“Of Freedom and Fences”
 Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
July 3, 2011
All Rights Reserved




The language of God is silence. & so, I invite you to turn within with me & let us enter into a peaceful, united, state of believers as we spend time together resting in the awareness of the presence of God within us. We’re taking our call to prayer today from the 118th chapter of Psalms. “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me & set me free.” (Ps. 118:1-5)

In this united state of believers in God’s all providing grace, we know that “it is not I, it is not you or me, it is not we ourselves, but it is the Christ within, the presence of God within each one of us that does the work.” So, as we enfold ourselves in the peaceful loving presence of God, I invite you to let my words become your words, the words of your heart, and the words of your soul.

Today in prayer, I attune myself to the freedom of God’s Spirit. As I pray, I affirm the truth of the freeing, overcoming, power of God’s spirit within me. In this freedom, I become the master of my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions. I am set free of tendencies & habits that do not contribute to my total well being.

The way to this freedom is prayer. For prayer is my link to God. It is my connection to God consciousness. Prayer gives me the strength to put aside unwanted habits. Prayer prepares me to accept the freedom that is my divine heritage. I live each day as I am meant to live, in freedom & harmony with God’s divine law & universal Truth. I can now declare, “I am free. I am unlimited.” I realize that the spiritual life is a call to this freedom, so I make that choice now in the silence of prayer . . ..

Today I choose to be free. I choose to be the person I am destined to be. I chose to live my purpose, my divine mission in this life. When I feel distress & conflict, I call upon God & lift my concern up into God’s greater wisdom & vision. I let go my will & surrender to the will of God, the Will for the highest & best for all concerned & find that I am set free to be the person I was meant to be.

And so to this Truth I simply say, “Yes God,” silently & quietly, “I say yes, to the eternal Spirit who lives as me & through me. I say, yes, to the love that flows forth from within me & that is all around me.” In this consciousness of peace, love, joy & acceptance, I turn to you, God for a time of reset, a time of peace & I listen in the silence for your guidance, for silence is the language of God. Let us be still & listen . . . .

I am one with the all-loving heart of God. I am one with the all-knowing mind of God. I am one with all of life. I am one with all of creation. This is the Truth of my being. It is with a grateful heart I let this Truth become the pattern by which I live my life. I know what is mine to do, and then I can release, let go, and let God bring to completion that which I have begun. I need struggle no more, for God truly is in charge.

Father-Mother God, sweet spirit, thank you for your truth that lives in us and through us. Thank you for this day of Truth that sets us free. & on this Independence Day weekend, we pray for world peace & for freedom around the word. Silently affirm with me: “May divine love fill the hearts of all people, establishing peace, understanding, harmony, peace & trust in the world.”

Let us close our meditation & prayer time now by speaking together “The Prayer For Protection”: ‘The light of God surrounds us. The love of God enfolds us. The power of God protects us. The presence of God watches over us. Wherever we are God is. And all is well.

We pray today, in the consciousness of Jesus Christ & ask God to bless us, Unity of Vancouver & our wonderful United States of America. Amen.


I often think about how lucky I am & how grateful that I was born in this century & in the United States of America. There is nothing that has even come close to the wonderful world we find ourselves in.

The Declaration of Independence is one of the big reasons why this is true & why this church is able to be here.

There was a time before that in which there could be only one church. If anyone dared assert that he or she wanted to have a different kind of religion, they were beaten & then burned at the stake. Today we don’t get burned. We’re allowed to gather here & to worship as we choose. There still are not too many places in the world where you can do this.

Freedom of religion was one of the things that was affirmed by the people who fought the American Revolution. Unity’s great poet & author of the ‘Prayer for Protection’, James Dillet Freedom loved to tell stories as well as writing poems. I’d like to share a story that he loved to tell about his childhood. He said, “My grandfather taught me to read and write before I went to school. One of the books we studied was “The History of the United States.” The other was “The History of the Civil War.”

