Editor's Note: Rev. Webber used the following, which he wrote a few years ago, as his lesson text Sunday at the United Methodist Temple in Russellville.
We feel that it is a most timely message and are printing it with his permission.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise, think about these things."
What a glorious message for us today! This generation has faced untold multitudes of challenges. Still, every generation has heard the cries of pessimism and doubt, so we are no different from our forefathers who founded this great country.
When this nation was in its infancy, there were those of its own citizenship who wondered aloud, "Can this nation survive?" Survive it did, and today, there are those who question, "What is the future of this great country? Can we handle the issues that confront us? Will our flag still be standing proud and tall for the succeeding generations?"
Let me say that I have hope. I am of the opinion that we who are citizens of this great land will not give up. We will continue to search for the truth that makes us free. And I believe in the youth of our country. When I look at them, I am encouraged. I pray that their optimism may cause us all to rekindle our own spirit of hope.
I am the American flag, your flag. I wish to speak to all of you who are anxious, fearful, hurt or worried. I have been around a long time. I first felt the wind over 200 years ago when I unfurled my 13 stars over a young nation of horse drawn carriages.
Since then, I have looked up to see great silver jets streak across the shimmering blue sky... I have known 43 Presidents... I have traveled from one end of this magnificent land to another... I have been a beacon of hope for oppressed people all around the globe.
I have traveled on the chilly, snow-white tip of a mighty Saturn rocket, soared through the silent seas of space, stood proudly on the gray surface of the moon... and I have something to say to you.
I was in the hand of George Washington at Valley Forge as this great nation was born. I have seen it struggle with birth pangs, then become strong and free. The price of that freedom is a price that few can comprehend. Some are too young to remember, others have forgotten, but I still see those young men who died at Pearl Harbor, Pork Chop Hill, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Korea, in the jungles of Vietnam, Iraq and other places worldwide.
When they died for me, I draped my honor over their caskets and laid them to rest. They are buried in Flanders Field, in the outskirts of Manila, in the jungles and deserts of strange lands. Still others are buried at sea or wherever cemeteries dot the landscape.
While some have forgotten the price of their freedom, I fly proudly over the resting place of those men and women whose years were short, but whose service to God and country was greater than we can ever measure. Over a million lives have been sacrificed so that I might stand before you today.
I would like to speak about my land, its present and its future. I'd also like to speak about the entire world, for I weep today for all nations that are oppressed, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.
Today I say, Americans, be proud of your country. Each week in the school year, in places of learning, children by the hundreds of thousands stand to recite in accents of the North, the South, the East and the West: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Standing with the children are parents, teachers, administrators and adults representing every vocation, united in a common love. Your pride makes me very proud of you. I'm proud of America, its schools, churches, assembly halls, businesses and homes.
I'm proud of my people's gifts to the world. I know of no other nation on earth that has spent more money and has unselfishly given more of itself to aid others, people with skin colors, facial features and beliefs that may seem odd to those of us who live in Russellville, Ky. America has traditionally looked past those differences, though. Instead, this great country has seen only the hurting and hungry human beings crying out for help... and help them we have.
As your flag, I've gone with doctors, missionaries, teachers and educators to the other side of the world. I've seen them build hospitals, schools and churches. They've taught people how to read, write and to care for themselves and others. Yes, I'm proud of our nation.
From our fields, we harvest crops that not only feed our own people, but millions abroad. As your flag, I say, America, be proud! Be confident! Be bold! You have unlimited possibilities! You can do just about anything you want to do. You are limited only by your cynicism, your defeatism, your negative attitude. Dare to believe! Dare to dream, for America is still the greatest land on earth.
Let me add, America, be humble. Be humble enough to remember where your glory comes from. Always remember that freedom depends on morality. The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and the Word of God are the foundation stones of this great nation. If you as Americans forget to cherish this moral foundation, then this great country shall one day perish.
America, be humble and know that without God, my stars will dim, my stripes will fade, my glory will depart and your freedom will disappear. This is a day that calls Americans to return to high and noble ideas and faithful, Godly service and devotion.
I am the American flag, your flag, the flag of freedom. I have called out to other countries, saying, "Come to my shores and my side, all who are tired, poor, oppressed and yearning to breathe free. Come, and I will be your guarantee of liberty."
I say to you, America, be proud, humble... and renewed. Yes, be renewed. Renew your faith in God and your pledge to follow His teachings. Renew your vow to uphold His church with your prayers, presence, gifts and service.
We are not a perfect nation. There is much room for improvement. There are wounds that must be healed, wounds that hurt nations, communities, churches and families. Listen to the Old Testament prophet, "If the people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven and I will heal their land."
Now, I know that in some circles, it is fashionable to make light of the many things we have so long held sacred, such as the Bible, the Ten Commandments, marriage, Christian ethics, even patriotism. But let me warn you, America, if you forsake God's virtues, both freedom and spiritual power will die. Again, I say to you that the price of freedom is faith in God.
As your flag, I must ask, are you part of America's problem, or are you part of the solution? To change our world for the better means, we must first begin at home, in our churches and in places of business.
We stand today on the threshold of a new day, a new opportunity. Seize this chance and support your country, support your church, support your Sunday School, support your pastor, support your church leaders, and support me, your flag, so that I might wave over America the Beautiful until its Christian inhabitants move to an even more heavenly home in the sky.
May God bless you and keep you close to His holy will.