We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
These famous words begin the Declaration of Independence; proclaimed this day 245 years ago announcing that the British Colonies in what we now call America were declaring they were now a separate and equal nation. It took over 7 years of war and negotiation for these words to become the United States of America.
Today we celebrate that birth and reflect on what being a citizen of the United States as well as a citizen of the Kingdom of God means.
I love my country and have watched her over my lifetime to become both better and worse in becoming a more perfect union. It is still an experiment. Can a multi-racial and ethnic society become one family who looks out for each other’s welfare succeed?
Right now, there is real division in America over who we are and who we want to be.
Since I believe no one person has all the truth I believe this is a crucial time for all of us to do everything we can to be informed. For me that means that I watch and listen and study diverse news sources, and not just those that agree with my point of view. Then we share the truth in love with each other; especially as members of this congregation.
You have every right to expect me as your pastor to not support any particular party from this pulpit. For me this pulpit is sacred. From here I promise to share honestly, faithfully, and humbly what I believe from studying the scripture and studying life what I prayerfully know of who Christ is and what is God’s will for us as God’s people.
If there are thoughts I express here today or any Sunday that trouble you or you don’t understand please take time to sit down with me afterwards so we can have a respectful conversation.
Let’s now look at two texts the church has picked as appropriate to be read on a National Holiday, with special emphasis on Jeremiah.
Last Sunday, I described how horrible the experience of being conquered by the Babylonians was for the people of Judah and especially for the residents of Jerusalem. Their capitol Jerusalem was destroyed. Their houses were destroyed. The temple was destroyed. The heirs to the Davidic throne were executed and the brightest and best were forced to march to Babylon 1678.2 miles away.
Our text for this morning is a prophetic word from Jeremiah sent to them after they were in Babylon. He just knew that most of the people who were taken off into exile would never return. But he also knew one day their descendants would be allowed to return home.
We who are citizens of the Kingdom of God long for the day when we will fully experience God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. So, in a sense we are exiles in a world that is often separated from the will of God. We might not see the full return of that Kingdom, but our descendants will.
Jeremiah tells us that like the Hebrews before us we are to do all we can to make life better where we live as being good citizens always working to make our land a better place to live. We are to marry and have families. When they become adults, we should interest those who would like to have children to also get married and make a good home for their family.
Once when the political future of Europe was hanging in the balance Luther said he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than a stupid Christian. We need wise leaders and not just folk who take a survey of public opinion before they make a decision.
For me as an adult citizen of the United States of America, North Carolina, and Guilford County I need to register to vote. Decide which political party comes the closest to how you are persuaded a country, or county should be run and join that party so that you can even help elect the candidates for offices.
Read the local newpaper. Listen to the news from at least two or three sources. If you hear of a candidate’s debate, get there. You might even decide that you have the ability to serve in public life. Be willing to run for political office. We need honorable people to run for political office.
Pay your taxes that you owe, and not a cent more or less.
And the whole time you live trust that through Jesus Christ God’s Kingdom has begun. Trust that the Lord through the Holy Spirit will help our local church to be an outpost of the Kingdom of God.
No matter what challenges you are facing now keep moving forward knowing that the fullness of God’s Kingdom will one day come.
I like the phrase; “The arc of History bends toward justice.”
I am excited that there has been so much progress made in beating down Covid-19. I am pleased that we are approaching 70% of our adult population has been vaccinated at least once.
I am grateful for the time the Pandemic shut down which has given me to reflect on life’s meaning. Turning 80 has made it more important than ever before to do those things God would have me do before I am called home. I hope it has been a good time of reflection also for you.
Now that things are opening up again it is time to ask; “God, how would you have me participate in today’s world as a child of God?”
Yes, this is the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence that has both inspired and challenged us as people.
Lord God guide us into your future and forgive us for moments of doubt in your providence and times we have knowingly and unknowingly rebelled against your will. Please forgive our country for its sins and help it own up to those sins and do a better job today. Amen.