As a child, I wanted to go Lexington because the American Revolution began in Lexington, Massachusetts on the Village Green. They heard that the British were going to go there to get some supplies of powder they had stashed away. So the militia was called out and about fifty men lined up on the Village Green.

The Redcoats came marching through the mist of the dawn. The captain in charge of the Redcoats said to the militia who were lined up & blocking the way, “Disburse you rebels; you villains disperse!” The man in charge of the Americans said, “Don’t fire unless we’re fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” & that’s exactly what happened. Somebody fired a gun. Nobody is sure who fired that first shot. Modern historians think it may have been some guy who was hiding in the tavern right next to the Village Green. I’ve always thought that sounded reasonable. Some guy hiding in the tavern felt safe & he also was probably full of ale.

But the British fired and 8 Americans lay dead, 12 were wounded & the rest all ran away & hid in the woods (which was probably a smart thing to do). They fought for more than 6 years before the British finally declared that the 13 Colonies were free. It took a long time.

1. One of the things that war shows us is that freedom doesn’t come cheap or easy. So if there is someone or something you want to be free from this morning, the first step is to realize it will not be cheap or easy --- not in any way. You have to remember that there are always people around you who would love to take your freedom away from you. People who want to be free but they want to be free, ‘at your expense;’ people who feel that they can be freest by controlling you. That kind of thinking & acting goes on all of the time. We all probably have at least a little of that trait within us & have times when we secretly think, “I’d like to be free at somebody else’s expense because that makes me ‘freer’ in my mind at least.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were truly brave. Some men never signed it because they were scared of what the British would do to them. After all, they were up against the most powerful, military power & organized army in the whole world. The men were not soldiers. They were mostly just farmers or tradesmen. What chance did they have when they were pitted against well-armed professional soldiers? Yet they fought the war for over 6 years, losing almost every battle during that time except 2 or 3 & they came out free.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence suffered. A number of them were killed and many had their money & property taken away from them.

At the end of the Declaration of Independence it says, “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” I have always loved that phrase.

Those men knew that they were going to have to fight a life or death battle & they did. No matter how hard it became, they continued to fight for the right to be free.

2. The 2nd teaching I feel that we get out of the American Revolution is that liberty, to be preserved, has to be protected from its own excesses. It has to be liberty based on law with a government of checks and balances in order to endure. That’s what our government became. After the war with Great Britain was over they continued to fight among themselves as to what kind of government they were going to have & as to what was going to be in the Constitution. There were some men who just wanted to rip into everything & there were others who were very careful. In the end, they compromised & only signed the Constitution after they put 10 amendments on it called “The Bill of Rights.” We can be grateful for this, too. These 10 amendments protect our freedom.

I don’t think many Americans understand what it’s like in some countries. In the United States we are free to pursue happiness & able to be whatever we want to be. Our life is not all prepared. It’s not ‘made for us.’ We have to make it & we are free to make it whatever we choose to work to make it. There are a lot of countries in the world that are under rigid & corrupt control. That’s the way it is now & the way it has been in the past.

Actually, the country our forefathers created in 1789 was really not very free. They had slaves. The men who had slaves were free, but I don’t imagine the slaves felt very free. And they had indentured servants who had the same level of freedom as the slaves. They threw debtors into prison & threw away the key. Women had very, very few rights. They couldn’t even vote. In fact, women didn’t get the right to vote until 150 years or so later when a Constitutional Amendment was added around 1920 that gave women the right to vote.

Actually, even free white men were restricted in many ways. In many states, unless you owned property you could not vote on how the government was going to be. And in some states, unless you were a Protestant Christian, you couldn’t run for or hold Public Office.

In the early years of our country there were all kinds of restrictions, but it worked. & I believe it worked because they didn’t try to ‘throw off’ all of the restrictions. Instead, they tried to do something ’down the middle’. Now, it may not have seemed to be ‘down the middle’ to some, but if it hadn’t been for that I’m not sure we’d be free & here today. I think that we would have gone down a much more difficult path than our ancestors took.

