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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

God Bless Our Native Land (Independence Day)

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18


Since I’ve been on vacation the past few weeks (July 4, 2010), I thought I might get by with a two-word sermon. The title of this service is “God Bless Our Native Land.” And it would be fully appropriate for me to simply say, “He has! Amen.” And then move on to the Creed.


But, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m not going to do that. But I could! And it would be a fitting sermon. Because as we celebrate our independence and the birth of our nation, we can look back and certainly see that God has answered this prayer. God has richly blessed this nation!


Even as we are entangled in wars, and even when economic times are far from the best, God has blessed our native land, and is blessing our nation.


We are wealthier than most, stronger than most, happier than most. We have freedom. We strive for equality. Our water is clean. Our grocery stores are full. And we have some trustworthy allies.


Take a moment in silence, now, to consider the blessings God has given this nation. (Pause)


One great blessing that our Lord has given our nation is a firm foundation. In documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, our forebearers, with wisdom and foresight, took a vision – a dream really – and mapped out a way for it to actually work.


If you’ve ever watched the movie or seen the play 1776, a humorous musical rendition of the historical events and characters that framed the Declaration of Independence, you know the struggle it was to do what no people had ever done before – to break from their mother country and form a new nation.


What’s interesting, as you watch the tale unfold, is that these people are far from perfect. There are passions, emotions, rivalries, egos, jealousies, hatreds even, and brawls. Greed raises its ugly head more than once. So does hopelessness, drunkenness, regionalism, classism – and slavery! Martin Luther would have pointed out that the members of the Second Continental Congress, like all of us, were sinners.


And saints, too! For despite their very human frailties, they had vision, wisdom, courage – they were committing capital treason, after all! – and the wherewithal to get the thing done. Their discussions, even their arguments, were important ones. They had to get this right. And out of the cauldron of that Philadelphia summer something beautiful was born. The American eagle was hatched!


James Michener’s masterful historical novel, entitled “The Legacy,” similarly recounts the history of the framing of the Constitution. Again, the cast of characters is broad. We see them with their warts and all. But their accomplishment is astounding – the framework for a system of government that is both strong and pliable, with checks and balances that ensure justice, foster democracy and prevent tyranny. More than 200 years after its inception, the Constitution stands as the basic blueprint for democracy, worldwide.


What a blessing our God has given our nation by providing such a firm foundation.


Of course, God would know a thing or two about providing firm foundations! He has given His children, the Church, the firm foundation of His Word!


Our first lesson today highlights the binding power of God’s Word for the ancient children of Israel. As Moses proclaimed to God’s gathered people, the Word of God, the laws and the ordinances, would be the one thing that bound the Israelites together, and separated them from the other nations.


These laws and ordinances – these words of the Lord – are so important, Moses insists, that people should “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” God’s Word was the firm foundation for God’s nation, Israel.


In his first letter, the Apostle Peter applies the same wisdom to the Church. We are built upon the foundation of God’s Word – namely the Living Word, Jesus Christ, God’s son. This “Living Stone” says Peter (who was himself renames “The Rock” by his savior) this Living Stone is the solid cornerstone on which we are to be built. “Come to Him, the Living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”


And the result? What is built is something new. “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Built on the foundation of Christ we are now a new race, a new priesthood, a new nation. God’s Word is the firm foundation for God’s Church!


And Jesus makes it even more personal. His words (words which began with the beatitudes we remembered as this service began) are to be a foundation for our own lives. Built on that rock, we will survive any storm that life can throw at us. In fact, we will survive any storm that death can throw at us, as well. Our Lord, in His death and resurrection, has ensured that! Christ’s word is the firm foundation for you – and for me – every day!


Of course, to build on it, you should probably know it! Dig into Scripture. Study it. Learn it. Memorize passages from it. Enjoy it. As it sinks into your mind, your life will sink roots into it. And none of life’s storms will destroy you.


It might be a good idea to grab a copy of the Constitution, as well – and the Declaration of Independence. Read through them. Learn from them. Enjoy them.


And thank God for blessing His people and this native land with something truly special: a firm foundation!


God bless our native land? He has!


Amen

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