Celebrating Our Heritage at Pine Castle Pioneer Days February 25, 2018
My question this morning is why do we gather here each year in Pine Castle? Is it so that we do not traverse the encumbrances of our ancestors? To not make the same mistakes? Is it to enjoy our heritage and fellowship? I propose to you that it is because history shows us the very footprints of our God and that we all find reassuring.
Before the founding of our country, our forefathers had already experienced the “Dark Ages” of religious freedom. During the Medieval Inquisition, tens of thousands of “non-believers” were tortured or killed. Non-believers were those who did not subscribe to a specific model of beliefs. In 1401, the King of England issued an edict to immediately arrest anyone who preached religious thoughts against the king’s brand of religion. A second offense resulted in immediate death.
Our founding fathers each understood the threat evil possessed against their faith. For generations, they were not free to pursue their God. Yet, each knew that a righteous nation blessed with abundant resources and with a government “Under God” could find God’s Kingdom and thrive and grow. In such a nation, all blessings would be equally shared with both believers and non-believers. Any spiritual enlightenment would bring men and women closer to God and closer to Christ. And that is a good thing. While we would constantly be reminded that we were endowed with certain inalienable rights, we would also be reminded that it was our responsibility to pursue and secure those rights ourselves. But in a world filled with evil, it is comforting to look back on history and see how our great God has walked among us.
Liberty will be my first point today. What can our ancestors teach us about having and holding liberty? I would like to begin with the Iroquois, who somewhere around 1,400 A.D., created “The Great Law of Peace.” The document was first recorded on a wampum belt and later, translated to paper. The Great Law was created to form a confederacy among tribes, the Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and the Seneca. It was, what many believe, an influence on our own Constitution. Its purpose was to prevent tribal interference in everyone’s daily lives and meant to enhance individual freedom by separating their civilian governing bodies from the military and from religious affairs. The Great Law allowed differing beliefs among tribes to coexist and recognized the importance of one’s beliefs, no matter what their origin. There was outright freedom of religion in the “The Great Law of Peace.”
The Great Law is also known as the Hiawatha Wampum, named after Hiawatha, one of the tribal elders. To convince the 5 Iroquois tribes of its value, Hiawatha took a single arrow and broke it showing that alone, each was weak. He then took 5 arrows and together showed that they could not be broken. It would be unity that provided them strength.
- Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would have noticed that the Iroquois also tied their tribes together into a perfect union, much like we see in our own preamble of the U.S. Constitution. Both documents stress unity and provide liberty for posterity.
- The Great Law defined numbers of representatives, their powers, and requirements, just as our own Constitution does.
- The formal creation of an executive office was also defined by the Iroquois.
- The Great Law defined checks and balances, created a centralized government.
- It included a guarantee of free speech, defined levels of authority between tribes and gave individual rights to each tribe just as we have done with our own States.
- Concepts like the forbidding of quartering, the unauthorized entry or seizure of one’s lodge, was also principle of The Great Law as well as in our own Article 3 of the Bill of Rights.
Satan’s fight against mankind always begins with liberty. Instinctively, the Iroquois knew this. Liberty is simply our right to choose and it is our Constitution that still defends that right for us to choose God. Our great seal of the United States, the Eagle, holds 13 arrows in its left claw, in honor of Hiawatha.
My second point of God’s historic covenant calls us to be ready to accept God’s protection. Like liberty, God is ready to give us His Divine Providence. Our role is to be responsible enough to recognize God and embrace Him. The foundation of our Constitution recognizes unity as a principle ingredient of protection. To state this another way, we can never be united with our God unless we are first united with ourselves. Evil still exists today and will exist until we are united with our God through Christ’s work on the cross. It is history that shows us the providence of God working in our lives each day.
We must also never forget one final point, that our God also expects to support us in prosperity. Here, though, we must be careful on how we define prosperity. While many in this world view material gain, power, influence and pleasures as prosperity, God’s history tells us that when we are ourselves confident of our own salvation, we have gained the most valued treasure that can be found. The ultimate prosperity comes when you are assured the right to choose an eternity with a loving, nurturing God above everything this world offers. Our true prosperity is defined in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and our Bill of Rights, assuring prosperity for all.
So how is our part of our covenant with God going these days? For unity to exist, peace must exist. The people must participate, the government must listen and then together all must make tough choices. Yet, we watch our nation’s interest in maintaining their liberty steadily decline. In our last elections, over 100 million people of voting age did not participate. Those that did not vote, chose to abandon their nation to the influences of evil and did so at the peril of their own liberty. Our forefathers never envisioned ever-expanding bureaucracies, regulations and debt. They envisioned a land where people were free to use its rich resources in pursuit of their own happiness, happiness found only through pursuing shared goals and a relationship with their God. It is safe to conclude that if you ignore the very God who created you, the God that can guide and protect you, the journey will be filled with disappointment.
When a nation has a covenant relationship with God, God protects their liberty and provisions their safety. In 1783, George Washington said “Glorious indeed has been our Contest: glorious, if we consider the Prize for which we have contended, and glorious in its Issue; but in the midst of our Joys, I hope we shall not forget that, to divine Providence is to be ascribed the Glory and Praise……I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.”
The enemies of morality and liberty try to divide us with accusations of prejudice and bigotry. They might abandon learning the duties of citizenship or lessons of history, focusing instead on fueling the anger of social injustice, confusing equal opportunity with equal outcome. They would prefer to place blame instead of taking personal responsibility for good and bad behavior based upon God’s teaching of right and wrong. Society’s enemies prefer love without acknowledging the source of love, instead, relying on law, rules and regulations – all leading to the loss of liberty and religious freedom.
The good news is that is not the history of Pine Castle. This is a town built upon the very people who have defended the unity and history of our great nation against the evil that has tried to divide us. Not unlike the Union Church who shared their sanctuary between the Methodists and the Baptists, Pioneer Days remind us that our country depends upon a free people who care enough about liberty to be engaged, to take the time to know and chose their leaders carefully and, when necessary to die to protect their liberty and unite together to celebrate their one and only God. May God bless Pine Castle, its residents and keep its rich history alive for many generations to come.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
2 Corinthians 6:16-18
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”