After over 200 years, there are more human beings in this country & more opportunity to become what they are capable of becoming, than in any other place in the world. & Part of the reason for this is the wise way they built the government of this country. We have almost no limitations of caste or class. It is up to you to make ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ is. The world had never seen anything like this before & that is reason enough to celebrate & to be grateful on the 4th of July & every other day of the year.

Did you know that around the same time our revolution took place, another revolution also took place; a revolution that was activated by ours? It was the French Revolution. It occurred at the time we were making our constitution in 1789. The poor people of France rose up & decided to cast off the rule of over 1,000 years of people who owned the land & called themselves Lords & Ladies but they did it in a very different way than we did. They tore their culture & society down & threw off every restriction. They set up a statue of the goddess of liberty & they worshipped her in the name of liberty, equality & fraternity. They wiped out every distinction. In fact, they wiped out anybody they thought had any distinction! They either hanged him or her on the nearest lamppost or they used the guillotine to cut off their head. At the height of the French Revolution the guillotines were put to use 24 hours a day, every day.

But the kind of world the French produced from their revolution was not at all like ours. In a very few years, every government that they set up, they then tore down again. I don’t remember all the names of the governing bodies they created, but they tore down every one of them.

In 10 brief years, from 1789-1799, they went through 10 different governing bodies before ending up with Napoleon as Council For Life in 1799. Think about this with me for a minute. They went from a form of absolute monarchy right back into a different & tougher kind of absolute monarchy. Napoleon & his soldiers fought everybody in the world. Under his rule, hundreds of thousands of men, women & children were killed in the name of liberty. The in 1804, Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire! They had no restraint & so they went from absolute monarchy to absolute liberty & then to absolute military dictatorship in just 15 years.

Today, there are many people in the world who think we could & should create a world without borders or restraints of any kind. We live in a world where we can see people all around us who think, “We don’t need any restraints. I can do anything that comes into my head. I’m free to be whatever I want to be and nobody can tell me what to do or not to do!” If we did that, we’d end up the same way the French did.

Some discipline & restriction is needed in order to have ‘freedom’, otherwise freedom can’t last. You may be free today but the freedom won’t last very long. Freedom is only possible when you have some fences. If you stop & think about it, you’ll see that this is the case. You have to put in some restraints or instead of being free you may end up under a far worse tyranny—the tyranny of your own or another’s human, instinctual appetites.

In the United States of America, we have all kinds of laws, traditions & conventions. Sometimes we act ‘as if’ those aren’t important, but they are. Some very, very wise men & women, who loved freedom, created them more than self & enough to fight suffer & even die to ensure it & they are not to be disregard by this generation.

If we do, like those who lived during the French Revolution & its aftermath, we’re soon going to find ourselves in trouble & the country will be in trouble too. We have to value the freedom that has been secured & handed down to us enough to protect it, make it our own & defend it.

I am a believer in freedom. I hope that you believe in it just as strongly as I do & that you want it for yourself & are willing to do the things that will give it to you. Only discipline will set you free. If you don’t impose it on yourself, sooner or later somebody will impose it on you.

Imagine what our country would be like if there were no restrictions at all; no traffic laws, no lights, or anything else that makes our culture work & we were just free to do & to take whatever we want, whenever we want & from whoever we want. I wonder how many of us would be too frightened to venture out of our house or too frightened to get in a car? I hope that you’ll think about it & then as a part of your 4th of July Celebration I hope that you will thank God for rules, for fences.

I want to close with another quotation from James Dillet Freeman. It is printed on the front of your program this morning.

“Where there are no fences there is no freedom, not for long. Sometimes I think no one must know the meaning of the value of freedom better than the men or women in Alcoholics Anonymous. They have met their challenge and made it their conquest. They have taken the measure of their limitations and made it the measure of their freedom.

The peaks of freedom never have been scaled except by those who had the courage and the will to submit to the necessities of the adventure. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And the spirit of the Lord – His wisdom, strength, and self-control—even more: it is control by the highest forces and highest elements in our being. May you always be strong and free.”

God bless you and have a wonderful & safe 4th of July!



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