Recently my family and I traveled to Upstate New York to visit friends and a community of faith where I served as Rector a number of years ago. While the Finger Lakes region of New York is not where I am from, it is spectacularly beautiful and rural, with stunning vistas and gorgeous glacially carved lakes.
On one particular afternoon, my son Peter and I joined our friend Mark to explore an area known as Carpenter Falls. In this specific area of Upstate New York, there are a number of waterfalls, but the main one Carpenter, is around 90 feet high. Typically, as described on a state website, “the falls fall as a powerful ribbon that cuts through a notch in the massive overhanging limestone caprock where it plunges into a deep pool.”
The water flow is described as variable and over the years I have seen just a trickle of water to quite a bit more. When the three of us recently went, it was an entirely different story. Such a massive amount of rain had fallen that Carpenter Falls made those at Niagra look small.
As we walked we stood at the top of the falls. We were each silent as the roar of the falls and the scene of the volume of water flowing was breathtaking. After a few minutes, we hiked across the top of a hill to gain access to a trail that one can take to get near the base of the waterfall. The ground was muddy and slippery as ice as the trail was covered with clay over limestone.
Our son Peter, nimble and flexible Peter, had no difficulty on the trail. I, on the other hand, when I tried to follow Peter, slipped and fell down a 70 degree pitched hillside nearly 50 feet through trees, branches, and rocks. Both Peter and Mark thought at first it was the end of me. A bruised body, sprained wrist, and cuts on my torso was all I sustained.
As I was lying at the bottom of the hill recovering, Jesus’ parable of a house built on sand came to mind. Clearly sand is not something to count on as Jesus points out in the story. Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 7 said in essence, “When you build your life upon me it is like building a house on rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit, but nothing moved that house. It was built on rock.” After my experience at Carpenter Falls, I can make the same point using the metaphor of hiking on wet clay or a dry trail as an example.
This week is July 4th. A wonderful holiday with fabulous traditions that have been part of our great nation for a long time. It certainly is a day to ponder the blessings of what it means to live in America, to reflect on all who have made our country possible, and to give God thanks for freedom, which is from God to begin with.
While our nation’s independence is central to who we are, I believe it is important we not view our relationship with our creator in the same way. When it is all said and done, our loving God does not seek our independence from Him, but rather our complete and utter dependence. And while we live in a great incomparable land whose DNA is grounded upon freedom, I believe it is essential for us to remember this July 4th, that Christ is our rock, our foundation, and the basis from which we are called to live.