July 3, 2016
Tomorrow our country turns 140 years old. It is a country founded on the ideals of liberty, on freedom, on responsibility and on God-given rights. It is a country that was founded in division and strife, in war. It is a country, a democracy that has faced plenty of tough times it her 140 years. Often blessed with great leaders and faithful citizens yet a democracy that is not perfect, that is too often stalemated. But as Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
The nation celebrates the formation of this nation every fourth of July. Many churches do not for various reasons, and we don’t every year. We were inspired this year by our Christian Community trip to Branson on the Road. They did a salute to America. We will salute our ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but we will also be very aware of the need we have for God's hand of blessing upon our nation. Let's sing a song that celebrates our nation and includes a prayer for God to shed his grace upon us. O Beautiful For Spacious Skies 564 PH
That Ragged Old Flag
The poem recalls many of our wars. The price of our freedom is often paid in blood. We remember those who gave their lives that we might have the freedom to worship, to assemble, to speak, to carry on the rights given in our constitution. We haven't been perfect-- unjust labor practices, uncivil rights, treatment of our native Americans, slavery,....Perhaps the hardest and cruelest war was fought between brother and brother, father and son in the Civil War. Our next song invoked God's blessing on the side of the North. The South counted on God's blessing as well. There were more losers than winners in that war. The next song recognizes the coming of the Lord. All we can do is seek to recognize the presence of the Lord even when times are the toughest.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory 522 HLC
We gather in this sanctuary this morning due to the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers who have given their lives for the sake of our freedom. In this day of ISIS and the state controlled churches in China and the enemies the church faces, we should be even more aware of our precious freedom to gather in worship. To gather like this in many parts of the world is to risk arrest or even death.
But we gather here to celebrate another type of freedom. Jesus Christ has redeemed us and so we are free from the burden of sin and free from the penalty of death. Jesus said in today’s gospel reading, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” We have all sinned, we lived a life enslaved to sin. But Jesus came and our sins are forgiven by grace through faith. Jesus promises, “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” A freedom that goes far beyond free speech or freedom of the press. It is freedom to overcome the temptations of sin and live a life free from that kind of slavery. Freedom from the guilt we may have carried around; Jesus forgives completely and we don't need to live in guilt over past transgressions. Freedom from the wages of sin; Jesus brings with forgiveness the gift of eternal life.
We know from our history that freedom is not free. It comes down to us at a high price. We know from scripture that our salvation is not free, it came at the cost of the life of God's own son. But we are privileged to live in a nation of freedoms and to live free in the family of God through Christ Jesus. May we celebrate both types of freedom, giving thanks to God the Father who we believe has lead our country and in whom we trust to lead us safely home for eternity. Amen.
Hymn: God of Our Fathers 526 HLC