i don't usually post my sermons here, just the link to my sermon site, but since it's apropos for the 4th of july i thought, why the heck not.
God's peace y'all
a sermon based on Galatians 5:1, 13-25
In the name of Jesus; amen.
I am surrounded by American history buffs. My brother is a big fan of World War II history, my father is big into the Civil War, and my best friend is a constitutionalist who once considered becoming a lawyer. Now I enjoy watching the history channel, but I can’t say that I am all that into American History except that this weekend it seems pertinent to understand some of the history of this country.
We wanted to be free from English rule. That desire launched our forefathers and mothers into a rebellion that turned into the Revolutionary War. It was the time that defined us as a country, at least to begin with.
Growing up in Philadelphia I used to walk streets where battles were fought for our independence. I have stood in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and even touched the Liberty Bell. I rode my bike through Valley Forge where the greatest battle our soldiers fought was against the cold of the harsh winter and one day I spent hanging out in Betsy Ross’s home where the first American flag was sewn.
I take the freedoms I have as an American seriously. They provide me abilities others do not have in other countries: I can worship as I choose in the religion I choose, I can speak my mind, and have access to news that tells me what is going on in the world, I can gather with others, and I can petition the government for redress of grievances.
No matter how other nations and peoples might feel about America this is the greatest country in the world and I would not choose to live anywhere else.
In our second reading Paul writes to the Galatians: For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For 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. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Just yesterday I told my daughter that she couldn’t do something she very much wanted to do. Her response to me was, “We live in America; this is a free country.”
“Yes,” I told her, “but that doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want.”
The freedoms we enjoy as Americans come with great responsibility. As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker aka Spider Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I don’t just have the freedom to assemble; I have a responsibility to assemble when there is a need. I don’t just have a right to free speech; I have a responsibility to speak out when there is a just cause.
The same is true with the freedom that Christ offers to us as Christians. We have been offered salvation, the greatest freedom, because it is freedom from damnation and hell, but this freedom comes with a responsibility to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
As Americans we love ourselves dearly. Two days ago Apple released its new iPhone a combination Mp3 player, cellular phone, and storage devise for all sorts of things from pictures to videos. At 3:30 in the morning, the mayor of Philadelphia, John Street, got in line outside of an AT&T store in order to be one of the first people to purchase an iPhone at 6:00 that evening. After spending about 8 hours in line some punk kid with a mohawk haircut questioned why he, the mayor of Philadelphia, wasn’t working when there had already been 200 murders on record for the city of Philadelphia this year.
His response? “I can work anywhere.”
We love ourselves dearly and I am just as much of a capitalist as anyone else in this room or in this country, but perhaps John Street standing in line to buy an iPhone had nothing to do with the responsibilities of his job as mayor of the city where so much of our history as a country took place.
Paul tells us that we should live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. It is easy to get caught up in the list of fleshy things that Paul goes on to list: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealously, anger, quarrels, dissentions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. These things drive us back into slavery and away from Christ. But be careful not to focus on this list only, to do so would be entering another kind of slavery where the fear of the wrath of God dispossesses the grace of God which Christ won for us.
It’s the second list where our focus should go: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. These are the fruits of the Spirit and they are the fruits that feed us in our lives as Christians. They are the fruits of freedom in Christ’s death and resurrection which we share.
This week as we remember the freedoms we have as Americans we should be called to a renewed responsibility to use those freedoms, but we should not ever forget that our true freedom was won on the cross and in the resurrection.
Love your neighbor, give thanks for joy, work for peace, have patience, show kindness, exercise generosity, be faithful, reach out with gentleness and let your self be controlled by the Spirit.