Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (July 4th, 2012)
I’m not sure what the people who chose the readings for Independence Day had in mind when they selected Matt. 5:43-48 as the Gospel reading for the day. Don’t get me wrong-I love this reading from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, but I just don’t see where it connects with our annual celebration of Independence Day. So, I have decided to do what I usually do when faced with this kind of situation…I’m going to preach A “RandomThoughts” homily. So here we go…Random Thoughts on Independence Day!
Random Thought #1: Independence Day and the Episcopal Church:
Psalms/Lessons and Prayers for the liturgical observance of Independence Day were included in the proposed Book of Common Prayer of 1786. They were, however, deleted by the General Convention of 1789, primarily at the insistence of Bishop William White (Bishop of Pennsylvania and first Presiding Bishop of he Episcopal Church-USA) who, although he supported the American Revolution, felt that an Episcopal observance of Independence Day would be inappropriate since the majority of the church’s clergy had remained loyal to the King during the war of Independence. It was not until the 1928 Prayerbook was introduced (the Prayerbook we are using this morning) that provision was made for an Episcopal observance of Independence Day.
Random Thought #2: 50 Years Later:
The date is July 4th, 1826…the 50th anniversary of the day when representatives of 12 of the 13 original colonies formally approved the Declaration of Independence (New Yorkabstained, but approved the document on July 9th). The two men most responsible for the Declaration: Thomas Jefferson who wrote the document and John Adams, we’re bitter political rivals. When GeogeWashingtonretired, in 1796, Adams and Jefferson squared off in a nasty campaign to determine who would be he second president of he Nited States. Adamswon by 3 electoral votes. In1800 the two faced off again, and this timeJeffersonprevailed. July 4th 1776 was a sad day for the young republic…within hours America’s 2nd and 3rd presidents breathed their final breath…exactly 50 years to the day the nation they loved and help bring into existence lost two great statesmen and Patriots…John Adams and Thomas Jefferson!
Random Thought #3: The Separation of Church and State:
I don’t know about you, but as a Christian and as a priest in Christ’s church, I give thanks today for the separation of church and state…a separation which the founders of this nation demanded and the first ammendment to the constitution guarentees…a separation which allows religion and religious expression to be, in this country, truly free. This spirit of religious tolerance is the same spirit which allows Americans from other national/religious/cultural origins to celebrate their unique identity while remaining truly patriotic Americans. Diversity and the toleration and celebration of our differences is in our DNA as Americans and it is one of he many things which makes this nation truly great!
Random Thought#4: A Declaration of Interdependence:
Today we celebrate the pre-eminentAmerican feast…the annual ritual of Independence Day.Independenceand the desire to acquire it…maintain it and declare it has been central to the American experience fom the very beginning. We Americans are nothing if not fiercely independent. But I need to tell you that the Gospel of Grace and the faith that we profess has, at it’s core, a different virtue…a different vision of life. A virtue and vision which encourages not independent self-sufficiency but rather mutual interdependence on our fellow human beings and absolute dependence upon God! You see, the whole idea that we are independent/autonomous/self-sufficient is a myth…it is an illusion and anyone who lives long enough or who has spent any time in a hospital or a nursing home knows this to be true. My friends, the sad but certain truth is that none of us is Independent and autonomous (as much as. would like to think we are). And I’m here today as a representative of God and the Church and s a friend and fellow pilgrim to remind you of his fundamental truth about ourselves…we are all dependent upon each other…we are all ABSOLUTELY DEPENDENT upon God!
My friends, as our Eucharistic celebration continues on this Independence Day…as we approach, once again, the Table of Grace to receive what we all desperately need…what only God can provide:the spiritual nourishment that comes to us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, let us remember, as we give thanks to God for this great nation and for he freedom that we all enjoy and, regretably, sometimes take for granted, let us remember that the call of Christian discipleship is he call to follow Christ, in the way of the Cross, which is not the way of independent self-sufficiency…but the way of sacrificial love of neighbor and even enemy…it’s not an easy way, that’s for sure…but friends, it is the way that leads to life…abundant and eternal life! God bless The United States of America!!