The good news- Submitted by Pastor Burce Jeffries, Rock port & Watson United Methodist Churches.
The Fourth of July is upon us, and, for most of us, we will enjoy a day to refrain from working (except for catching up on some maintenance items around the house). We may go boating or swimming, enjoy a day with friends at the Rock Port Park, have a cook-out (utilizing some fresh produce from the garden), and ending the day watching fireworks—and maybe shooting some off yourself.
At the heart of it, is a day to celebrate the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence, which moved us toward nationhood. The founding fathers who gathered in Philadelphia debated the foundation of what this new nation would look like. There were economic, religious and societal factors that truly separated these delegates, but, at the heart of this document, they approved a vision of what the United States could become.
You may recognize the following: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed…
The celebration of Independence Day in a year that a Presidential election will take place is always interesting to me. Listening to candidates’ proposals, we need to judge them by the standards that are evident in these opening words of the Declaration of Independence, and by the Constitution and its amendments.
I am currently doing a series of sermons based upon Paul’s letter to the Galatians. While much of the letter is concerned about how the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus Christ) was preached to them, and now they are being influenced by religious leaders who claim that they must abide by the lessons of the Torah before they can truly be Christian. In the fifth chapter, Paul lifts up some very profound words for them (and us): For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:1, 13-15, NRSV)
Between July 4 and November 8, we will be inundated with political advertisements, debates, and name-calling. The political conventions will be interesting to watch (probably better drama than the summer TV reruns). Yet, I challenge each of us to reread and reflect upon the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and at the same time, reflect upon the fifth chapter of Galatians. Perhaps we will be better ready to enter the voting booth in November.