Greetings Elmwood Family!
Summer is here! BBQ’s, picnics, family get-togethers, going to the lake, or filling the plastic pool in the backyard. The BIG holiday of the month is Independence Day, the 4th of July. Once upon a time, before we had children, Kai and I drove to Philadelphia in our little burgundy colored Chevette. We toured Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. It was a great experience. There we stood in the very room where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. We certainly live in an amazing country, the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Standing as a beacon of light and hope for all who come to America’s shores, the Statue of Liberty has lifted her torch high since 1886 for ships coming into the harbor of New York City. As a teenager, I excitedly climbed to her crown with my parents. However, we were not the first of our family to visit this great lady, for it was in the spring of 1894 that my grandfather, Friedrich Thoni, left Switzerland as a young man, not much older than I was, to seek a new life in that distant Promised Land: Amerika. He arrived in New York City and passed by the Statue of Liberty on April 24, 1894. Coming through Ellis Island with only a few dollars in his pocket he was heading for Wisconsin to be a cheese maker. There inside the Statue of Liberty is inscribed on a bronze plaque the famous poem by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus.” This great American literary piece concludes with the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Twelve years later, on September 25, 1906, Grandfather Thoni swore his allegiance to this new land and became a citizen of The United States of America.
The words “yearning to breathe free” make me think of what our Lord Jesus declared about freedom and being free. He said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (see John 8: 31-36). It was also during my teenage years, one summer night, that the reality of who Jesus truly is broke into my longing heart. I too wanted to breathe free, but it was the desire to breathe the air of Heaven, to be free from sin, free to live a life in a Kingdom that lasts forever. The truth of His words exploded in my heart and I yielded my life to Him so that he might make me a citizen of His fair land and live a life of true freedom.
Celebrating with you the goodness and greatness of our God,Pastor Fred
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