atmosphere which encourages effort, striving, and vigorous performance, the chances are that our young people will expect much of themselves.
Part of that expectation will be to continue learning. Learning must be a lifelong companion so there will be continual self-renewal.
The truly educated person knows that happiness does not come from self-gratification, ease, comfort, diversion or a state of having achieved all of one's goals. Happiness involves the striving for meaningful goals-goals that relate the individual to a larger context of purposes, goals that call forth the full use of one's powers and talents. Graduation is, indeed a commencement. It is the beginning toward the best that life has to offer, the foundation of which is learning, and the summit of which is true knowledge.
Rev. Hans Lillejord